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Bosnia needs to address political hindrance before starting accession talks - EU Commission

Author Iskra Pavlova
Bosnia needs to address political hindrance before starting accession talks - EU Commission Flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina; License: CC0 Creative Commons

SARAJEVO (Bosnia and Herzegovina), May 29 (SeeNews) - Accession talks with Bosnia should be opened only after the country starts complying with the membership criteria, and in particular the political criteria requiring stability of institutions, and guaranteeing democracy and rule of law, the European Commission said on Wednesday.

"Bosnia and Herzegovina will need to fundamentally improve its legislative and institutional framework to ensure it meets a number of detailed priorities in the field of democracy, rule of law, fundamental rights and public administration reform," the Commission said in a statement on its annual assessment and recommendations for the Western Balkans and Turkey.

Parallel with this, the Commission issued its Opinion on Bosnia and Herzegovina's EU membership application, reviewing for the first time the country's situation against all standards applicable to EU member states.

It said that the Opinion is a milestone in Bosnia's relations with the EU, providing new momentum to its integration process and representing a roadmap for comprehensive reforms in the identified crucial areas.

Bosnia applied for EU membership in 2016 after its Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the bloc went into force in the previous year.

In the Opinion, the Commission stressed that Bosnia's economic governance is impeded by a high degree of politicisation and a lack of cooperation among key stakeholders, which results in frequent political stalemates and lengthy delays in the decision-making process.

"Furthermore, economic governance is prioritising maintaining the status quo, which further slows down the formulation and implementation of overdue structural reforms. As a result, the role of the state is still disproportionate, absorbing substantial resources to fund generous public sector employment, inefficient public enterprises and an inefficient social security system," the opinion reads.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has a heavy layered political structure. Apart from the state-level parliament and government, the two entities that make up Bosnia - the Serb Republic and the Federation, both have their own parliaments and governments.

The Commission also said that the frequent political stalemates and the resulting low predictability for investors have a negative bearing on the business environment, which also suffers from poor rule of law, substantial red tape, corruption and complex administrative procedures, and market fragmentation.

"Bosnia and Herzegovina does not have any policy areas where the country has a good level of preparation or is well advanced regarding its capacity to undertake the obligations stemming from EU membership," the Commission concluded in its opinion.

"Overall, considerable adjustments of the legal and institutional framework and of administrative and implementation capacity are needed across all policy areas to align the legislation with the EU acquis and to implement it effectively."

The Commission also said it will present a report on Bosnia as part of its 2020 Enlargement package. The report will review the implementation of the identified key priorities in view of the country’s next steps on its path to EU.