Remarks by Director Pierre Mirel (DG ELARG, European Commission) at the Press Conference following the Interim Committee meeting in Sarajevo

4 July 2012

Good afternoon everybody,

I was very pleased to co-chair this Interim Committee since yesterday, actually one and a half days, with Ms Savic who has just delivered, I think, a very fair report on what we have discussed and I would like first of all to thank her and the Directorate of the European Integration for, not just holding this meeting, but for making sure that all issues that we wish and need to discuss, to have in the agenda, could be discussed as it should be within a country that is aspiring to become a member state in the EU.
From the title you understand that it was not yet the Association Committee but Interim Committee as we say. You know the reason very well I guess – that is because the Sejdic-Finci ruling has not yet been taken on board.

I must underline that I welcome very much the intense discussions, political discussions, which have taken place over the past month, in particular since the formation of the Council of Ministers, precisely on how to incorporate in the Constitution the Strasbourg Court ruling.

But in spite of these efforts there has been no agreement yet and in particular what we look for, the credible efforts, meaning  a proposal presented before the Parliamentary Assembly which would allow us to recommend to the member states to bring the SAA into force.

But as we are optimistic we want to look at the future in the light of the conclusions and of the Roadmap which were agreed last Wednesday at the high level dialogue meeting in Brussels.

As Commissioner Fule said it last, we have today in our Committee meeting very much welcomed the positive developments regarding the budget for this year 2012, which has been adopted, the global fiscal framework, but we also indicated or pressed on an agreement with the IMF, the International Monetary Fund, that would allow us to disburse our macro financial assistance and time is pressing.

We asked for speeding up the preparations for the census, starting with the pilot census, that should take place in the autumn.

We welcomed of course one of the big positive developments – the adoption of the State Aid legislation, but the legislation remains a text unless it is implemented. We are now looking for the Council of State Aid to draw up the inventory of State Aid that we could then discuss.

We have discussed also education and here I would like to make two remarks. One is that we have pleaded very strongly for harmonisation of the curricula, in particular University, with one objective that should be an important objective for BiH – that is the mutual recognition of diplomas.

This is very odd to say the least, that there is no overall recognition of diplomas. This is the future of BiH – education, universities, research – that is the future of the country and the country is lagging behind on these issues and therefore we wish that more efforts and more quickly are undertaken.

And still on education, I have personally pleaded as I did over the past three years, including the fourth year when reporting after a meeting, for the abolition of what is known as the system of two schools under one roof.

Ms Savic has already mentioned this question, one of the benchmarks of visa liberalisation, which is the Data Exchange Server. On that point the benchmark is not fulfilled and we have pressed and it's high time to make it fully functional.

If we look at the statistics, the export of BiH last year 2011, to the EU, have increased by 15 % as compared to the previous year 2010. But it could be much more. A number of exporters are not using the full benefit that the trade part of the agreement provides. And why not – because for some products, like poultry or poultry meat, the EU standards in establishments such as slaughterhouses are not there, and therefore these products can not be exported to the EU 27. Also because of the mechanisms, the system of the veterinary control is not satisfactory yet.

This is a pity in itself, there is a potential for exports which is not used, but it is worse then that! What is worrying is that from next year 1st of July, there will be an additional member state in the EU – Croatia, and the same rules that apply today to the 27 member states will apply to Croatia. And therefore, as you know very well, a number of exports today from your country to Croatia can happen because Croatia does not have yet to apply our rules, but from next year it will have to.

We have warned since several years about the incoming accession of Croatia. We have warned, we have provided substantial technical assistance, we have provided financial support, we have made very concrete recommendations, we have sent experts here to explain in details. And we were shocked today, I think that word is not strong, to find out that a number of these recommendation have not yet been taken  on board, in particular by the Food Safety Agency and the Veterinary Office. That puts a number of exporters at risk next year when the Croatia will join EU.

Looking at what remains to be done to be able to satisfy EU import conditions from next year, it is still huge, in terms of procedures and leading to the accreditation of either these slaughterhouses that can export or the veterinary system of control. It’s huge and maybe already too late.

But even if it is too late for the 1st of July, and we hope it is not, but even if it would be, the objective should be to put the high speed, if I may say, on different institutions which have the responsibility in that matter, to make sure that the gap between the accession of Croatia and 1st of July and the time when the conditions will be fulfilled, would be as limited as possible.

So, as you can see, we have had  dialogue discussing openly all these issues, as it should be between BiH and the EU. That is the letter of the agreement but also the spirit of our relations. There is no point in hiding issues, hiding challenges. We are ready to help further the country facing these challenges. But time is pressing certainly on these issues that I have just mentioned.

Thank you.


Question 1 – What are the expectations for the Structured Dialogue meeting in Mostar?

Pierre Mirel: Of course I have  expectations otherwise I would not go to Mostar to co-Chair this dialogue, but I prefer to tell you on Friday at the end of the dialogue whether my expectations have been fulfilled, have been met or not.


Question 2 – Have you discussed the agriculture sector and what are your remarks?

Pierre Mirel: Well I thought that the last remarks I have made concerning the potential for export of BiH were very much on agriculture and food processing industry, export of poultry, poultry meat, table eggs – these are agricultural or processed products which are facing today difficulties to be exported to the EU 27, because the standards are not fulfilled and even more so, next year when Croatia will join, if the standards are not fulfilled. But there is a great potential for the country.