An interactive event on the European Commission’s Opinion on the application of Bosnia and Herzegovina for the EU membership was held on Tuesday, 31 July, in Banja Luka. Event’s host, the the Head of the EU Delegation and EU Special Representative in BiH, Ambassador Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, was joined by two representatives of the business community, the President of the Mostar-based Association for Cooperation and Development Sara, Meliha Gekić-Lerić, and entrepreneur and owner of the Education Centre Erazmo from Tuzla, Sanja Hajdukov.
The Opinion, published in late May of this year, and the accompanying Analytical report, identifies key priorities that the country needs to fulfil in order to receive a recommendation to open negotiations on joining the European Union and provides comprehensive guidance for gradual reforms.
In a conversation with citizens, Ambassador Wigemark stressed the importance of this process and stated that the Opinion deals with a whole range of issues, from the need to hold elections in accordance with international and EU standards, and strengthen the rule of law, reform public administration, etc. “Membership in the European Union is a choice. The fact that you are here today shows that you have already made that choice. The EU integration process is in fact a process of transformation and change”, ambassador Wigemark added.
The recommendations contained in the Opinion refer to the areas of democracy, rule of law, fundamental rights and public administration reform – the fundamentals of the EU accession process. In addition, the Analytical report 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, environment, consumer protection and education .
“One of the biggest problems in BiH is a discrepancy of curricula in education and the labour market needs, in addition to a lack of adequate student training to acquire necessary skills”, Meliha Gekić-Lerić said.
Talking to citizens attending the event, Sanja Hajdukov stressed the importance of lifelong learning and the need for continuous practice of gaining new knowledge: “Centres for lifelong learning are a good way for people to gain new skills and facilitate further education. The most in-demand learning programs nowadays are related to information technology.”
During the event, citizens of Banja Luka, Prijedor, Prnjavor and other nearby towns, were able to vote on what they think are the priority issues for Bosnia and Herzegovina, and to express their opinion on ways to overcome those problems. More than 50% of them said they considered the fight against corruption a key priority for the country.
The next interactive events are scheduled for Mostar and Tuzla, where citizens will be able to discuss steps required for the country to move closer to the European Union.