“I certainly hope that BiH will be granted candidate country status next year. But this status is not a gift received from the EU institutions, it has to be earned. The country must be able to show that it is serious about the EU accession-related reforms. Unfortunately, it is not what we have seen in the last year and a half, when the pace of reforms seriously slowed down,” Cristian Dan Preda, Member of European Parliament and Rapporteur for Bosnia and Herzegovina told European Western Balkans.
Now that the general elections of 7 October have passed, BiH has an opportunity to reverse this trend. That is why it is crucial that authorities are formed without delay and start working on the necessary reforms.
On the question of when will the new Resolution of European Parliament on Bosnia and Herzegovina be adopted and is the formation of the Joint Stabilization and Association Parliamentary Committee the only requirement?
“When we have voted on my report in the Foreign Affairs Committer, on the 6th of December, I have asked for a postponement of the debate and of the vote in plenary. The discussion in the plenary, initially foreseen for January 2019, will now be delayed. For how long, it depends on our friends in the BiH Parliament. I would like to see some sign, some indication that they want to work with us in the European Parliament on the European integration of their country. For me, it was the last chance to try to solve the problem of the SAPC, which has not met for 3 years,” Dan Preda said.
“As you know, the BiH side objected to the adoption of the Rules of Procedure and attempted to introduce ethnic voting in this common parliamentary body. This was of course unacceptable for us, and despite our efforts to find a solution compatible with EU law, all attempts to solve this issue have failed. The result is that we do not have this functioning parliamentary cooperation body. It is not a minor issue, but a case of disregard for the obligations undertaken by BiH in the framework of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA). It is also a unique situation for the European Parliament, because it is the only case where we could not create such a parliamentary body,” he added.
Formation of the Committee, as well as post-election government formation and drafting the answers to the EC Questionnaire are some of the examples proving that BiH’s institutions are slow at tackling even the relatively non-controversial issues. What is the solution: more powerful central government, more EU incentives or something else?
“The examples you mention indeed seem to indicate that the institutions in BiH are slower, compared to other countries in the region. At the same time, one has to acknowledge that BiH is a country with a very complicated institutional set-up. A more streamlined decision-making and functional institutional set-up would certainly help, and in our resolutions in the European Parliament, we always referred to this. More generally, I think, on the EU side, we did provide incentives. We adopted at the end of 2014 a new EU approach, allowing the entry into force of the SAA; the submission of the BiH application for membership was accepted and the opinion process has started; we offered financial incentives, the IPA funds, etc,” Dan Preda added.
“That something else you refer to has in reality to come from the BiH authorities themselves. I think the political elites in the country must realize that they need to take full responsibility for the EU integration process. Nobody can do the necessary reforms in the place of the authorities and political parties must learn to work on building consensus, when it comes to reforms required by the EU accession. Also, the citizens of the country must hold them accountable if that does not happen. Whenever I visit the country, I hear the expression of the frustration of the people there with the authorities, with the unfulfilled promises, with the delays in terms of EU integration and with the lack of improvement of their own socio-economic situation. The people of BiH need to learn to use this exceptional power they have, the vote,” he added.