Brussels, 29 May 2019
The Commission has adopted today its Opinion on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s EU membership application. The Opinion is a milestone in EU-Bosnia and Herzegovina relations, confirming that the EU is committed to guide and support the country in undertaking the necessary reforms on its path towards European integration.
The Opinion identifies 14 key priorities for the country to fulfil in order to be recommended for opening of EU accession negotiations; it provides a comprehensive roadmap for incremental reforms. The key priorities cover the areas of democracy/functionality; rule of law; fundamental rights; and public administration reform – the fundamentals of the EU accession process.
The analytical report accompanying the Opinion also, for the first time, reviews the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina against all standards applicable to EU Member States, including on issues such as internal market, public procurement, competition policy, environment, food safety and consumer protection.
The Opinion provides a solid basis for discussion in the EU Council, which will need to take a decision on the next steps in the EU path of the country. In this regards, it will be key that governments are formed at all levels in Bosnia and Herzegovina without delay.
Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to bring in line its constitutional framework with European standards and ensure the functionality of its institutions to be able to take over EU obligations. While a decentralised state structure is compatible with EU membership, Bosnia and Herzegovina will need to reform its institutions to be able to effectively participate in EU decision-making and to fully implement and enforce the acquis.
Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to improve its electoral framework and the functioning of the judiciary. It should also strengthen the prevention and fight against corruption and organised crime, including money laundering and terrorism, as well as ensure effective functioning of border management, migration and asylum systems. It needs to step up the protection of fundamental rights of all citizens, including by ensuring an enabling environment for civil society, reconciliation and the protection and inclusion of vulnerable groups. It also needs to complete essential steps in public administration reform.
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s track record in implementing its obligations under the Stabilisation and Association Agreement needs to be improved, notably regarding the establishment of the Parliamentary Committee and the development of a national plan for the adoption of the EU acquis.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has achieved a certain degree of macroeconomic stability. However, to move towards becoming a functioning market economy, Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to pay special attention to speeding up its decision-making procedures and improving the business environment as well as the efficiency and transparency of the public sector, in particular of public enterprises. The country should address the impediments to the proper functioning of market mechanisms, such as a weak rule of law, substantial red tape, corruption, lengthy and overly complex administrative procedures and a high fragmentation of the country’s internal market. In order to enable it to cope over the medium term with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union, Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to pay special attention to the low quality of education and its insufficient orientation towards labour market needs, the quality of the physical capital, such as the insufficient development of transport and energy infrastructure and the slow adjustment of the country’s economic structure.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is overall at an early stage regarding its level of preparedness to take on the obligations of EU membership and needs to significantly step up the process to align with the EU acquis and implement and enforce related legislation. Particular attention should be paid to the areas of free movement of goods, right of establishment and freedom to provide services, information society and media, agriculture and rural development, fisheries, transport policy, energy, economic and monetary policy, statistics, social policy and employment, enterprise and industrial policy, regional policy and coordination of structural instruments, education and culture, consumer and health protection, and financial control.
June 2003: The EU-Western Balkans Thessaloniki Summit confirms the EU perspective for the Western Balkans.
June 2008: Signature of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement and Interim Agreement on trade and trade-related issues.
December 2010: Visa-free travel to Schengen area for citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
September 2011: Reinforcement of EU’s role in Bosnia and Herzegovina following the decoupling of EU Special Representative’s mandate from the Office of the High Representative.
June 2015: The EU-Bosnia and Herzegovina Stabilisation and Association Agreement enters into force.
February 2016: Bosnia and Herzegovina submits its application for EU membership.
September 2016: The EU Council invites the European Commission to present an Opinion on the merits of the Bosnia and Herzegovina’s EU membership application.
December 2016: Commissioner Hahn hands over to Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities the Commission’s Opinion Questionnaire.
February 2018: Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities deliver to President Juncker and Commissioner Hahn the answers to the Questionnaire.
The European Commission adopts its strategy for ‘A credible enlargement perspective for and enhanced EU engagement with the Western Balkans’.
May 2018: The EU-Western Balkans Sofia Summit confirms the European perspective of the region and sets out a number of concrete actions to strengthen cooperation in the areas of connectivity, security and the rule of law.
June 2018: The European Commission hands over additional questions in view of the preparation of the Commission opinion.
February 2019: Bosnia and Herzegovina delivers replies to the additional questions.
May 2019: The European Commission publishes its Opinion to the EU Council on the membership application of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
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