Bosnia-Herzegovina should be ready to sign pre-membership and trade deals with the EU by April, Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn told journalists after meeting with leaders of the Balkan country in Brussels.
“I am fully committed to the European future of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its people,” Rehn said, adding that in the long-run he expects the country to become a full EU member.
He talked of “substantial discussions” with Bosnia’s President Haris Silajdzic, Prime Minister Nikola Spiric and other leading figures, and urged them to “recapture the political momentum” which emerged after negotiations on the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) began last December (05/12/07).
Apart from trade relations, including Bosnia’s prospect for WTO membership, talks focused on facilitating visas for Bosnian citizens and how to improve the country’s participation in the EU’s Research Framework Programme.
The new agreement still needs to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU member states. Such approval largely depends on the country’s cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the successful completion of police reform (EURACTIV 15/03/07), Rehn pointed out.
The commissioner’s announcement came one day after the international community’s High Representative for Bosnia, Miroslav Lajcak, voiced “deep concern” over the “deteriorating” political situation in the country following Kosovo’s declaration of independence on 17 February (EURACTIV 18/02/08).
Lajcak, however, firmly dismissed calls for secession by Bosnia’s Serbian entity of Republika Srpska, where protesters marching against Kosovo’s independence clashed with the police while trying to storm the US consulate on Tuesday (February 26).
Bosnian leaders expressed their hope that the country would be granted EU candidate status by spring 2009.