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European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy
We want to see Bosnia and Herzegovina succeed
Inter-parliamentary Meeting EU-Bosnia and Herzegovina, European Parliament/ Brussels
8 July 2013
Bosnia and Herzegovina has repeatedly confirmed it wants to become a member state of the European Union. The EU's enlargement policy is designed to help each country with its own particular political, social and economic issues along the difficult path of becoming a member state. Yet it is evident that the progress of Bosnia and Herzegovina over the last year has not been at the level of our expectations. Or for that matter, at the level of expectations of the country's own citizens.
It is no secret that Bosnia and Herzegovina is lagging behind other countries in the region on the path to the EU.
The 28th member state Croatia should be a lighthouse of orientation for the whole region. Croatia can be an important template also for the necessary reforms that Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to implement. I am fully aware that the legacy of the wars in the Balkans is particularly difficult for Bosnia and Herzegovina. To solve it, you need both stamina and political wisdom.
We have seen political wisdom over the past months from the Prime Ministers of Serbia and Kosovo. There are two important lessons to be taken from their experiences.
First, the impetus needs to come from bold and strong leadership. In the case of Serbia and Kosovo, Prime Ministers Dačić and Thaҫi found compromises, that, while not ideal for either side, helped them find a way to normalise their relations and move ahead on their European path. Without political courage and determination, like that shown by these two Prime Ministers, the European perspective of Bosnia and Herzegovina will not progress.
Second, it is vital to listen to the people. People in the region, and certainly in Bosnia and Herzegovina, want not only jobs, trade and investment, but also to live peacefully together, with no political tensions and in a climate conducive to reconciliation. The EU helps to make all of this happen - that’s why the countries of central and Eastern Europe wanted to join the EU after 1989 and it is why the leaders in all neighbouring states are making progress towards the EU a priority.
This is the measure of political determination and compromise for politicians of Bosnia and Herzegovina to live up to.
They collectively need to deliver the minimum conditions to move further along the path of the European Union.
The leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina should consider to take courageous and decisive steps if they want their country to catch up.
The Roadmap agreed at the first meeting of the High Level Dialogue on the Accession Process here in Brussels one year ago and reconfirmed in the second meeting in November 2012 in Sarajevo is still the yardstick against which to measure progress.
Unfortunately, I had to cancel the third meeting of the High Level Dialogue originally scheduled for April because of a lack of progress on the key issue. Nevertheless, I decided to personally go to Sarajevo, together with representatives from the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission, to see if there was a possibility to facilitate an agreement between political leaders and help the country to move forward.
Everyone knows that the minimum for the long-overdue next step on the EU-path is fulfilling the European Court of Human Rights judgement in the case of Sejdić and Finci by ending the discrimination resulting directly from the Constitution. For the entry into force of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement as well as a credible membership application, this is what we have asked for during the last years. If I say “We”, I mean all three EU institutions: the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of now 28 EU Member States. If this issue is not solved in the next few months, this will not only continue to block the country’s road to the EU, it will also undermine the legitimacy and therefore credibility of the future elected bodies as the Council of Europe has stressed. There is still a window of opportunity before the next general elections in 2014. I call on all political representatives in the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as the party leaders to set aside short-term ethnic or party interests and follow the long-term interest of the country which is to be strongly anchored in the European Union. The Prime Ministers of Serbia and Kosovo have understood that a choice needs to be made. We are still waiting for the clear choice of the leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
I would like to draw your attention to an important issue of security and human rights: The lack of a permanent legal solution to the Single Reference Number. This is an issue that is relevant for the rule of law in your country. And it also has implications for the visa-liberalisation dialogue, including in the field of document security, and is therefore of direct concern to EU member states. We took note that temporary measures were adopted by the government. However, a clear legislative solution must be found, consistently with the relevant ruling of the Constitutional Court of BiH.
Let me recall another basic requirement where we expect progress in the very near future:
Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to agree on an effective and efficient coordination mechanism. In such a highly decentralised country this is of particular importance also in order to enable the disbursement of future EU pre-accession funds.
Politicians must be accountable to the citizens. We have seen signs that citizens are asking politicians to deal with a wide variety of important issues for the country. The voice of the citizens should be heard.
The European Union is ready to continue its endeavours to assist and facilitate a solution. Let me repeat here the call to the country's political leaders to show the necessary political determination. We want to see Bosnia and Herzegovina succeed. And I wish the people of your country a real success. The European Commission is still fully committed to assisting Bosnia and Herzegovina on the road to EU accession, but the country needs to deliver its part of the bargain since success can only begin at home.