What are the Political Criteria BiH needs to fulfil to get closer to the EU?

In February 2016, the country applied for EU membership and in September 2016 the European Council invited the European Commission to submit its Opinion on the merits of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s application. In December 2016, the Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations handed over a comprehensive Questionnaire covering all EU accession criteria.

The country’s consolidated answers were finalised in February 2018 and the answers handed over to the President of the European Commission. The Commission has started the work on its Opinion, which will be prepared on the basis of the country’s answers to the Questionnaire and follow up inquiries, dedicated peer reviews as well as Commission’s consultations with international organisations and civil society.

Pending finalisation of the Opinion preparation process, this interim report on Bosnia and Herzegovina provides an update on the situation in the country as well as on key developments on “fundamentals’ first” areas: the rule of law and fundamental rights, public administration reform and economic development.

The full analysis of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s situation in relation to the EU accession criteria will be carried out as part of the Commission’s future Opinion and its accompanying analytical report.

Bosnia and Herzegovina continued to implement the Stabilisation and Association Agreement and the meetings of the joint bodies under the agreement took place, except for the parliamentary committee which has yet to adopt its Rules of Procedures.

Regarding the political criteria, the electoral framework remains to be urgently amended with a view to ensuring the proper organisation of the October 2018 elections and the smooth implementation of the results.

In this regard all political leaders need to assume their responsibility and to find a solution with regard to the Federation House of Peoples. The 2010 Constitutional Court decision concerning the respect of the basic democratic right of the citizens of Mostar to vote in local elections has yet to be implemented.

The adoption of legislation stemming from the Reform Agenda, including adoption of the excise tax legislation, was negatively affected by tensions between ruling coalition parties and obstruction by opposition parties in Parliaments at state and entity levels, leading to a slowdown of the reform pace.

The Reform Agenda has been effectively implemented when the state level and the entity levels have cooperated in a coordinated manner. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s constitution remains in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, as per the Sejdić-Finci and related cases.

The functioning of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina was affected by the expression of divergent positions by its individual members on a number of issues under its competence over foreign policy. The Council of Ministers adopted further country-wide strategies on areas such as environment and rural development. However, with the exception of a few reforms and the notable adoption of the excise legislation, delivery on a number of reforms was delayed by lack of agreement within the ruling coalition members.

A national programme for the country’s legal approximation with the EU acquis has yet to be adopted.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is at an early stage with the reform of its public administration and no progress has been achieved in the past year. A country wide public administration reform strategy is being developed and remains to be adopted. Further fragmentation of civil service in the Federation entity and at cantonal level increased the risk of politicisation.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has some level of preparation regarding its judicial system. Some progress was made regarding the judiciary, but overall, reforms progress at a slow pace. Any revision of the criminal procedural code should be in line with international standards and should not undermine the ability of institutions to tackle serious organised crime, corruption or other rule of law challenges.

There is also some level of preparation regarding the fight against corruption. However, corruption is widespread and remains an issue of concern. Bosnia and Herzegovina has some level of preparation on the fight against organised crime.

Some progress was made, notably by adopting a new strategy on fighting organised crime and fulfilling the action plan on anti-money laundering and financing of terrorism as a result of which Bosnia and Herzegovina will no longer be subject to Financial Action task Force Monitoring.

However, significant efforts are needed regarding financial investigations and improving capacities for countering terrorism as well as enhancing cooperation with neighbouring countries on border management issues.

Some progress was achieved on human rights and minorities’ issues. However, the strategic, legal, institutional and policy frameworks for the observance of human rights are in need of substantial improvement. This includes freedom of expression where political pressure and intimidation of journalists continued, including physical and verbal attacks. Lack of effective implementation of legislation on the prevention of and protection from gender-based violence, in particular domestic violence, remains a concern. A more comprehensive and integrated approach towrds the Roma population is required to foster their social inclusion.

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s alignment with EU Common Foreign and Security Policy has yet to be improved.

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