Bosnia gets green light for start of EU membership talks

Bosnia gets green light for start of EU membership talks
/ European Union
By bne IntelliNews March 21, 2024

The leaders of EU member states have agreed to give a green light for the start of accession talks with Bosnia & Herzegovina, Charles Michel, president of the European Council, said late on March 21.

Bosnia applied to become a member of the EU back in 2016, but the required reforms have been slow — not least because of political infighting — and the country was finally granted candidate status in October 2022, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted a new impetus for the enlargement process. 

“The European Council has just decided to open accession negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina. Congratulations! Your place is in our European family,” Michel wrote on social network X (formerly Twitter).

“Today’s decision is a key step forward on your EU path. Now the hard work needs to continue so Bosnia and Herzegovina steadily advances, as your people want,” he added.

Earlier in March, the European Commission recommended to the European Council to unfreeze the start of talks with Bosnia as the country had made significant progress. That came after December, the European Council said it would agree to open negotiations once the country fulfils all requirement – a list of 14 key priorities including reform and adoption of set of laws.

In its decision, the European Council praised Bosnia’s progress and said that negotiation framework will be prepared so that talks can begin once Bosnia fulfils the conditions set in October 2022.

Bosnia had to adopt three key laws and start negotiations for cooperation with Frontex. However, the country is yet to adopt the last of these laws – on courts – with the process being blocked by the Serb members of the state-level government.

The decision was warmly welcomed by top Bosnian politicians. 

“On behalf of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as on my own behalf, I sincerely thank @EUCouncil and @CharlesMichel for tonight's decision to open accession negotiations for  to join the [EU],” tweeted state-level Prime Minister Borjana Kristo. 

Zeljko Komsic, the current chair of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, said the March 21 decision was an excellent one and thanked the European Council.

From outside the country, Croatia’s Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic also congratulated Bosnia. Over the past months, Croatia has been working actively to help Bosnia get a green light for membership talks. “We have succeeded,” Plenkovic wrote on X.

The coalition of three Bosniak parties, which is part of the state-level ruling formation, noted this decision has opened the door of people to start returning to the country and stop leaving it.

However, Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik posted a more ambiguous message on X. He welcomed the decision of the European Council, but went on to say: “Republika Srpska will not rejoice because there are many who assumed and wished for its disappearance today.” 

He also slammed Western interference in Bosnia. “It has been proven today, and I will not give up on it, that foreigners, their commissioners, ambassadors and false high representatives are superfluous to our relations and an insult to our peoples.”