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Brussels, 10 October 2013
EU-BiH: After the 3rd round of High Level Dialogue on Accession Process
Brussels (10th October) – The representatives of the European Commission, and institutional and political leaders from Bosnia and Herzegovina, resumed the third meeting of the High Level Dialogue on the Accession Process in Brussels today, chaired by Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle.
The Chairman has issued the following conclusions:
1. Bosnia and Herzegovina's perspective to become a European Union Member State remains. The third meeting of the High Level Dialogue on the Accession Process, which resumed today reconfirms the strong and continuous commitment of the EU to Bosnia and Herzegovina and its people. In this respect, the High Level Dialogue is a useful forum that will continue its work.
2. Today's reflection and consultations on Sejdic-Finci, the coordination mechanism, and the adaptation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement did not bring final results. The main political stakeholders and the heads of authorities at the State and Entity levels of Bosnia and Herzegovina have agreed to continue on the European path. Consultations among the stakeholders and with EU will continue intensively in the next days, available models will be further discussed.
3. The commitments undertaken by the political leaders and institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the June 2012 Roadmap, and most recently in the declaration signed on 1 October, have still not been met. Both documents remain valid and the leaders have the duty to take these commitments forward.
4. The absence of an agreement on a solution of the Sejdić-Finci issue blocks the accession path of Bosnia and Herzegovina and hence makes it difficult to justify continuing to grant EU pre-accession funds. Therefore, a procedure for reducing the initially foreseen IPA 2013 programme for Bosnia and Herzegovina by 54%, i.e. for € 47 million will be launched on 11 October. If a solution could be reached over the next days, however, the procedure could still be stopped.
5. Despite some progress on the coordination mechanism at today's meeting, the final solution has not yet been reached. Until an effective coordination mechanism on EU matters is in place, the IPA 2 (2014-2020) programming exercise cannot be launched. Each year of delayed programming results in substantial losses of grant money, which would otherwise be available to the country.
6. The European Commission regrets that Bosnia and Herzegovina is rejecting the well-established methodology of adapting the Stabilisation and Association Agreement / Interim Agreement (SAA/IA) protocol. The Commission will open an official consultations process with Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to find a solution to this on-going dispute. An extraordinary meeting of the Interim Committee will soon be called. The Commission will be consulting Member States on how to respond.
7. The European Commission remains committed to continue facilitating the efforts of the political leaders to find a solution to the Sejdić/Finci issue, and believes that a sustainable agreement can be reached, provided there is sufficient political will and willingness to compromise among all stakeholders.
The Sejdić/Finci ruling
Sejdić and Finci v. Bosnia and Herzegovina (27996/06 and 34836/06) was a case decided by the European Court of Human Rights in 2009, finding a violation of Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The plaintiffs were the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr Dervo Sejdić and Mr Jakob Finci.
The Court found that the applicants' ineligibility to stand for election to the House of Peoples violates Article 14 of the ECHR (ban of discrimination in the field of Convention rights) taken in conjunction with Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 (free elections) and that their ineligibility to stand for election to the Presidency violates Article 1 of Protocol No. 12 (general ban of discrimination).
The implementation of the Sejdić/Finci ruling is necessary to eliminate significant discrimination against minorities and the breach of Bosnia and Herzegovina's international obligations as underlined by the Council of Ministers Conclusions of 22 July 2013. A solution needs to be agreed by the political leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina without delay so that it can be applied in time for the general elections of 2014.
The Instrument for Pre-Accession Accession (IPA) grants funds to countries on an accession path. The reductions currently envisaged in the 2013 draft programme relate to roughly € 47 million. Projects that would not be financed under the 2013 programme include the following sectors: Transport infrastructure, Support to the Competiveness of Small and Medium Enterprises, Participation in EU programmes, etc.
The European Commission will not restrict funding that is designed for the direct benefit of the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, e.g. in the area of support for refugees and internally displaced persons, social inclusion in education and the implementation of Roma Action Plan. Therefore, the IPA National Programme 2013 will be reduced and will amount to € 39 million euro.
The co-ordination mechanism
An efficient and effective co-ordination mechanism on EU matters is needed for Bosnia and Herzegovina in order for the country to speak with one voice and to efficiently interact with the EU, in particular in cases where legislative and administrative competences are at the levels of the Entities, including the Cantons in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Brčko District. Without such a mechanism, EU legislation cannot be effectively transposed into a legislative framework applicable to the whole territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Continued funding under the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) will be conditional upon the establishment of the co-ordination mechanism, because the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance 2014-2020 (IPA II), will be designed to be better targeted and more strategic. Every beneficiary country needs to develop country-wide sector strategies, which IPA II then aims to co-finance. IPA II will reward those countries that are prepared and perform well.
The EU was ready to discuss investments from EU funds in the field of transport, environment, private sector and human resources development or agriculture and rural development: this would not be possible without country-wide strategies.
Each year of delayed programming would result in substantial losses of grant money that would otherwise be available to the country.
Adaptation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) and Interim Agreement (IA) following the accession of Croatia
Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to adapt the SAA and IA on the basis of well-established methodology. This is a technical procedure, which has accompanied all previous enlargements. No other country in the region has questioned this methodology.
The trade regime with Bosnia and Herzegovina is asymmetric in Bosnia and Herzegovina's favour. Bosnia and Herzegovina was allowed to maintain import restrictions on around 200 products. The EU does not expect liberalisation in the trade of these products. It expects only maintaining the status quo with the EU 28, i.e. 27 Member States plus the newest, Croatia.
By refusing this approach, Bosnia and Herzegovina acts against the spirit of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement to gradually establish a free trade zone. The Commission will open an official consultation process in order to find a solution to this on-going dispute. Therefore an extraordinary meeting of the Interim Committee will be called in the coming days.