The Commission has adopted today its Opinion on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s EU membership application. The Opinion is a milestone in EU-Bosnia and Herzegovina relations, confirming that the EU is committed to guide and support the country in undertaking the necessary reforms on its path towards European integration.
The Opinion identifies 14 key priorities for the country to fulfil in order to be recommended for opening of EU accession negotiations; it provides a comprehensive roadmap for incremental reforms. The key priorities cover the areas of democracy/functionality; rule of law; fundamental rights; and public administration reform – the fundamentals of the EU accession process.
The analytical report accompanying the Opinion also, for the first time, reviews the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina against all standards applicable to EU Member States, including on issues such as internal market, public procurement, competition policy, environment, food safety and consumer protection.
The Opinion provides a solid basis for discussion in the EU Council, which will need to take a decision on the next steps in the EU path of the country. In this regards, it will be key that governments are formed at all levels in Bosnia and Herzegovina without delay.
Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to bring in line its constitutional framework with European standards and ensure the functionality of its institutions to be able to take over EU obligations. While a decentralised state structure is compatible with EU membership, Bosnia and Herzegovina will need to reform its institutions to be able to effectively participate in EU decision-making and to fully implement and enforce the acquis.
Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to improve its electoral framework and the functioning of the judiciary. It should also strengthen the prevention and fight against corruption and organised crime, including money laundering and terrorism, as well as ensure effective functioning of border management, migration and asylum systems. It needs to step up the protection of fundamental rights of all citizens, including by ensuring an enabling environment for civil society, reconciliation and the protection and inclusion of vulnerable groups. It also needs to complete essential steps in public administration reform.
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s track record in implementing its obligations under the Stabilisation and Association Agreement needs to be improved, notably regarding the establishment of the Parliamentary Committee and the development of a national plan for the adoption of the EU acquis.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has achieved a certain degree of macroeconomic stability. However, to move towards becoming a functioning market economy, Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to pay special attention to speeding up its decision-making procedures and improving the business environment as well as the efficiency and transparency of the public sector, in particular of public enterprises. The country should address the impediments to the proper functioning of market mechanisms, such as a weak rule of law, substantial red tape, corruption, lengthy and overly complex administrative procedures and a high fragmentation of the country’s internal market. In order to enable it to cope over the medium term with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union, Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to pay special attention to the low quality of education and its insufficient orientation towards labour market needs, the quality of the physical capital, such as the insufficient development of transport and energy infrastructure and the slow adjustment of the country’s economic structure.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is overall at an early stage regarding its level of preparedness to take on the obligations of EU membership and needs to significantly step up the process to align with the EU acquis and implement and enforce related legislation. Particular attention should be paid to the areas of free movement of goods, right of establishment and freedom to provide services, information society and media, agriculture and rural development, fisheries, transport policy, energy, economic and monetary policy, statistics, social policy and employment, enterprise and industrial policy, regional policy and coordination of structural instruments, education and culture, consumer and health protection, and financial control.