Accession of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the European Union
|This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Bosnia and Herzegovina
The accession of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the European Union is the aim of the present relations between the two entities. Bosnia and Herzegovina has been recognised by the EU as a "potential candidate country" for accession since the decision of the European Council in Thessaloniki in 2003. Bosnia and Herzegovina takes part in the Stabilization and Association Process, and the relative bilateral SAA agreement has been signed in 2008, ratified in 2010, but it is still not into force. Meanwhile, the trade bilateral relations are regulated by an Interim Agreement. Bosnia has not yet formally applied for EU membership, and it thus remains a potential candidate country.
The nation had been making slow but steady progress, including co-operation with the war crimes tribunal at The Hague, but this came to a halt in 2011 when the EU refused to ratify the Stabilization and Association Accord.
The EU established a regional approach to the Western Balkans already in 1997, with political and economic conditionality criteria for the development of bilateral relations. The following year, a EU/Bosnia and Herzegovina Consultative Task Force was put in place to start the process. Since 2006, the task force is replaced by the Reform Process Monitoring (RPM).
- 1 Stabilisation and Association Process
- 2 Application for membership
- 3 See also
- 4 External links
- 5 References
Stabilisation and Association Process
A Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP) for the five countries of the region, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, was proposed in 1999. In June 2000, the European Council in Feira recognised that all the SAP countries are "potential candidates" for EU membership. In November of the same year, the regional SAP process was launched at the Zagreb summit.
The process towards the signature of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) began in 2003 with a feasibility study by the Commission on Bosnia and Herzegovina's capacity to implement the SAA. The same year, in June, the European Council in Thessaloniki confirmed the SAP as the main framework of the relations between the EU and the Western Balkans, recalling the perspective of accession for all the countries of the region.
Stabilisation and Association Agreement
The negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) – the first step before applying for membership – started in 2005 and were originally expected to be finalised in late 2007. The negotiations stalled due to a disagreement over police reform, which the EU insisted on centralising away from the entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The SAA was initialled on 4 December 2007, and, following the adoption of the police reforms in April 2008, the SAA was signed on 16 June 2008. Reforms promised by the Prud Agreement would “build the ability of the State to meet the requirements of the EU integration process”.
The final EU state to ratify the SAA, France, did so in February 2011. The SAA should have entered into effect within 40 days but was frozen since Bosnia had not complied with its previous obligations, which would have led to the immediate suspension of the SAA. The obligations to be met by Bosnia before the SAA can come into force include the adoption of a law on state aids and a national census, and implementation of the Finci and Sejdic ruling of the ECHR requiring an amendment to the Constitution to allow members of minorities to be elected to the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina and to gain seats in the House of Peoples. The EU has also required that the country create a single unified body to manage their relations with the EU. The adoption of state laws on the issues above are prevented by the opposition of the government of the Republika Srpska, which considers such issues a matter of exclusive competence of the two entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Germany–United Kingdom Initiative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, agreed to by the EU in late 2014, proposed that the SAA enter into force without first implementing the constitutional amendments required by Finci and Sejdic, provided that Bosnian authorities approve a declaration pledging their commitment to making the reforms required for European integration. The declaration was jointly signed by the tripartite presidency on 29 January, and approved by parliament on 23 February. The Council of the EU could approve the SAA's entry into force as early as March.
Interim Agreement on Trade
An Interim Agreement on Trade and Trade-related issues was signed on the same day as the SAA, and entered into force on 1 July 2008. The Interim Agreement is the present legal framework for trade between Bosnia and the EU.
Unilateral trade preferences were introduced by the EU for Bosnia and Herzegovina in the year 2000. Trade increased since 2008, and the EU products have been granted reciprocal preference in Bosnia and Herzegovina too.
Status of SAA ratification
|Event||Macedonia ||Croatia ||Albania ||Montenegro [Note 1]||Bosnia and
|Serbia [Note 2]||Kosovo* [Note 3]|
|SAA negotiations start||2000-04-05||2000-11-24||2003-01-31||2005-10-10||2005-11-25||2005-10-10||2013-10-28|
|SAA/IA signature||2001-04-09||2001-10-29||2006-06-12||2007-10-15||2008-06-16||2008-04-29||(2015) [Note 4]|
|EC ratification||2001-04-27||2002-01-30||2006-06-12||2007-10-15||2008-06-16||2009-12-08||N/A [Note 4]|
|SAP state ratification||2001-04-27||2002-01-30||2006-10-09||2007-11-14||2008-06-20||2008-09-22||N/A [Note 4]|
|entry into force||2001-06-01||2002-03-01||2006-12-01||2008-01-01||2008-07-01||2010-02-01||N/A [Note 4]|
|Notification of the EC of SAA ratification by:|
|Bulgaria||entered the EU later||2008-05-30||2009-03-13||2010-08-12||N/A|
|Croatia||entered the EU later||N/A|
|Cyprus||entered the EU later||2008-05-30||2008-11-20||2009-07-02||2010-11-26||N/A|
|Czech Republic||entered the EU later||2008-05-07||2009-02-19||2009-07-23||2011-01-28||N/A|
|Estonia||entered the EU later||2007-10-17||2007-11-22||2008-09-11||2010-08-19||N/A|
|Hungary||entered the EU later||2007-04-23||2008-05-14||2008-10-22||2010-11-16||N/A|
|Latvia||entered the EU later||2006-12-19||2008-10-17||2009-11-12||2011-05-30||N/A|
|Lithuania||entered the EU later||2007-05-17||2009-03-04||2009-05-04||2013-06-26||N/A|
|Malta||entered the EU later||2008-04-21||2008-12-11||2010-01-07||2010-07-06||N/A|
|Poland||entered the EU later||2007-04-14||2009-02-06||2010-04-07||2012-01-13||N/A|
|Romania||entered the EU later||2009-01-15||2010-01-08||2012-05-22||N/A|
|Slovakia||entered the EU later||2007-07-20||2008-07-29||2009-03-17||2010-11-11||N/A|
|Slovenia||entered the EU later||2007-01-18||2008-02-07||2009-03-10||2010-12-07||N/A|
|European Communities/European Union||2004-02-25||2004-12-21||2009-02-26||2010-03-29||(?)[Note 5]||2013-07-22||(?) [Note 6]|
|SAA entry into force||2004-04-01||2005-02-01||2009-04-01||2010-05-01||(?)[Note 5]||2013-09-01||(?)|
|EU membership (SAA lapsed)||(?)||2013-07-01||(?)||(?)||(?)||(?)||(?)|
(brackets): earliest possible date
N/A: Not applicable.
- Montenegro started negotiations in November 2005 while a part of Serbia and Montenegro (SiM). Separate technical negotiations were conducted regarding issues of sub-state organizational competency. A mandate for direct negotiations with Montenegro was established in July 2006. Direct negotiations were initiated on 26 September 2006 and concluded on 1 December 2006.
- Serbia started negotiations in November 2005 while part of SiM, with a modified mandate from July 2006.
- Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Serbia and the Republic of Kosovo. The latter declared independence on 17 February 2008, but Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. Kosovo's independence has been recognised by 108 out of 193 United Nations member states. The European Union remains divided on its policy towards Kosovo, with five EU member states not recognizing its independence. The EU launched a Stabilisation Tracking Mechanism for Kosovo on 6 November 2002 with the aim of aligning its policy with EU standards. On 10 October 2012 the European Commission found that there were no legal obstacles to Kosovo signing a SAA with the EU, as independence is not required for such an agreement.
- There will be no Interim Agreement associated with Kosovo's SAA.
- Although ratified by all EU member states, the entry into force of Bosnia's SAA has been delayed by the EU since Bosnia has yet to meet the preconditions set by the EU.
- Kosovo's SAA would be the first signed after the entry into force of the Lisbon treaty, which conferred a legal personality to the EU. As a result, the agreement will be directly between Kosovo and the EU and will not need to be ratified by each member state individually.
Application for membership
The EU stated early on that Bosnia could not submit a credible application for membership until the Office of the High Representative (OHR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is charged with implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement, has been closed. The failure of Bosnia to meet the conditions for closure of the OHR, including addressing state and military property ownership issues and implementing constitutional reforms, has prevented them from submitting an application to date.
According to the Foreign Minister Sven Alkalaj, Bosnia and Herzegovina planned to submit an application for membership between April and June 2009. However, an application ultimately was not submitted in this time frame. In February 2010, Alkalaj stated that Bosnia now planned to submit their membership application by the end of the year. This was reiterated by Alkalaj in August. A European Commission source stated in late 2010 that "We believe that in one year's time the OHR will be closed, or at least reduced and moved from Sarajevo", which would clear the way for an application to be submitted.
After more than a year of negotiations following the 2010 Bosnian general election, which stalled progress on European integration, an agreement was reached by the rival parties in December 2011 on the formation of a government which quickly passed laws on state aid and a national census, two key demands of the EU. With the national census scheduled for October 2013, this left bringing the constitution into compliance with the Finci and Sejdic ruling of the ECHR as the lone remaining major obstacle to be overcome before an application could be submitted. Vjekoslav Bevanda, the chair of the Bosnian Council of Ministers, stated in early 2012 that "I expect that we shall fulfill conditions for submitting the application for EU membership by June 30".
In June 2012 the EU Special Representative to Bosnia Peter Sørensen stated that "under ideal circumstances" Bosnia could obtain candidate status by early 2014. The EU presented Bosnia with a roadmap to submitting an application for membership in July 2012. It called for making the constitutional changes required by the Finci and Sejdic ruling by August 31 and addressing public procurement and environmental protection issues by November 1, when an application could be submitted. However, by January 2013 the targets had not been met and the previously agreed to census was postponed from April to October.
European Partnership (2008)
The EU Council adopted a new European Partnership with Bosnia and Herzegovina on 18 February 2008, setting the short-term and mid-term priorities for EU assistance to Bosnia and Herzegovina through IPA funds.
In the 2007–2013 budgetary period, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a beneficiary of the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) funds. As a "potential candidate country", Bosnia is allowed to finance projects under the first two IPA components, Transition Assistance and Institution Building and Cross-Border Cooperation. The eligibility for the three advanced IPA components will be conditional on Bosnia’s acquisition of EU candidacy status and its implementation of a Decentralised Implementation System, streamlining administrative capacities in order to autonomously manage projects and disburse funds with only ex post Commission controls. The priorities for IPA action for Bosnia are set in the 2008 European Partnership.
Visa liberalisation process
On 1 January 2008 the visa facilitation and readmission agreements between Bosnia and the EU entered into force. Bosnia and Herzegovina took part in the dialogue for visa liberalisation with Schengen countries, launched by the European Commission on 26 May 2008. On November 8, 2010 the Council of the European Union approved visa-free travel to the EU for citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The decision entered into force on 15 December 2010.
CFSP and ESDP operations
In 2004, the European Union Police Mission (EUPM) launched in Bosnia and Herzegovina constitutes the first European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) mission. The same year, the EUFOR (operation Althea) replaces NATO's SFOR mission.
EU special representative
Peter Sørensen took over the position of EUSR in Bosnia and Herzegovina from September 2011 until October 2014. His post was de-coupled from the one of High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina (which will remain in the hands of Valentin Inzko), aiming at fostering the EU pre-accession strategy for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
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- Text of the Interim Agreement on Trade and Trade-related issues
- Text of the European Partnership for Bosnia and Herzegovina
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