EU warns of ‘stalemate’ in Bosnia

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EU leaders have issued a strong-worded message to Bosnia and Herzegovina, warning that continued political in-fighting between Serb, Muslim and Croat nationalists is driving the country away from its citizens’ aspirations to get closer to the Union.

Speaking in the European Parliament yesterday (22 October), French State Secretary for EU Affairs Jean-Pierre Jouyet voiced his disappointment at the course the country has taken since last June’s signature of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA), then seen as a milestone towards future EU accession (EURACTIV 18/06/08). Progress towards membership of the bloc seemed to be on the right track, with the Commission also opening a dialogue with Sarajevo aimed at lifting barriers to visa-free travel in the near future. But local elections last October marked a surge of nationalism (EURACTIV 06/10/08) and a return to the divisions of the past decade, much to the Union’s concern. 

“I don’t want to hear that there are divisions among the political representatives. The public opinion of Bosnia is that 80% expects the country to progress towards the EU. What are their political representatives waiting for before responding to the legitimate wish of the people of Bosnia?,” asked Jouyet. 

Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said that since the signing of the SAA, national consensus had “collapsed” and reforms had “halted”, including in the much-needed field of state- and institution-building. 

“Nationalist rhetoric at the local elections in October was one factor in this deterioration, yet the country’s political problems run much deeper than that,” the commissioner said, warning that “the lack of a common vision among the country’s leaders about its future and the absence of consensus on EU reforms seriously harm its European prospects”. He further regretted that while there was “open disagreement on most political questions,” there was “no sense of urgency or sense of responsibility to overcome this political stalemate”. 

MEPs also voiced concern over developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Dutch liberal MEP Jules Maaten told the audience that when he recently visited the country, its leaders claimed that all problems stemmed from the outside and thus expected all solutions to come from the outside too. 

The Commission’s latest progress report on Bosnia and Herzegovina due on 5 November is expected to be particularly critical, sources told EURACTIV. 

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