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Speech: EU door for Bosnia and Herzegovina still open

European Commission - SPEECH/14/100   05/02/2014

Other available languages: none

European Commission

Štefan Füle

European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy

EU door for Bosnia and Herzegovina still open

Joint debate Balkans / progress reports, European Parliament, Plenary Session

5 February 2014

President, Honourable Members,

Thank you for your invitation to participate in today's joint debate. Let me first of all express my gratitude to:

• Doris Pack for her report on Bosnia and Herzegovina;

• Richard Howitt for his report on the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; and

• Charles Tannock for his report on Montenegro.

All three reports are well balanced and accurately reflect the findings of the Commission's 2013 Progress Reports on the three countries.

Unfortunately, nearly every year, the debate on Bosnia and Herzegovina looks like a replay. We seem to have to live through the same reality over and over again.

As the draft resolution points out, progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina has again been extremely limited over the last year. I share your concerns and your call for a shift away "from nationalist and ethnocentric rhetoric coming from the leadership of the three constitutive peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina."

In numerous marathon meetings in Sarajevo, Brussels, Budapest and Prague, I have tried to help the political leaders focus on implementing the first step of the Roadmap of the High Level Dialogue on the implementation of the Sejdić-Finci ruling of the European Court of Human Rights.

I was in Sarajevo less than 3 weeks ago to discuss a model of constitutional changes and an electoral law to implement this ruling. We saw some closing of the gaps, but no breakthrough. I plan to chair another meeting soon.

A success in this area would finally allow the Stabilisation and Association Agreement to come into force. It is also one of the preconditions for the submission of a credible membership application.

2014 will be an important year for the country: We will do our utmost to make sure that the general elections in October live up to European standards. The European Union will also continue to work with Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to achieve an efficient and effective coordination mechanism.

We will keep the door to the European Union open for Bosnia and Herzegovina, but they will have to walk through this door on their own accord.

Closing remarks

President, Honourable Members,

Thank you for this extensive and useful debate.

Allow me to start by commenting on one positive issue concerning Bosnia and Herzegovina: the smooth running and completion of the enumeration phase of the first population and housing census since 1991. The Commission will continue to support the International Monitoring Mission to ensure that it complies with international standards.

The debate today has shown once more that a large majority of colleagues here share the Commission's views: We want Bosnia and Herzegovina in the European Union once they fulfil the conditions and enable us and them to use all the instruments to their benefit.

A successful approximation process leading to candidate country status (and membership at some point in the future) will bring immense gains for the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This opportunity cannot be squandered.

The European Union is clear in what we expect from the country. It is high time for the politicians in Bosnia and Herzegovina to move decisively forward in order to catch up with its neighbours. I am encouraged by the fact, that the majority of this house wholeheartedly supports this call.

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