Remarks by Commissioner Várhelyi at the joint press conference with Borjana Krišto, Chairwoman of the Council of Ministers of BiH, after the first meeting of the High-Level Political Forum in BiH

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Thank you very much, Prime Minister.

Thank you very much for having me today. Today we came to Sarajevo for one very specific purpose: to have the first meeting of the High-Level Political Forum. It does not tell much, it sounds very bureaucratic, just another committee. One can argue that it is not terribly interesting for the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina. But let me explain you therefore, why today is so crucial and why today marks the beginning of a different approach. And I hope that today marks the acceleration of the delivery of EU membership for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

We are here because Bosnia and Herzegovina is a candidate country. This was the trigger of what we have been doing today and I hope what we have been achieving today. Last year, you all know, the Commission has proposed candidate status for Bosnia and Herzegovina. The candidate status our leaders, the European Council has endorsed, agreed, adopted, provided, offered; there are many words to explain it. This was a leap of faith on the side of the European Union because we think that the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina deserve to be in the European Union, which means that Bosnia and Herzegovina is expected in the European Union as a member. This is why you have seen our very strong engagement last year when the candidate status was finally provided. And my secret wish and secret expectation has been to prove that positive incentives deliver even better than negative ones.

And I am very happy to see today that it seems to be proven by the new government in Bosnia and Herzegovina. At state level we have a government in record time, never seen before. We have a budget at state level in record time, never seen before. We have a government in the Federation after five years and the budget is in the making there as well. And after our talks today, it was confirmed that candidate status was a very strong factor in this political venture that we see now already delivering results. So this is why I am convinced that what we have launched today will bring us to the delivery of the so-called 14 key priorities but before that, the eight priorities set for the candidate status. The eight plus one reforms that are considered to be the most critical ones for the country to make progress.

So today, what we have done was, first of all, we were looking at the activity of the new government because we see that there is a new impetus when it comes to reforms. Only the meeting of last week has been a very clear demonstration of the government delivering, be it the rule of law area, be it other areas where long deadlocks have been on the table for a number of years. And this should also bring us forward with the rest of the reforms. So I am very thankful for Prime Minister Krišto because I think that she is making a difference. I think that her government, together with this new political sentiment of delivering for the country will bring results. So today we have engaged with everybody in the country who has a political and constitutional responsibility to deliver on these reforms. This is the so-called High-Level Political Platform, because when we have proposed the candidate status, we also acknowledged the fact that the deadlocks the country had to suffer for a number of years are also down to the fact that we need to create ownership; ownership of all the actions that are necessary to take for Bosnia and Herzegovina to become an EU member. And the Prime Minister was kind enough not only to engage with us in this experiment, to have all the constitutional players of the country around the table, but also she came forward with a clear agenda, a clear plan on how to deliver on the eight items. So I am very proud to see that we are not only discussing in general, but we see a clear will to deliver on the ground, one by one specifically.

So with this meeting, I think we have started to work in a completely different pace, much faster, I hope. And it is also very clear from here on where the different responsibilities are lying for the different elements and priorities enshrined for the candidate status. I am also very encouraged by the conclusions that we have managed to draw today, and the very clear messages towards us, the European Union when it comes to the commitment of the country to deliver, not only on the candidate status, but also a very clear commitment as European ally because we need Bosnia and Herzegovina to be our ally, to continue to be our ally because Bosnia and Herzegovina being a candidate country is of course considered by us to be one of our close allies. In this time of war – Russian war against Ukraine – Europe needs all the allies it has and the candidate countries are always first to consider by us. And this is why, it is very, very important that there are clear messages also stemming from Sarajevo and from the entire country that we can continue to count on Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Thank you.