When I was in Sarajevo last November, I had an in-depth exchange with the BiH Presidency members. We expected then the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina to use this non-election year to move decisively from Dayton to Brussels, with substantial progress on implementing the 14 key priorities identified by the European Commission’s Opinion back in May 2019. It’s already May 2021 and regrettably there has been very little progress thus far, Josep Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, stated.
“Bosnia an Herzegovina citizens and EU member states want to see more progress and they want to see it now.”
BiH citizens and EU member states want to see more progress and they want to see it now. The country’s leaders should seize the opportunity of the upcoming FAC discussion in May and the upcoming EU-BiH Stabilisation and Association Council to deliver positive news. They should come to the table with concrete results, not just promises, especially when we have heard these promises before. No more hollow words. Only action and progress can move Bosnia and Herzegovina forward on its EU accession track and lead to candidate status. The lack of progress and continuing retrograde rhetoric and actions would have the opposite effect.
The constitutional and electoral reform: a key deliverable
A key deliverable is the constitutional and electoral reform. This may sound ambitious, but there is no way around amending the BiH Constitution to meet EU standards and implement the pending European Court of Human Rights Sejdic/Finci case (link is external). Bosnia and Herzegovina needs also an amended electoral framework in line with OSCE and GRECO recommendations. I know these reforms are difficult and touch upon very sensitive issues: we need constructive engagement of all leaders across the political spectrum and civil society in order to succeed.
“I know these constitutional and electoral reforms touch upon very sensitive issues: we need constructive engagement of all leaders across the political spectrum and civil society in order to succeed.”
Strengthening the rule of law also remains essential. It is perfectly possible to finalize the adoption of the law on public procurement, the law on conflict of interest and the amendments to the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Law in the coming months in line with EU requirements. Anything else would only signal obstruction of the reforms needed on the European path.
Finally, the role of the EU, together with the US, is to facilitate the talks and ensure that the proposals on the table are aligned with EU standards. Attempts to misrepresent the role and intent of the EU and our international partners in Bosnia and Herzegovina are unacceptable. My Special Representative, who is also the EU’s representative in BiH Ambassador Johann Sattler and his staff have my full confidence and support.
“The role of the EU, together with the US, is to facilitate the talks. Attempts to misrepresent the role and intent of the EU and our international partners in Bosnia and Herzegovina are unacceptable.”
During the last months, I invested time and energy to support Bosnia and Herzegovina on the path of reforms and EU accession. The BiH authorities need now to show EU member states that they can deliver on this important agenda.