Accession of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the European Union

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Bosnia and Herzegovina's EU accession bid
European Union Bosnia and Herzegovina Locator.svg
Status Stabilisation and Association
EU average Bosnia and Herzegovina
PPP GDP ($M) 552,780 42,998
Area (km2) 165,048 51,197
Population 18,583,598 4,613,289
Coat of arms of Bosnia and Herzegovina.svg
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 stated 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 Stabilisation and Association Process, and the relative bilateral SAA agreement has been signed in 2008, ratified in 2010, and entered into force in 2015. 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.[1]

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 Stabilisation 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[edit]

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.[1]

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.[1]

Stabilisation and Association Agreement[edit]

Negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) – required before applying for membership – started in 2005 and were originally expected to be finalised in late 2007.[2] However, 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 by caretaker Prime Minister Nikola Špirić. The initialing came in the wake of successful negotiations by Miroslav Lajčák in regards to passing his new quorum rules laws and also the commitment of Bosnian and Herzegovinian politicians to implementing police reform. Following the adoption of the police reforms in April 2008, the agreement was signed on 16 June 2008.[3][4] Reforms promised by the Prud Agreement would "build the ability of the State to meet the requirements of the EU integration process".[5]

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.[6] 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.[7]

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.[8] The declaration was jointly signed by the tripartite presidency on 29 January,[9] and approved by parliament on 23 February.[10] The Council of the EU approved the SAA's entry into force on 16 March 2015.[11] The SAA entered into force on 1 June 2015.[12]

Interim Agreement on Trade[edit]

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.[1]

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.[1]

Status of SAA ratification[edit]

Event Macedonia [13] Croatia [14] Albania [15] Montenegro [16][Note 1] Bosnia and
Serbia [19][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[21]
SAA initialled 2000-11-24 2001-05-14 2006-02-28 2007-03-15 2007-12-04 2007-11-07 2014-07-25[22]
SAA/IA signature 2001-04-09 2001-10-29 2006-06-12 2007-10-15 2008-06-16 2008-04-29 2015-10-27[23]
Interim Agreement:
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]
Deposit of the instrument of ratification:
SAP state 2001-04-27 2002-01-30 2006-11-09 2007-11-13 2009-02-26 2008-09-22 (2016)[25][26]
Austria 2002-09-06 2002-03-15 2008-05-21 2008-07-04 2009-09-04 2011-01-13 N/A
Belgium 2003-12-29 2003-12-17 2008-10-22 2010-03-29 2010-03-29 2012-03-20 N/A
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
Denmark 2002-04-10 2002-05-08 2008-04-24 2008-06-25 2009-05-26 2011-03-04 N/A
Estonia entered the EU later 2007-10-17 2007-11-22 2008-09-11 2010-08-19 N/A
Finland 2004-01-06 2004-01-06 2007-11-29 2009-03-18 2009-04-07 2011-10-21 N/A
France 2003-06-04 2003-06-04 2009-02-12 2009-07-30 2011-02-10 2012-01-16 N/A
Germany 2002-06-20 2002-10-18 2009-02-19 2009-11-16 2009-08-14 2012-02-24 N/A
Greece 2003-08-27 2003-08-27 2009-02-26 2010-03-04 2010-09-20 2011-03-10 N/A
Hungary entered the EU later 2007-04-23 2008-05-14 2008-10-22 2010-11-16 N/A
Ireland 2002-05-06 2002-05-06 2007-06-11 2009-06-04 2009-06-04 2011-09-29 N/A
Italy 2003-10-30 2004-10-06 2008-01-07 2009-10-13 2010-09-08 2011-01-06 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
Luxembourg 2003-07-28 2003-08-01 2007-07-04 2009-06-11 2010-12-22 2011-01-21 N/A
Malta entered the EU later 2008-04-21 2008-12-11 2010-01-07 2010-07-06 N/A
Netherlands 2002-09-09 2004-04-30 2007-12-10 2009-01-29 2009-09-30 2012-02-27 N/A
Poland entered the EU later 2007-04-14 2009-02-06 2010-04-07 2012-01-13 N/A
Portugal 2003-07-14 2003-07-14 2008-07-11 2008-09-23 2009-06-29 2011-03-04 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
Spain 2002-10-04 2002-10-04 2007-05-03 2009-03-12 2010-06-15 2010-06-21 N/A
Sweden 2002-06-25 2003-03-27 2007-03-21 2009-03-11 2009-09-14 2011-04-15 N/A
United Kingdom 2002-12-17 2004-09-03 2007-10-16 2010-01-12 2010-04-20 2011-08-11 N/A
European Communities or
European Union and Euratom
2004-02-25 2004-12-21 2009-02-26 2010-03-29 2015-04-30 2013-07-22 (2016)[25] [Note 5]
SAA entry into force 2004-04-01 2005-02-01 2009-04-01 2010-05-01 2015-06-01 2013-09-01 (2016)[23]
EU membership (SAA lapsed) (?) 2013-07-01 (?) (?) (?) (?) (?)


(brackets): earliest possible date
N/A: Not applicable.

  1. ^ 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.[17]
  2. ^ Serbia started negotiations in November 2005 while part of SiM, with a modified mandate from July 2006.
  3. ^ Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia. The Republic of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence on 17 February 2008, but Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. The two governments began to normalise relations in 2013, as part of the Brussels Agreement. Kosovo has been recognised as an independent state 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.[20]
  4. ^ a b c No Interim Agreement associated with Kosovo's SAA was concluded.[24]
  5. ^ Kosovo's SAA was the first signed after the entry into force of the Lisbon treaty, which conferred a legal personality to the EU. As a result of transfer of competence from the member states to the European Union, the agreement is directly between Kosovo and the EU and Euratom, but the member states will not be a party individually.[21][27][28]

Application for membership[edit]

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.[citation needed] 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.[29] 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.[30] This was reiterated by Alkalaj in August.[31] 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.[32]

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".[33][34]

In June 2012 the EU Special Representative to Bosnia Peter Sørensen stated that "under ideal circumstances" Bosnia could obtain candidate status by early 2014.[35] 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.[36] However, by January 2013 the targets had not been met and the previously agreed to census was postponed from April to October.[37] In December 2015, Dragan Čović, the Chairmen of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said the country would submit an application in January 2016.[38] This was later postponed to February 15.[39]

European Partnership (2008)[edit]

The EU Council adopted a new European Partnership with Bosnia and Herzegovina on 18 February 2008,[40] setting the short-term and mid-term priorities for EU assistance to Bosnia and Herzegovina through IPA funds.

Financial Assistance[edit]

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[edit]

On 1 January 2008 the visa facilitation and readmission agreements between Bosnia and the EU entered into force.[1] Bosnia and Herzegovina took part in the dialogue for visa liberalisation with Schengen countries, launched by the European Commission on 26 May 2008.[1] On November 8, 2010 the Council of the European Union approved visa-free travel to the EU for citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina.[41] The decision entered into force on 15 December 2010.[42]

CFSP and ESDP operations[edit]

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.[1]

EU special representative[edit]

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.[43]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Bosnia and Herzegovina – Relations with the EU". European Commission. Retrieved 2012-07-23. 
  2. ^ "Germany prepares to take over EU presidency". Southeast European Times. 2006-12-19. Retrieved 2007-01-10. 
  3. ^ Bosnia and Herzegovina initials pre-membership agreement with EU, Xinhua, 2007-12-05
  4. ^ Bosnia signs EU pre-accession deal, EUobserver, 2008-06-17
  5. ^ To Continue in the Spirit of Prud Agreement
  6. ^ "Leaders of six Bosnian parties to meet EU enlargement commissioner". 2013-09-30. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  7. ^ Press: Bosnia-EU relations put on hold, Daily T.Portal, 26 April 2011
  8. ^ Joseph, Edward P; Latal, Srecko (2015-01-23). "Bosnian Declaration Will Test Europe’s Resolve". Balkan Insight. Retrieved 2015-01-31. 
  9. ^ Jukic, Elvira M. "Bosnia Presidency Seals EU Reform Declaration". Balkan Insight. 
  10. ^ "Stabilization and Association Agreement for BiH could be activated as soon as March". 2015-02-23. Retrieved 2015-02-27. 
  11. ^ "Council conclusions on Bosnia and Herzegovina". Council of the European Union. 2015-03-16. Retrieved 2015-03-16. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ "SAA Agreement with Macedonia". Council of the European Union. Retrieved 2010-04-20. 
  14. ^ "SAA Agreement with Croatia". Council of the European Union. Retrieved 2010-04-20. 
  15. ^ "SAA Agreement with Albania". Council of the European Union. Retrieved 2010-04-20. 
  16. ^ "SAA Agreement with Montenegro". Council of the European Union. Retrieved 2010-04-20. 
  17. ^ "EU, Montenegro complete negotiations on pre-membership deal to bring country closer to bloc". International Herald Tribune. The Associated Press. 2006-12-01. Archived from the original on 2008-09-25. Retrieved 2011-04-04. 
  18. ^ "SAA Agreement with Bosnia". Council of the European Union. Retrieved 2010-04-20. 
  19. ^ "SAA Agreement with Serbia". Council of the European Union. Retrieved 2010-04-20. 
  20. ^ "Feasibility Study for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the European Union and Kosovo" (PDF). European Commission. 10 October 2012. Retrieved 24 October 2012. 
  21. ^ a b "EU starts the Stabilisation and Association Agreement negotiations with Kosovo". European Commission. 2013-10-28. Retrieved 2013-10-29. 
  22. ^ "Stabilization and Association Agreement is initialled". Ministry of European Integration of the Republic of Kosovo. 2014-07-25. Retrieved 2014-07-25. 
  23. ^ a b "Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the European Union and Kosovo signed". European Commission. 2015-10-27. Retrieved 2015-10-27. 
  24. ^ "Kosovo to negotiate on Stabilisation and Association Agreement". 2013-10-27. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  25. ^ a b "Statement by Commissioner Hahn following the meeting with Prime Minister Isa Mustafa in Pristina". European Commission. 2015-02-18. Retrieved 2015-02-27. 
  26. ^
  27. ^ "Stabilisation and Association Agreement negotiations successfully completed". European External Action Service. 2014-05-02. Retrieved 2014-05-02. 
  28. ^ "Kosovo Launches Crucial SAA Talks With EU". Balkan Insight. 2013-10-28. Retrieved 2013-10-28. 
  29. ^ BiH podnosi kandidaturu za članstvo u EU 2009
  30. ^ BiH to apply for EU membership by end of year
  31. ^ BiH to submit EU candidate status application this year
  32. ^ EU to end visa regime for Bosnia in November at the Wayback Machine (archived September 16, 2010)
  33. ^ "Bosnia aims to apply for EU membership by July". Reuters. 2012-02-22. Retrieved 2012-02-26. 
  34. ^ "Bosnia intends to apply for EU membership in June". 2012-03-21. Retrieved 2012-04-06. 
  35. ^ "Bosnia could become EU candidate "in early in 2014"". B92. 2012-06-06. Retrieved 2012-07-22. 
  36. ^ "EU issues roadmap to BiH, sets clear expectations". Turkish Weekly. 2012-07-09. Retrieved 2012-07-22. 
  37. ^ Alic, Anes (2013-01-26). "Progress Stalls On Bosnia’s EU Road". Southeast European Times. Retrieved 2013-01-26. 
  38. ^ "Bosnia to Apply for EU Membership in January". Voice of America. 2015-12-17. Retrieved 2015-12-26. 
  39. ^ "Bosnia to apply for EU membership Feb. 15: presidency". Reuters. 2016-01-26. Retrieved 2016-02-03. 
  40. ^ Text of the European Partnership for Bosnia and Herzegovina
  41. ^ "Visa liberalisation for Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina" (PDF). Council Of The European Union. 2010-11-08. Retrieved 8 November 2010. 
  42. ^ Regulation (EU) no. 1091/2010 in the Official Journal
  43. ^ BH News