The United States and the European Union voiced support on Wednesday (20 October) for Western Balkan countries’ efforts to join the EU but expressed concern about “increasingly divisive rhetoric” in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania all want to join the wealthy 27-nation EU, but progress towards membership has been slow.
In a joint statement almost a week after talks in Washington between EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the EU and the US government assured the Western Balkan states that they support EU enlargement.
“This region belongs in the European Union,” the statement said.
It also said Washington and Brussels support efforts in Bosnia to “promote electoral and constitutional reform and maintain the functionality of its state institutions.”
“We have serious concerns about increasingly divisive rhetoric in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” it said.
“We call on all parties to respect and protect state institutions, resume constructive dialogue, and take steps to advance progress on the EU integration path – including on relevant reforms.”
Under the Dayton peace accords that ended Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, the country was split into two autonomous regions – the Serb Republic and a Bosniak-Croat federation – linked by a relatively weak, tripartite inter-ethnic presidency.
Bosnian Serb secessionist leader Milorad Dodik, who is also the Serb member of the presidency, said last week the leadership of the Serb Republic would soon take measures to unravel some of the Bosnian state’s main institutions.
Dodik has long said Bosnia’s judiciary and prosecutors were established on the basis of decisions by international peace envoys, and are not enshrined in its constitution.
The EU Commission published on Tuesday its annual “Enlargement package” which includes a 125-page report on Bosnia and Herzegovina. The report says the country is still in “early stages” of its preparation for EU accession and is particularly critical regarding the implementation of the political criteria for accession. No progress is reported in the fields of improving the electoral framework or the judiciary reform.