Bosnia and Herzegovina has formally requested to join the European Union, submitting its application at an event in Brussels on Monday morning.
“This is an important day for all us,” the Croat member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, Dragan Covic, said on Monday after presenting the application for EU membership.
“Bosnia and Herzegovina wants to follow its neighbours on the European path. This year we will try to improve our economic and social conditions and be credible on our way to the European Union, to which there is no alternative for us,” Covic added.
He said that he expects Bosnia and Herzegovina to obtain candidate status from the European Union “next year”, and also expressed confidence that NATO would activate its Membership Action Plan for the country in June.
Covic formally handed over the application to Bert Koenders, the foreign minister of the Netherlands, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, at an event also attended by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy Johannes Hahn.
Koenders said he welcomed Bosnia and Herzegovina’s application and urged its leaders to continuing implementing reforms in order to make progress towards membership.
“Implementing the reform agenda is important for a positive end to the application. It will be important to continue on the reform process not only for Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also for its people,” Koenders said.
“This is the beginning of an important journey… the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina is in your hands,” he added.
Mogherini said that Bosnia’s application was a positive sign for the country.
“This is really good news to receive the membership application from you,” she said.
“This is good news for the people of the country, who can see that if the leadership of Bosnia and Herzegovina moves together to a common goal, things can be achieved. This is a strong message also for the future and a good sign for your citizens,” she added.
Mogherini also said that the application was good news for the EU.
“These are difficult times and [it shows that] our project on EU integration is still a powerful one,” she said.
Hahn cautioned however that a lot of work lay ahead for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“This is the beginning of tough and hard work. European membership will not be possible in a couple of months,” he said.
He also stressed the importance of creating an efficient coordination mechanism which will assure a good communication between Brussels and Sarajevo.
“If you don’t have the right mechanism to communicate with us, [the integration process] will be difficult,” he said.
In the past few weeks, the EU commission has warned Bosnia and Herzegovina that its application will be not credible without implementing measures like the updating of the country’s Stabilisation and Association Agreement and the creation of the coordination mechanism.
Last week, it emerged that the country’s Council of Ministers had secretly adopted an agreement on the coordination mechanism.
Although Bosnian Prime Minister Denis Zvizdic insisted that this was not done in secret, it was sharply criticised by the government of the country’s Serb-led entity Republika Srpska, which claimed to have been excluded from the negotiation process and asked the Council of Ministers to withdraw the agreement.
Source: Balkan Insight