EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele said on May 22 the time has come for the alarm to ring for Bosnia because the political elite’s continuous lack of shared vision on the country’s direction is threatening to leave it in regional and international isolation.
Fuele was speaking at the plenary session of the European Parliament, expressing his concern over the country’s future and disappointment with the lack of any progress on its EU agenda. He, however, reminded about the responsibilities and commitments Europe still has towards Bosnia.
“Dayton 1995 – we imposed this agreement on them, and the Dayton agreement was the best framework for them to bring peace to BiH. Now, the time has come to think about another framework for transforming BiH. Enlargement is the most powerful instrument we have,” Fuele said.
He pointed out the most pressing issue for Bosnia remains amending the constitution in line with the Sejdic-Finci ruling of the European Convention on Human Rights – not only because it is a condition for unfreezing EU accession progress but also in the view of the pending general elections in 2014.
“What will we do with the elections without BiH delivering on the ECHR ruling? Are we going to ring the alarm bell then? The time has come now not to threaten but to make it very clear: you need to deal with the ECHR ruling, you need to align the Constitution with that decision, because without it you will be in breach of international commitments and this has its consequences.”
IN THE COLD
Bosnia’s political impasse and its destructive upshots are even more alarming when compared to the other countries in the Western Balkans, which are putting all efforts to move forward on the their EU paths in hopes for better future. Croatia is the first to become a full member in July 2013, bringing the EU borders to Bosnia’s doorsteps. Montenegro’s negotiations are underway, while Serbia might receive within a month a date to start accession talks.
“The rest of the region is moving, the deal between Belgrade and Prishtina shows that if there is a will there is a way in the region. It shows how important is this European perspective and how much potential there is in the enlargement as an instrument of transformation,” Fuele said.
“So we need to help BiH not to remain outside, in the cold, and be caught still within the Dayton framework while the rest of the region is moving in the EU framework.”
ROAD OF THORNS
Bosnia signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU – the first formal step towards accession – back in 2008 and since then has made almost no progress on its EU agenda because of the lack of political will. Since then the EU made several attempts to help Bosnia tackle its pressing issues, increasing political facilitation efforts at all levels.
Still, Bosnian politicians failed to deliver on the roadmap agreed in June 2012, which resulted in Fuele cancelling in April 2013 the third round the High Level Dialogue on the Accession Process. He said there was no “meaningful progress” resulting from the EU’s facilitation process.
“I came back with the impression that some were more focused on party and ethnic interests than on implementing the Sejdic-Finci judgement,” Fuele concluded.
“The European Union can only facilitate. It is up to the political leaders of the country to step up to the challenge in a genuine engagement. In the current situation of political instability in the Federation, it is difficult to find a genuine consensus on essential issues – and nevertheless, it remains vital.”
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