Accession of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the European Union
|Bosnia and Herzegovina's EU accession bid|
|Applicant / Potential Candidate|
|This article is part of a series on the|
politics and government of
Bosnia and Herzegovina
|Bosnia and Herzegovina portal|
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 and is on the current agenda for future enlargement of the EU. Bosnia and Herzegovina takes part in the Stabilisation and Association Process and trade relations are regulated by an Interim Agreement.
Bosnia and Herzegovina formally applied for EU membership on 15 February 2016, following years of constitutional reforms and engagements with the Dayton Peace Agreement. The failure of Bosnia to meet the conditions for the closure of the Office of the High Representative (OHR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including addressing state and military property ownership issues and implementing constitutional reforms, had prevented the country from submitting an application until 2016.
On 9 December 2016, Bosnia and Herzegovina received the accession questionnaire from the European Commission and the responses to the questionnaire were submitted in February 2018. On 20 June 2018, the European Commission sent 655 follow-up questions to the Questionnaire. Presidency Chairman of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Milorad Dodik, handed over the answers to the additional questions on March 5, 2019. An opinion on Bosnia's application was published by the European Commission in May 2019. 22 policy and political criteria questions were still unanswered when Bosnia and Herzegovina submitted its latest response on 5 March 2019. It remains a potential candidate country until it can successfully answer all of the questions on the European Commission's questionnaire sheet as well as "ensure the functioning of the Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee and develop a national programme for the adoption of the EU acquis".
- 1 Relations
- 1.1 Financial Assistance
- 1.2 Visa liberalisation process
- 1.3 EU special representative
- 1.4 CFSP and ESDP operations
- 1.5 Stabilisation and Association Process
- 1.6 Stabilisation and Association Agreement
- 2 Chronology of Relations with the European Union
- 3 Negotiations
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
The EU established a regional approach to the Western Balkans 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 has been replaced by the Reform Process Monitoring (RPM).
An Interim Agreement on Trade and Trade-related issues was signed and entered into force on 1 July 2008. The Interim Agreement was the legal framework for trade between Bosnia and the EU between 2008 and 2015. Unilateral trade preferences ("Autonomous Trade Measures", ATM) were introduced by the EU for Bosnia and Herzegovina in the year 2000. Trade has increased since 2008 and EU products have been granted reciprocal preference in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The EU is the main trading partner of Bosnia and Herzegovina and 73.5% of exports from the country went to the EU in 2014, following Croatia's accession.
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.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is currently receiving EUR 822mn of developmental aid until 2020 from the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance, a funding mechanism for EU candidate countries.
Visa liberalisation process
On 1 January 2008 the a visa facilitation and readmission agreement between Bosnia and Herzegovina 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.
EU special representative
Peter Sørensen took over the position of EUSR in Bosnia and Herzegovina from September 2011 until October 2014. His post was decoupled from the one of High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina (which will remain in the hands of Valentin Inzko), and merged with the one of Head of the EU Delegation to BiH, aiming at strengthening the EU pre-accession strategy for Bosnia and Herzegovina. He was replaced by Lars-Gunnar Wigemark.
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, EUFOR Althea replaced NATO's SFOR mission.
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.
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.
Stabilisation and Association Agreement
Negotiations and signature
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. but negotiations stalled due to a disagreement over police reform.
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. Reforms promised by the Prud Agreement would "build the ability of the State to meet the requirements of the EU integration process".
The blockage of the SAA
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 Croatian initiative
In March 2014 Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusić at a session of the Council of the European Union proposed to other EU countries to grant Bosnia and Herzegovina the status of a Special EU Candidate Country in an aide-mémoire submitted during the meeting. Minister Pusić pointed out that Croatia does not suggest lowering the membership criteria but rather that member states should take a proactive stance in cooperation with Bosnia and Herzegovina and not just to put high criteria and then just wait for something to happen. Croatia has also proposed that implementation of the judgment in the case of Sejdić and Finci v. Bosnia and Herzegovina should not anymore be a prerequisite for Bosnia and Herzegovina's progress towards the EU, but that this issue, together with the issue of a new constitutional order of Bosnia and Herzegovina, should be resolved after Bosnia and Herzegovina gets the status of Special EU Candidate country in negotiating chapters 23 and 24.
The German-British initiative
An initiative of the foreign ministers of Germany and the United Kingdom, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Philip Hammond, respectively, for the acceleration of the Accession of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the European Union was announced at the so-called Aspen Initiative Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs in late 2014. The two 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 foreign ministers called on local Bosnian politicians to begin with necessary reforms as soon as possible after a new government is formed after the 2014 Bosnian general election.
The declaration was jointly signed by the tripartite presidency on 29 January, and approved by parliament on 23 February. The Council of the EU approved the SAA's entry into force on 16 March 2015. The SAA entered into force on 1 June 2015.
Domestic reactions to the German-British initiative
- Željko Komšić, member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, expressed his support for the initiative at a meeting with the ambassadors of Germany and the United Kingdom.
- Milorad Dodik, President of Republika Srpska, said he supports the initiative as long as it does not affect the constitutional jurisdiction of Republika Srpska.
- The Paneuropean Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina stated that it fully supports the initiative and the letter of the German and British foreign ministers addressed to the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
International reactions to the German-British initiative
- High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina: The spokesman of the office of the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina stated that the OHR welcomes any initiative that could unblock progress in reforms by increasing the functionality and efficiency of the state and thus speed up the progress of Bosnia and Herzegovina on its path towards the European Union.
- European Union: High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini said that she highly appreciates the ideas presented in Berlin and that their aim is for Bosnia and Herzegovina again to begin to move towards European integration.
- United States of America: Jen Psaki, spokesperson for the United States Department of State, said that the United States welcomes and supports the initiative for reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as released by the foreign ministers of Germany and the United Kingdom in Berlin.
- United Kingdom: Philip Hammond stated that regional support is vital for the initiative. He thanked Croatian foreign minister Vesna Pusić for her important work on this issue, and foreign minister of Serbia Ivica Dacic for his valuable cooperation and said that he was delighted they could join the meeting.
- Croatia: Vesna Pusić confirmed that Croatia supports the new German-British initiative for Bosnia and Herzegovina and that this initiative is similar to the original Croatian initiative. Pusić said that Croatia will not only support this initiative, but will also actively participate in it since it is important that Bosnia and Herzegovina is a successful and functional state.
Chronology of Relations with the European Union
|1997||Regional approach to the Western Balkans established|
|June 2003||Bosnia and Herzegovina identified as a potential candidate for EU membership during the Thessaloniki European Council summit|
|25 November 2005||Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) negotiations officially opened in Sarajevo|
|18 September 2007||Visa facilitation and readmission agreements signed|
|4 December 2007||EU initials Stabilization and Association Agreement|
|1 January 2008||Visa facilitation and readmission agreements enter into force|
|18 February 2008||Council adopts new European partnership programme|
|16 June 2008||Stabilization and Association Agreement and Interim Agreement on trade and trade-related issues signed|
|1 July 2008||Interim Agreement on trade and trade-related issues enters into force|
|31 July 2007||Bosnia and Herzegovina & EU sign financing agreement for the instrument for pre-accession assistance (IPA) 2007 National Programme|
|27 May 2010||Commission adopts proposal allowing citizens of Albania & Bosnia and Herzegovina to travel to Schengen countries without a short-term visa|
|15 December 2010||Visa free regime for Schengen area introduced for all BiH citizens having a biometric passport|
|1 September 2011||Delegation of the European Union and Office of the EU Special Representative become one reinforced EU presence|
|27 June 2012||The EU and Bosnia and Herzegovina launched the High Level Dialogue on the Accession Process|
|1 June 2015||The SAA with Bosnia and Herzegovina enters into force|
|15 February 2016||BiH submits its application to join the EU|
|20 September 2016||EU Council invites the Commission to present an Opinion on BiH application.|
|February 2018||Bosnia and Herzegovina sends accession questionnaire back to the European Commission|
|20 June 2018||European Commission sent 655 follow-up questions to the Questionnaire|
|5 March 2019||Bosnia and Herzegovina submitted most responses to follow-up questions|
|29 May 2019||European Commission notes progress but the country still needs to enact some constitutional changes as well as "ensure the functioning of the Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee and develop a national programme for the adoption of the EU acquis".|
Negotiation talks have not yet started. However, the European Commission have given an opinion on the status of various reforms.
|Acquis chapter||Screening Started||Screening Completed||Chapter Opened||Chapter Closed|
|Overview||0 out of 33||0 out of 33||0 out of 33||0 out of 33|
|1. Free Movement of Goods||–||–||–||–|
|2. Freedom of Movement For Workers||–||–||–||–|
|3. Right of Establishment & Freedom To Provide Services||–||–||–||–|
|4. Free Movement of Capital||–||–||–||–|
|5. Public Procurement||–||–||–||–|
|6. Company Law||–||–||–||–|
|7. Intellectual Property Law||–||–||–||–|
|8. Competition Policy||–||–||–||–|
|9. Financial Services||–||–||–||–|
|10. Information Society & Media||–||–||–||–|
|11. Agriculture & Rural Development||–||–||–||–|
|12. Food Safety, Veterinary & Phytosanitary Policy||–||–||–||–|
|14. Transport Policy||–||–||–||–|
|17. Economic & Monetary Policy||–||–||–||–|
|19. Social Policy & Employment||–||–||–||–|
|20. Enterprise & Industrial Policy||–||–||–||–|
|21. Trans-European Networks||–||–||–||–|
|22. Regional Policy & Coordination of Structural Instruments||–||–||–||–|
|23. Judiciary & Fundamental Rights||–||–||–||–|
|24. Justice, Freedom & Security||–||–||–||–|
|25. Science & Research||–||–||–||–|
|26. Education & Culture||–||–||–||–|
|27. Environment & Climate Change||–||–||–||–|
|28. Consumer & Health Protection||–||–||–||–|
|29. Customs Union||–||–||–||–|
|30. External Relations||–||–||–||–|
|31. Foreign, Security & Defence Policy||–||–||–||–|
|32. Financial Control||–||–||–||–|
|33. Financial & Budgetary Provisions||–||–||–||–|
|35. Other Issues||–||–||–||–|
|1. Free Movement of Goods||Early stage|
|2. Freedom of Movement For Workers||Some level of preparation|
|3. Right of Establishment & Freedom To Provide Services||Early stage|
|4. Free Movement of Capital||Moderately prepared|
|5. Public Procurement||Some level of preparation|
|6. Company Law||Some level of preparation|
|7. Intellectual Property Law||Moderately prepared|
|8. Competition Policy||Some level of preparation|
|9. Financial Services||Some level of preparation|
|10. Information Society & Media||Early stage|
|11. Agriculture & Rural Development||Early stage|
|12. Food Safety, Veterinary & Phytosanitary Policy||Some level of preparation|
|13. Fisheries||Early stage|
|14. Transport Policy||Early stage|
|15. Energy||Early stage|
|16. Taxation||Some level of preparation|
|17. Economic & Monetary Policy||Early stage|
|18. Statistics||Early stage|
|19. Social Policy & Employment||Early stage|
|20. Enterprise & Industrial Policy||Early stage|
|21. Trans-European Networks||Some level of preparation|
|22. Regional Policy & Coordination of Structural Instruments||Early stage|
|23. Judiciary & Fundamental Rights||Some level of preparation|
|24. Justice, Freedom & Security||Some level of preparation|
|25. Science & Research||Some level of preparation|
|26. Education & Culture||Early stage|
|27. Environment & Climate Change||Some level of preparation|
|28. Consumer & Health Protection||Early stage|
|29. Customs Union||Some level of preparation|
|30. External Relations||Some level of preparation|
|31. Foreign, Security & Defence Policy||Some level of preparation|
|32. Financial Control||Early stage|
|33. Financial & Budgetary Provisions||Some level of preparation|
|35. Other Issues||N/A|
early stage / very hard to adopt
considerable efforts needed
some level of preparation
further efforts needed
no major difficulties expected
good level of preparation
well prepared / well advanced
- Yugoslavia and the European Economic Community
- Germany–United Kingdom Initiative for Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Enlargement of the European Union
- Future enlargement of the European Union
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