The European Commission (EC) has recommended to the Council of the European Union (EU) that accession negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) should be launched as soon as the country has achieved the required level of compliance with membership criteria.
EC president Ursula von der Leyen made the announcement on Wednesday in Brussels, while presenting the annual progress report on Bosnia’s path to EU membership.
Later in the afternoon in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, the report was presented by Johann Sattler, Head of the EU Delegation and Special Representative in BiH, to Chairwoman of the Council of Ministers of BiH Borjana Kristo.
“The efforts political parties (in BiH) have demonstrated towards the accession have produced positive results and have been recognized. However, the report also lists some drawbacks in BiH,” Sattler said at the press conference in Sarajevo.
The EU has opened the door wide and invited BiH to pass through, Sattler said, but told Kristo that BiH must take additional action.
Kristo said that the Bosnian government will continue to work hard towards EU integration, and towards achieving the 14 reform priorities set out by the EU.
Among these is the removal of discriminatory parts of the BiH Constitution, so that all the country’s citizens, not only Serbs, Croats and Bosnians, can be elected to the highest institutions of state political power. Another priority is the reform of the Constitutional Court of BiH, in order to end the mandate of international judges in this court.
The priority list also includes amendments to BiH’s Election Law, which would bring the elections closer to the democratic principles of non-discrimination and equality, and prevent vote-stealing.
“We already have several laws from the list practically agreed on in the Council of Ministers of BiH, with some final touches to be made. So I am optimistic we will continue to achieve visible progress by the end of this year” said Kristo at the press conference in Sarajevo.
The Social Democratic Party of BiH, a part of the country’s ruling coalition, said this year’s report from the European Commission was “a good sign.”
“The positive signals from the EU are a confirmation that our policy of compromise and negotiations is roadworthy,” said the party’s president, Nermin Niksic, on social media.
This year’s EU enlargement package has ten separate reports, six for the countries of the Western Balkans, one for Turkey, and three for the countries of the Eastern Partnership: Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. Individual reports on the countries of the region assess the reforms necessary for advancing European integration.
Ukraine and Moldova have received the green light to open accession negotiations with the European Union, while Georgia has received the status of candidate. Bosnia became a candidate in December 2022.
The European Council is expected to decide on the EC’s recommendations in mid-December.