European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy
Friends of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Brussels, 8 November 2011
Dear friends of Bosnia and Herzegovina, dear Bosnian friends.
Let me start by thanking Ms Bozkurt for organising this event and inviting me to speak to you about EU-Bosnia and Hercegovina relations and to remind each other where are the challenges and what needs to be done. Rules of the game are there and there is clarity in what is needed. What we need is the political will.
The timing could not be better.
First – the Foreign Affairs Councils in March and in October adopted important conclusions on Bosnia and Herzegovina, so the framework for the way forward has been established. Both of these Councils demonstrate the European Union's commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina's European perspective.
Second – In June, the Structured Dialogue on justice was successfully launched. Its second round will take place on 10 and 11 November. This dialogue is another demonstration of our desire to support the reform agenda in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is a valuable tool that will bear fruit in the coming months. From my perspective it is important that it has introduced not only the agenda but also instruments for the process in BiH.
Third – As of September, we have an integrated EU presence on the ground – Ambassador Sorensen is the Head of EU Delegation and European Union Special Representative at the same time. We can already see the benefits of one clear mandate with one sole focus: to assist you in following your European aspiration.
And - as you are all aware, the European Commission recently adopted its 2011 Enlargement Package.
Let me now concentrate on the enlargement package. It had two main messages: that our enlargement policy is credible and that it has a transformative power.
It is credible because we monitor the demanding criteria and conditions, and their implementation. Thanks to this, candidate countries achieve a higher level of readiness to join, which benefits both them and the European Union.
Our policy is credible because when countries deliver on their reforms, the EU delivers on its commitments once the conditions are met. Croatia's progress is the best example of this.
For the candidate and potential candidate countries our policy facilitates a profound transformation.
- A transformation to a stable, pluralistic democracy which upholds and reinforces the rule of law.
- A transformation to a functioning market economy and the prospect of long term prosperity.
- A transformation to a modern society, which fully embraces the values at the heart of the European Union.
In the Enlargement Package, there was another message too; less explicit, but very obvious when you look at our Strategy Paper and the package as a whole. This message is: Where there is a lack of credibility because the conditions are not being met it is due to a lack of political will.
As a result:
there is no progress,
there is no prospect of advancement and
there is no real political and economic reform.
Let me stop here. Friends are supposed to be honest with each other. As a friend of Bosnia and Herzegovina, I will be frank with you: We all have to work hard as partners to make sure that the country does not fall behind the rest of the region.
Our report on Bosnia and Herzegovina is very clear about the facts. Political and institutional deadlock has continued. Bosnia and Herzegovina does not have a state level government. The reform agenda, aimed at bringing the country closer to the EU, did not move forward.
Now it is high time to form a new state-level government to facilitate the reform process.
We all know what is needed, and what has been done so far.
Let us now consider where we need to go from here – until the end of this year and beyond.
I would like to begin by making two remarks–
One - it is not clear if Bosnia and Herzegovina will be able to create a state level government by the end of this year, or, if it will decide to implement the European reforms. There is a possibility both will move forward. Please use it. But let me make it clear: do not use the non-existence of the government on the state level for not pushing for the reporms.
Two - Member States may decide in December for the Stabilisation and Association Agreement to come into force, which would be very welcome. However, if there are no developments on the above points, Bosnia and Herzegovina would be immediately in breach of any Stabilisation and Association Agreement. Please think about this carefully.
Let me now turn to what we are offering at different levels. There are two new things:
1) Straight after the Structured Dialogue this week, we are launching on the 14 and 15 November High-Level Coordination Meetings on the Instrument of Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) for 2012, and multi-beneficiary meetings in order to pre-empt the problems experienced this year, which nearly lost Bosnia and Herzegovina 100 million €. Right afterwards, there will be a meeting to start the Programming exercise for IPA 2012-2013. This experience with the IPA was important lesson and we would like to help you to create a mechanism to avoid such thing to happen in the future.
2) We are using the experience gathered with the Structured Dialogue to reinforce the already existing subcommittees of Stabilisation and Association Process.
On 15 November, there will be subcommittee meetings on energy and on transport. The day after, the Commission will have meetings with the stakeholders of the TRANSCO electricity company to help solve problems there. That same afternoon, there will be high-level talks on the important transport link Corridor V.c. We are thinking of using the IPA 2012 funds for corridor V.c. design, as building of this corridor will mean not only an investment, but also direct employment. And it is not only DG Enlargement and my portfolio but more and more also other colleagues from the European Commission who are getting involved.
But for all we do, we can only help Bosnia and Herzegovina to help itself. Within the country there needs to be a European Consensus.
A consensus to work together
A consensus which goes above entity and party politics,
A consensus to improve the lives of your citizens and to provide them and their children with a better future.
Political representatives have demonstrated that when there is a will, there is a way. Difficult reforms were agreed upon, which lead to visa free travel in the Schengen area for the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Recently, there have been some positive developments on some requirements: the State Aid Law was adopted by the Council of Ministers. A Joint Interim Committee of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Parliamentary Assembly for implementation of the Sejdic-Finci ruling was established. Bosnia and Herzegovina now needs to build on these developments.
As parliamentarians, it is your task to do that. You have a vital role to play in developing a shared vision for the future of the country, in the work which you carry out inside your parliaments, but also in reaching out to your citizens. It is important to explain the benefits of European integration, and more importantly what needs to be done to deliver on the EU aspirations.
Dear friends !
This ceremony today in the European Parliament and the new impetus given by the Commission is a manifestation of our commitment. It shows that friends are there when they are needed to face challenges together.
We should use our time here together to take the necessary steps to moving Bosnia and Herzegovina into the European era.
Thank you for your attention.