~ op-ed was published in Dnevni avaz, Glas Srpske and Dnevni list ~
Bosnia and Herzegovina has a special place in all our hearts. Bosnia and Herzegovina has also been at the heart of Europe’s history, in terms of its achievements, but also during some of this continent’s most tragic moments. As EU Heads of Mission, we are proud to be working here, and we all believe the country and its citizens should have its place in the EU.
Bringing Bosnia and Herzegovina closer to the European Union has a particular significance. We constantly work for a shared and peaceful future, where all Europeans preserve their own identities but add a European layer to it. And there are few places in Europe where these ideals are more relevant than here in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The ideals underpinning the European Union are a vision shared by the majority of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s people. People want an end to division, zero sum mentalities and corruption. They want equality before the law, their rights to be protected, and better jobs, healthcare and education.
Candidate status is a signal that the EU and its Member States share your hopes. But candidate status is also meant to be a new incentive for your elected leaders to deliver the reforms needed for EU accession with renewed momentum. Bosnia and Herzegovina is still far from meeting the criteria necessary to become member of the EU. Indeed, the country still needs significant reforms to fulfil all the 14 key priorities outlined in the European Commission’s Opinion on BiH’s EU membership application. Only this will allow the country to meet the next milestone on the EU path – opening accession negotiations.
The EU has now unlocked the door to membership, but new authorities need to show enough will to open the door with reforms. The decision on candidate status is therefore also an assignment to new governments to act with more energy and purpose. This is very needed. While we have seen some progress in meeting the EU requirements, such as passing a revised war crimes processing strategy, amending the public procurement law, adopting a new migration and asylum strategy and establishing the conditions for the Europol contact point, much more would have been possible. We are therefore glad to see there is renewed momentum since the recommendation on candidate status and a desire to form governments quickly along reform agendas. We truly want BiH to be an equal member of our Union. And for that, we need BiH to do its part.
The EU and its member states have consistently demonstrated that we are loyal and consistent friends to Bosnia and Herzegovina, from the period of post-war reconstruction, through the devastating floods of 2014, right up to the pandemic and now during the current energy crisis, where our €70 million Energy Package will support the most vulnerable families in BiH, and support the country make a transition to greater energy sustainability.
Today, we share your joy on the Council’s decision on candidate status. Tomorrow the hard work must start. Forming new governments quickly, agreeing on ambitious reform programmes that implement all the EU requirements and strengthening the economy are what is needed. We are ready to support all actors who are willing to contribute to this goal. Let’s make it happen together.