In the framework of the cycle of Sub-committees established under the Interim Agreement, representatives of the European Commission (Commission) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) institutions met in Brussels on 24 February 2015, to discuss the level of approximation of the country in the field of Trade, Industry, Customs, Taxation and Cooperation with other candidate countries.
During the meeting, developments in the area of Free Movement of Goods were discussed. The Commission underlined the fact that the EU expects BiH to establish a fully functioning single economic space and remove all unnecessary legal, technical and administrative barriers to the free movement of goods within the country. It also expects BiH to accelerate its alignment with the complex EU rules on free movement of goods in order to prepare for the possible future participation in the EU’s single market. The Commission expressed regret that there is no countrywide harmonised approach on the way forward in this area and a visible lack of cooperation and coordination between the various levels of Government. It also stressed the urgent need to develop a countrywide Strategy for Quality Infrastructure. Rules on the import of goods must be uniform in BiH as legal certainty is indispensable for producers and traders.
In the areas of Industrial and SME policies the Commission emphasized the need to develop countrywide strategies and called upon the governments to fully engage in the measures of the Compact for Growth and Jobs. The current strategies and projects developed at entity level are not adequate or harmonized enough to tackle issues such as competitiveness and improving the business environment, including removing obstacles to conduct business across entities’ borders.
The Commission emphasized the need for the various levels of BiH governments to continue to align legislation with the EU acquis and urged BiH to continue its constructive efforts to strengthen administrative capacity in the area of taxation. The parties took note of positive developments in the area of customs, and the Commission urged BiH to adopt its draft law on customs policy without delay and improve the administrative capacity of its customs even further.
The Commission emphasized the urgent need for BiH to engage constructively in further talks aimed at adapting the SAA/Interim Agreement to take account of Croatia’s accession based on the well-established traditional trade methodology. If this adaptation happens before the end of 2015 the possible suspension of the autonomous trade preferences for BiH can be avoided.
BiH reiterated that at no point did it question the need for a technical adaptation of the SAA/IA in aspects necessary to have it applicable to a new Member State. BiH also expressed readiness to engage in finding mutually acceptable solution, while respecting the interests of both BiH and the EU. To this end, BiH called on the Commission to withdraw the proposal for the suspension of autonomous trade measures for BiH.
The BiH small brewery tax scheme was discussed and the Commission pointed out that it differs from the acquis and potentially discriminates against beer imports. CEFTA aims at further liberalising regional trade and integration into the global economy, and both parties support further efforts to remove administrative barriers to trade and focus on trade facilitation, both within CEFTA and within the WTO where the EU strongly supports the accession efforts of BiH. Finally, the parties discussed issues related to the smooth traffic of goods in transit through the Neum Corridor.