European Commission has published the Opinion on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s EU membership application.
Official press release reads that the Opinion “is a milestone in the EU-Bosnia and Herzegovina relations, confirming that the EU is committed to guide and support the country in undertaking necessary reforms on its path towards European integration”.
The Opinion identifies 14 key priorities for the country to fulfil in order to be recommended for opening of EU accession negotiations, and provides a comprehensive roadmap for incremental reforms.
The key priorities cover the areas of democracy/functionality; the rule of law; fundamental rights; and public administration reform - the fundamentals of the EU accession process.
The analytical report accompanying the Opinion also, for the first time, reviews the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina against all standards applicable to EU Member States, including on issues such as internal market, public procurement, competition policy, environment, food safety, and consumer protection.
The Opinion also “provides a solid basis for discussion in the EU Council, which will need to take a decision on the next steps in the EU path of the country”. “In this regard, it will be key that governments are formed at all levels in Bosnia and Herzegovina without delay”, reads the statement published on European Commission’s official web site.
According to European Commission’s Opinion, “Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to bring in line its constitutional framework with European standards and ensure the functionality of its institutions to be able to take over the EU obligations”.
“While decentralized state structure is compatible with the EU membership, Bosnia and Herzegovina will need to reform its institutions to be able to effectively participate in EU decision-making and to fully implement and enforce the acquis”, reads the Opinion.
Furthermore, according to the Opinion, Bosnia and Herzegovina “needs to improve its electoral framework and the functioning of the judiciary; strengthen the prevention and fight against corruption and organized crime, including money laundering and terrorism, as well as ensure effective functioning of border management, migration and asylum systems; step up the protection of fundamental rights of all citizens, including by ensuring an enabling environment for civil society, reconciliation and the protection and inclusion of vulnerable groups; and complete essential steps in public administration reform”.
When it comes to economic criteria, the Opinion reads that “Bosnia and Herzegovina has achieved a certain degree of macroeconomic stability”.
“However, to move towards becoming a functioning market economy, Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to pay special attention to speeding up its decision-making procedures and improving the business environment as well as the efficiency and transparency of the public sector, in particular of public enterprises. The country should address the impediments to the proper functioning of market mechanisms, such as a weak rule of law, substantial red tape, corruption, lengthy and overly complex administrative procedures and a high fragmentation of the country’s internal market”, reads the Opinion, among other things.
As for the Office of the High Representative, the Opinion reads that OHR’s presence in the country is incompatible with the sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina and therefore with EU membership. “A process towards closing the OHR has been underway since 2008, but its outcome depends on a number of conditions”, explained the European Commission.
“Bosnia and Herzegovina is overall at an early stage regarding its level of preparedness to take on the obligations of EU membership and needs to significantly step up the process to align with the EU acquis and implement and enforce related legislation. Particular attention should be paid to the areas of free movement of goods, right of establishment and freedom to provide services, information society and media, agriculture and rural development, fisheries, transport policy, energy, economic and monetary policy, statistics, social policy and employment, enterprise and industrial policy, regional policy and coordination of structural instruments, education and culture, consumer and health protection, and financial control”, concludes the Opinion.
European Commission also underlined that between 2007 and 2018, Bosnia and Herzegovina had received EUR 1.5 billion from the EU, of which an estimated EUR 433 million from regional programs. “Since 2000, the European Investment Bank awarded EUR 2.4 billion in loans to support projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina”, reads the Opinion.
Bosnia and Herzegovina submitted its application for EU membership in February 2016, and delivered answers to European Commission’s Questionnaire in February 2018.