In its latest progress report on Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), the European Commission concluded that BiH made very limited progress towards EU membership in 2012. EU institutions as well as the Bosnian government have endorsed the findings of the Commission’s progress report.
The current situation
Sixteen months after the country’s October 2010 legislative elections, a new Bosnian central government was formed in February 2012. Different rounds of political squabbling among the main ethnic parties in 2012 detracted from Bosnia’s capability to engage in political and economic reforms and to move closer to the EU. The dysfunction of BiH’s political system, together with calls for more autonomy from Bosnian-Serb and Bosnian-Croat leaders, is obstructing the efforts of the central government, not least in the context of economic austerity which has exacerbated long-standing social and ethnic problems.
The 2012 progress report
The Commission’s report for 2012 notes that results remain below expectations: BiH has made limited progress towards meeting the criteria for membership. Deadlines and commitments accepted by BiH under the High-level Dialogue for the Accession Process have not been met or fulfilled; the Constitution still needs to be amended in order to make it compliant with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) decision in the Sejdic-Finci case (2009) aimed at eliminating all discrimination against minorities in Bosnia. Commissioner Stefan Füle insists that no credible application for EU membership or for entry into force of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) can be submitted before this is done, adding that the accession process could be frozen if no real progress is achieved. The report also says that tackling corruption and strengthening the functioning and coordination of institutions at all levels is a matter of urgency. Some progress has been made in aligning the country’s legislation with European standards on competition, state aid, household and population census, as well as on a number of justice, freedom and security-related matters. As far as Bosnia’s reaction is concerned, the BiH Presidency Chairman accepted the Commission’s criticisms and agreed that it is necessary to make sustained efforts at all levels, especially with regards to the implementation of the Sejdić-Finci ruling. The Council of Ministers of BiH reacted positively in October 2012 to the progress report and decided to appoint a team aimed at restarting the process of European integration.
European Union position
In its December 2012 conclusions on enlargement, the General Affairs Council (GAC) expressed disappointment that progress on the EU agenda has stalled and that the use of divisive rhetoric has continued in the country. Nevertheless, the GAC reiterated its unequivocal support for BiH’s EU perspective. During a visit to BiH on 18 April 2013, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton expressed deep regrets about Bosnia’s lack of progress. At the May session, the European Parliament will discuss a draft resolution on the issue tabled by the Committee on Foreign Affairs (Doris Pack, EPP, Germany).
The Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso (OBC) believes that BiH is in ‘a coma’ but things would change if the EU exerted more pressure. A US Congress study (2013) considers that the EU (and NATO) should decide to advance Bosnia’s candidacies quickly, even without marked improvements, to prevent deep rooted structural problems. Lejla Turčilo, a Bosnian expert, thinks that Croatia’s accession process could serve as an example because it helped that country to solve some problems in the fields of rule of law and promotion of a functioning state.