The EU General Affairs Council decided on September 20 to recommend to the European Council to launch the procedure for granting Bosnia & Herzegovina candidate status, rewarding the country for its efforts to move towards its EU future despite internal tensions and disagreements.
Bosnia formally applied for EU membership in February this year and hopes to get candidate status in 2017. However, disagreements between the institutions of the country’s smaller entity – Republika Srpska – on the one side, and the Muslim-Croat Federation and the central level authorities on the other have threatened Bosnia’s European future several times.
“The Council decided to implement the procedure laid down in Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union. Accordingly, the Commission is invited to submit its opinion,” the General Affairs Council said in its conclusions on Bosnia's membership application.
It has also welcomed Bosnia’s progress in the implementation of the Reform Agenda and called on Bosnia to continue its efforts to ensure effective implementation of the agenda. Bosnia will have to implement significant socio-economic reforms, as well as reforms in the areas of rule of law and public administration to move closer to EU membership.
The council also welcomed the initialling of the protocol on the adaptation of Bosnia’s Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) to take account of Croatia's accession to the EU, as well as the agreement on establishing a coordination mechanism on EU matters. These were the main hurdles that Bosnia had to clear before its application could be discussed.
Bosnia’s state-level Prime Minister Denis Zvizdic said that today was a historic moment in Bosnia’s European future.
“In the past 14 months, we have worked [to reach] this phase. Today it has been successfully completed and this is one of the most positive news for BiH,” Zvizdic told reporters in Brussels.
The General Affairs Council pointed out that each country's progress towards the European Union depends on its individual efforts to comply with the Copenhagen criteria and the conditionality of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
Following the Council’s conclusions, the EC will have to prepare a questionnaire on accessing Bosnia's preparedness for candidate status. Usually, the assessment procedure takes one year.
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