14th European Parliament – BiH Interparliamentary meeting: Commissioner’s address

14th European Parliament – Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina Interparliamentary Meeting

Address on behalf of the Commissioner for Enlargement, Štefan Füle, by Head of Delegation/EU Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina Ambassador Peter Sorensen.

“It is a pleasure to address the 14th EU-Bosnia and Herzegovina Inter-Parliamentary meeting. Commissioner Füle regrets that he cannot be here today but he asked me to convey the following messages to the participants:
“Honourable Members,
“As you are all aware the European Commission recently adopted its 2012 enlargement package.
“Enlargement continues to contribute to peace, security and prosperity on our continent despite the major challenges and significant global uncertainty that the European Union is facing. That is why it is so important that the European Union remains open to those on our continent that want to apply to become  part of our common democratic project built on our shared values.
“Let me start by saying a few words about the key horizontal challenges that are identified in the package.
“The first challenge is putting the rule of law at the centre of enlargement policy. This is also the theme of the 2012 enlargement package. Countries that wish to become Members of the European Union have to start early on reforms of their judicial and public administration systems, ensuring that strong frameworks are in place to prevent corruption. Their law enforcement bodies need to be provided with the tools to fight and sanction organised crime. The second horizontal challenge is regional cooperation and reconciliation in the Western Balkans. For this key element of the stabilisation process the enlargement package highlights the urgent need to address a number of open issues including border disputes and other painful consequences of the recent conflict in the region. It also underlines the importance of addressing bilateral issues as early as possible in a good neighbourly spirit so that the accession process is not delayed. We stand ready to help in the search for solutions. And thirdly – on economic challenges we focus on the need to consolidate economic and financial stability, tackling economic criteria as early as possible in the accession process. The difficulties in the Eurozone and the global financial crisis have shown how interdependent national economies are inside the European Union and beyond. This is where enlargement comes in as it is a powerful tool that drives political and economic reforms.
“Members of Parliament, ladies and gentlemen,
“The past year has seen major progress by a number of Western Balkan countries on their path towards the European Union. Croatia is on track to becoming the 28th Member of the European Union on July 1st 2013; accession negotiations have started with Montenegro; Serbia has been granted candidate status; the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continues to move ahead; Albania is also making good progress and even Kosovo is taking strides on its European path. Regrettably, the same cannot be said about Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“There were also some positive signs at the start of 2012 when important European Union -related laws were adopted (State Aid and Census laws) and when newly elected Chair of the Council of Ministers, Mr Bevanda declared that “2012 will be the Year for Europe in Bosnia and Herzegovina “. But, as our report on Bosnia and Herzegovina underlines, the subsequent breakdown of political consensus meant that commitments agreed by representatives of the main political parties at  the June 27 High Level Dialogue for the Accession Process have not been fulfilled or timelines met.
“This stalling of progress on the European agenda is regrettable since it is the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina that suffer from the delays in integrating with the European Union. The EU invested a great deal in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where there is the largest Delegation in the world. Honourable Members of this 14th EU- Bosnia and Herzegovina Inter-parliamentary Meeting, this is yet another demonstration how deep is the EU’s commitment to the EU perspective of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I regret that the whole region is moving ahead towards the EU but that Bosnia and Herzegovina is lagging behind.
“What is the EU asking for? Let me be clear, the European Union Roadmap agreed last June remains valid. The tasks will not change.
“For entry into force of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement a  proposal, based on political agreement, needs to be submitted to the Parliamentary Assembly to amend the Constitution for compliance with the Sejdic Finci ruling;
“For a credible membership application, the Parliamentary Assembly needs to adopt the amendments to the Constitution, as a result of a consensus building process.
“Overarching these issues, establishing coordination mechanisms for engagement with the European Union and for an effective use of pre-accession assistance, remains a key priority. Following a membership application, when the challenging period of the accession process starts, functional institutions are needed for progress on the European Union path. But even today, effective coordination between all levels of authorities is needed for EU matters from IPA to meeting obligations from the Stabilisation and Association Agreement/Interim Agreement.
“Without proper coordination, the implementation of the Roadmap to allow Bosnia and Herzegovina to continue its export of agricultural products of animal origin (such as milk, meat, poultry and eggs) to Croatia and the EU will be delayed. This will result in serious economic losses for your exporters. Bosnia and Herzegovina has just as much potential as any of its neighbours. If the country falls behind and exports decrease, it will be the people who will be most affected. For several years, we have provided expertise and warned that serious preparations ahead of Croatia’s accession were needed but to no avail.
“To conclude, the time to move the European Union agenda forward in Bosnia and Herzegovina is now. The European Union will continue to support Bosnia and Herzegovina on its path towards European Union membership with expertise and financial support and through its reinforced presence on the ground. But the country’s political representatives have to play their part by firmly anchoring the European Union agenda at the heart of the political process and translating it into concrete action to reflect the EU aspirations of its citizens. The doors of the EU are open to Bosnia and Herzegovina but it is down to the political representatives to decide how quickly the country will go through these doors.
“Thank you.”