EU Membership: The European Commission will recommend granting Bosnia and Herzegovina candidate status
The European Commission will recommend granting candidate status to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) as part of its annual enlargement report, according to EURACTIV on Wednesday (12 October).
Bosnia and Herzegovina has been a potential candidate for European Union membership since 2003 and formally submitted its application in February 2016. In 2019, the Commission identified 14 key priorities that the country must meet in order to open the bloc’s accession negotiations.
However, very little progress has been made so far and the lack of certainty about membership has been partly attributed to increasing fragmentation between the country’s three main ethnic groups, namely Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs.
The country is overseen by an international peace envoy who, after the polls closed on October 2, forced changes to parliamentary procedures to avoid post-election disruption, as Croats and Serbs all threatened to take measures that would disrupt the post-election electoral order might call into question war.
The European Commission’s recommendation will not immediately change Bosnia and Herzegovina’s chances of gaining candidate status, but it would still send a message that will help implement the necessary reforms and meet the country’s conditions. This is what people familiar with the matter told EURACTIV.
The EU executive should recommend granting candidate status under certain conditions, “assuming that the necessary measures need to be taken”.
Instead of setting conditions for a recommendation, the European Commission should issue a recommendation with conditions instead.
For this she identified eight elements, including the rule of law, the regional courts, the electoral law, the law on public procurement and the management of public finances, which would form the content of subsequent progress reports.
If Bosnia meets these eight points, the country could make fairly rapid progress in implementing the 14 conditions previously set out by the Union in its statement on the country’s candidacy.
So far, the European Commission has met the 14 conditions it set out in its Opinion on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s candidacy to recommend granting candidate status.
The idea is that after the October 2nd elections, once the institutions are in place, Bosnia could start working on this issue immediately and possibly discuss it later this year.
“They don’t have much time, but this is a huge opportunity for Bosnia and its citizens”said a European official.
The move comes as a surprise to longtime observers, as this year’s enlargement report shows the country’s limited progress, particularly on electoral reform, and the EU executive struggled to find appropriate language while votes are still being counted in some parts of the country.
The Commission’s recommendation is not the final step either, and it will still be up to the Member States to decide whether or not to grant the country candidate status.
Several European diplomats claim that the Commission is under increasing pressure to take steps to grant Bosnia and Herzegovina candidate status, particularly after Ukraine and Moldova were granted candidate status earlier this year.
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