The European Union’s 28 member states yesterday (20 September) accepted Bosnia and Herzegovina’s membership application and ordered the Commission to prepare an assessment of the Balkan country’s readiness to join the bloc.
According to a statement by the Slovak Presidency of the Council of the EU, the EU members welcomed the progress made by the Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities in implementing their reform agenda and invited them to continue their efforts to the benefit of their citizens.
This should include socio-economic reforms, reforms in the area of rule of law and public administration.
The formal application for accession was made on 15 February by the Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Dragan Čović. Tabling the application opens a long process of assessment and of decision making in granting candidate status, followed by a new decision-making to open accession negotiation.
The EU has in the past discouraged Bosnia and Herzegovina from tabling a membership application, over doubts that the ethnic communities in the country can commit to living together.
Ivan Korčok, acting as President of the General Affairs Council, said:
“Credible enlargement policy is one of the top priorities of the Presidency and I am glad that we are delivering. Enlargement is an indispensable tool at our disposal to promote democracy, stability and prosperity in our neighbourhood. And if a country delivers, the EU should deliver, too.”
Prime Minister Denis Zvizdić said the acceptance of the country’s application constituted a “historic moment for the European path and European future of Bosnia-Herzegovina.”
“This is really some of the most positive news for Bosnia-Herzegovina … especially for young people,” he said.
There remains only one Western Balkans’ country that has not submitted a EU membership application. But it would be certainly more difficult for Kosovo to move forward, as the former Serbian province that unilaterally declared independence in 2008 is not recognised by Spain, Slovakia, Greece, Romania and Cyprus.
Bosnia and Herzegovina experienced the worst of the ethnic-nationalist fighting that accompanied the disintegration of Yugoslavia.
Bosnia's declaration of independence in 1992 triggered a bitter conflict between Serbs, Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) and Croats, claiming 100,000 lives. Eventual international intervention under the auspices of the UN culminated in a NATO bombing campaign against Bosnian Serb forces in 1995, which led to the Dayton Agreement that created the current constitution and geopolitical structure.
The conflict involved ethnic cleansing and atrocities. Worst of all was the Srebrenica massacre in 1995, when an estimated 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were killed by the army of the Republika Srpska and other paramilitary units, despite the presence of 400 armed Dutch peacekeepers in the area.
The country is officially a federation, divided into two partner entities with considerable independence: the Bosniak-Croat Federation and Republika Srpska. Each has its own government, legislature and police force, but the two come together in a central government with an eight-month rotating presidency held equally by a Bosniak, a Croat and a Serb (click here for more information).
- Slovak Presidency: Korčok: Important decision on Bosnia and Herzegovina taken at General Affairs Council
- European Council: Council conclusions on the application of Bosnia and Herzegovina for membership of the EU