EU-Bosnia and Herzegovina 6th Stabilisation and Association Committee

Sarajevo (virtual), 16 June 2023

The 6th meeting of the Stabilisation and Association (SA) Committee between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the European Union took place digitally on 16 June 2023. The meeting was co-chaired for Bosnia and Herzegovina by Ms Darija Ramljak, Deputy Director at the Directorate for European Integration, and for the EU by Mr Vassilis Maragos, Head of Unit for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo at the Directorate General for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations of the European Commission.

Following the granting of candidate status to Bosnia and Herzegovina by the European Council in December 2022, the SA Committee took stock of the most important developments under the political and economic criteria, including the Opinion key priorities (democracy, rule of law, fundamental rights and public administration reform), as well as concerns Bosnia and Herzegovina’s legislative alignment with the EU acquis in the areas covered by the SA Agreement (SAA), such as trade, agriculture and fisheries, industry and internal market, innovation and research, information society and media, employment and social policy, education and culture, transport, energy, environment  and climate change. The implementation of the EU financial assistance was also reviewed. The Commission reiterated the need for Bosnia and Herzegovina to develop a national plan for the alignment with the EU acquis (NPAA).

Following the swift entry into office of new governments at all levels after the October 2022 elections, everything is in place for Bosnia and Herzegovina to deliver on reforms and progress on the 14 key priorities and on the steps outlined in the Commission recommendation for candidate status, including in the context of commitments taken by Bosnia and Herzegovina at the High Level Political Forum held on 17 May, in line with the expectations of the citizens and of the EU.

The Commission welcomed the recent steps taken, including the entry into operation of the EUROPOL contact point and the preparation of legislative initiatives on the human rights Ombudsman, on integrity measures in the judiciary, and on freedom of access to information, which now need to be adopted in Parliament. The Commission expressed expectations that Bosnia and Herzegovina may show substantial achievement on the 14 key priorities in the coming months, in view of the upcoming 2023 enlargement package.

The Commission also expressed grave concern over the legislative initiatives and announcements in the Republika Srpska entity, including secessionist rhetoric and draft laws targeting civil society and the media, that are not in line with the EU path of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Commission reiterated the need for Bosnia and Herzegovina to adopt reforms to strengthen the rule of law, including new laws on the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council and on the Courts of BiH, as well as on conflict of interest, and in particular encouraged Bosnia and Herzegovina to swiftly adopt the integrity amendments that are key to restore public trust in the judiciary.

On trade, the Commission stressed the need for Bosnia and Herzegovina to ensure full implementation of and respect for the obligations set out in the SAA and to immediately withdraw restrictions that are in violation of the agreement, including wood export bans, cantonal lists of medicines, and excise duties on beer.

The Commission noted that Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to engage further in the Economic Reform Process to achieve a single economic space within the country.

The Commission welcomed the increased alignment of Bosnia and Herzegovina with the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy and called for Bosnia and Herzegovina to pursue regional cooperation in view of the establishment of a Common Regional Market for the Western Balkans, notably by signing and ratifying the three regional mobility agreements agreed in November 2022 in Berlin.

The Commission urged Bosnia and Herzegovina to accelerate the digital and green transition, connectivity measures and infrastructure investments, as well as the alignment with the acquis on electronic identify and trust services for electronic transactions, on network and information security, and on environment and climate, in line with the Digital and Green Agendas for the Western Balkans. The Commission recalled the strong commitment of the EU to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s European integration process and support through technical and financial assistance, as highlighted by the Economic Investment Plan and urgently called for a National IPA Coordinator to be appointed in line with the IPA III financial framework partnership agreement.

The EU and Bosnia and Herzegovina agreed on the agenda of the next cycle of sectoral sub-committee meetings under the SA Agreement, to be held in 2023/2024.