Brussels, 9 November 2010
Key findings of the 2010 progress report on Bosnia and Herzegovina
On 9 November, the Commission adopted its 2010 Enlargement package. It comprised a Strategy paper, the Opinions on the membership applications by Montenegro and Albania and seven Progress Reports on the other candidate countries and potential candidates, including on Bosnia and Herzegovina. On Bosnia and Herzegovina, the conclusion was that the lack of a shared vision by political leaders on the direction of the country continued to block key reforms and further progress towards the EU. Initial steps need to be taken to align the Constitution with the European Convention on Human Rights and to improve the efficiency of institutions. The country needs to be in a position to adopt, implement and enforce the laws and rules of the EU in order to pursue its European integration strategic goal.
Ahead of the adoption of the Report, Commissioner Füle stated: "We are very concerned about the little progress made in the country's European integration agenda. I call on all political leaders in Bosnia Herzegovina to leave past divisions where they belong, in the past, and to invest their energies and their resources for a shared vision of a European future for the country".
Bosnia and Herzegovina has made limited progress in addressing the political criteria. The general elections of October 2010 broadly met international standards for democratic elections. Some progress related to the rule of law, notably in areas such as border management and migration policy, was made through reforms aimed at meeting visa liberalisation requirements. The administrative capacity of the Parliament improved but coordination with the Council of Ministers and with the Entities remained poor. A single state-level Ombudsman is functioning well. Financial resources for the implementation of the Roma Strategy have been increased.
Important steps were also taken to promote regional reconciliation, notably in the area of support for refugee return and judicial cooperation with neighbouring countries. The mandates of international judges and prosecutors dealing with war crimes were extended. Prosecution of war crimes by the state court has continued to be satisfactory, but needs to improve in the Entities and Cantons. The Anti-corruption agency has been established has been appointed. Over the last few years, cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has remained satisfactory.
The country has made very little progress towards meeting the requirements for the closure of the OHR. The domestic political climate during the pre-electoral period was dominated by nationalistic rhetoric. The role played by ethnic identity in politics has continued to hamper the functioning of the executive, the legislative and the judiciary as well as the country's overall governance. The process for changing the Constitution to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) has not been initiated. The State-level census law was not adopted. The political pressure on the judiciary has continued and the backlog of cases remains very high. Implementation of the Justice reform strategy and of the National war crimes strategy was insufficient. Cases of intimidation against journalists increased. Separation of children along ethnic lines within schools remains an issue. Widespread corruption remains a serious problem.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has made little further progress towards a functioning market economy. Considerable further reform efforts need to be pursued with determination to enable the country to cope over the long-term with the competitive pressures and market forces within the Union. Implementation of the Stand-By Arrangement with the International Monetary Fund has been broadly satisfactory. Confidence in local banks has returned. Some limited improvements in the business environment can be reported, in particular regarding business registration.
The fiscal situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina remains difficult, especially in the Federation. Commitment to the agreed fiscal adjustment and structural reform measures, as well as their implementation, remains weak. Privatisation, restructuring of public enterprises and the liberalisation of network industries did not advance. The high and poorly targeted social transfers reduce the propensity to work, further highlighting the need for reform of the social benefits system. Unemployment continued to be very high and the informal sector remains an important challenge. The business environment is affected by administrative inefficiencies and the weak rule of law. Progress towards the creation of a single economic space within the country has been very limited.
Some progress has been made in aligning the country's legislation, policies and capacity with European standards in areas such as free movement of capital, intellectual property, education and research, transport, financial control, and a number of justice, freedom and security-related matters. Bosnia and Herzegovina now needs to step-up its efforts at implementation.
Progress remains insufficient in other areas, such as free movement of goods, persons and services, customs and taxation, competition and state aid, public procurement, employment and social policies, agriculture and fisheries, environment, energy and information society and media. Sustained efforts in sensitive areas such as the fight against corruption and organised crime are also a priority.
EU - BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA: KEY DATES
1999: The EU proposes the new Stabilisation and Association Process for five countries of South-Eastern Europe, including Bosnia and Herzegovina.
June 2000: The European Council states that all the Stabilisation and Association countries are “potential candidates” for EU membership.
June 2003: Thessaloniki Summit confirms the EU perspective for these countries
Nov 2005: SAA negotiations between the EU and BiH are officially launched.
May 2008: Visa liberalisation dialogue launched.
June 2008: Stabilisation and Association Agreement and Interim Agreement on trade and trade-related issues are signed.
May 2010: The European Commission adopted a proposal enabling citizens of Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina to travel to Schengen countries without needing a short term visa.
8 November 2010: Council decides on lifting short-stay visa for travel to Schengen countries
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