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European Commission

Štefan Füle

European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy

What Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to do to move on EU path

Plenary session of the European Parliament/ Brussels

22 May 2013

President, Honourable Members,

Let me first of all thank Doris Pack for an excellent Draft Report on Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Last year I told you that when speaking about Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is difficult to be overly positive. Unfortunately I have the same problem this year.

As your Draft Report points out, progress has again been extremely limited. I am just as concerned about the political elite's continued lack of a shared vision for the overall direction of the country. As the motion states, the country is "falling further behind the other countries of the region".

Because of our concerns, the European Union has increased its engagement with Bosnia and Herzegovina and increased political facilitation efforts at all levels. Over the past several months, considerable political and diplomatic activity has taken place to help solve the most pressing issues that the country needs to tackle. In a nutshell: to implement all the steps in the roadmap agreed by political leaders in June 2012, which are outlined in several Council Conclusions and in your draft report.

In April, I went to Sarajevo to discuss with the politicians the way forward on Sejdić-Finci issue. Because of the lack of any meaningful progress resulting from our facilitation process, I regrettably had to cancel the third round of the High Level Dialogue on the Accession Process.

I came back with the impression that some were more focused on party and ethnic interests than on implementing the Sejdić-Finci judgement.

President, Honourable Members,

The European Union can only facilitate. It is up to the political leaders of the country to step up to the challenge in a genuine engagement. In the current situation of political instability in the Federation, it is difficult to find a genuine consensus on essential issues – and nevertheless, it remains vital.

The accession of Croatia will make Bosnia and Herzegovina a direct neighbour of the Union. We are doing our utmost to facilitate this new status and make it a success for both sides. I have held two ministerial meetings with Foreign Ministers of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to this aim, in addition to five technical meetings that my services have organised with both sides.

Despite the recurrent setbacks, we have reiterated that our continued engagement and support is available for those in the country who want to move things forward. Our structured dialogue on judiciary is bearing fruit. I understand that this house wholeheartedly supports this approach.

Thank you for your attention.

Closing remarks

President, Honourable Members,

Thank you for this extensive and useful debate.

We have a responsibility and commitment to BiH. Dayton 1995 – we imposed this agreement on them, and the Dayton agreement was the best framework for them to bring peace to BiH. Now, the time has come to think about another framework for transforming BiH. Enlargement is the most powerful instrument we have, it is not Dayton, it is enlargement, through it we will be able to tackle a lot of issues about which you, and the Commission too, are complaining.

First, we need to help them to pass the bridge to the EU enlargement process and that bridge is called implementation of the Sejdić-Finci ruling.

Second, it is important to see what is going on in the region, moving external border of the EU to BiH. The rest of the region is moving, the deal between Belgrade and Prishtina shows that if there is a will there is a way in the region. It shows how important is this European perspective and how much potential there is in the enlargement as an instrument of transformation. So we need to help BiH not to remain outside, in the cold, and be caught still within the Dayton framework while the rest of the region is moving in the EU framework.

Third, sometimes we tend to refer to Sejdić-Finci as the only obstacle for BiH to submit the EU application. Well, non-implementation of Sejdic-Finci is the reason why we still do not have the Stabilisation and Association Agreement entering in force. BiH is not living up to its international commitments and we need to make it clear. Do I agree that the time has come for the alarm to ring for BiH? Yes.

There will be elections next year. What will we do with the elections without BiH delivering on the ECHR ruling? Are we going to ring the alarm bell then? The time has come now not to threaten but to make it very clear: you need to deal with the ECHR ruling, you need to align the Constitution with that decision, because without it you will be in breach of international commitments and this has its consequences.

The second clear message is that we are here to help you, we are your partner, we have shown how serious we are in trying to help you to cross that bridge. If needed we will double our efforts, but we need you to have this vision, because it will be you delivering on that expectations.


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