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Bosnia and Herzegovina: Commission approves Feasibility Study

Summary: November 18, 2003: Bosnia and Herzegovina: Commission approves Feasibility Study (Brussels)

The European Commission has approved a Feasibility Study assessing the readiness of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) to take its next steps towards European Integration, by opening negotiations for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA). The Commission concludes that it hopes to be able to recommend the opening of SAA negotiations next year - on the condition that BiH makes significant progress in a number of areas identified as priorities for action: compliance with existing conditionality and international obligations; more effective governance; more effective public administration; European integration; effective human rights provisions; effective judiciary; tackling crime, especially organised crime; managing asylum and migration; customs and taxation reform; budget legislation; budget practice; reliable statistics; consistent trade policy; integrated energy market; BiH single economic space and public broadcasting.

The Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten welcomed the finding of the Feasibility Study: “It would give me great pleasure to be able, next year, to recommend to Member States that we should start SAA negotiations with BiH. I will only be able to do so if BiH makes significant and rapid progress in the areas that we have identified. Given sufficient political will, there is no reason why BiH should not meet this target".

The Feasibility Study finds that BiH has made important progress since the dark days of the 1990s, but still suffers from significant weaknesses. Among its achievements are: establishing democratic procedures, improving the rule of law, a stabilised macro-economic situation and sectoral reforms which are beginning to bring BiH closer to European standards. Nevertheless, BiH still needs to undertake many fundamental reforms. It needs to show that it can assume full responsibility for government. Economic reform needs to be consolidated, and the country’s technical and administrative capacities need further upgrading. BiH’s core challenge remains that of building a self-sustaining state able to integrate further into EU structures.

During 2004 the European Commission recommends BiH should take action to:

Comply with existing conditionality by:

Deliver more effective government at State level by: Build the rule of law by: Proceed with economic reform by: Strengthen institutional capacity by: The European Commission supports the reform agenda being pursued by the High Representative /EU Special Representative Lord Ashdown, and will also expect the BiH authorities to co-operate fully in this process over the coming year.

All the recommended reforms are important for the successful implementation of an SAA. The Commission believes the proposed timescale is realistic, and that by meeting this target, BiH can open the way to further integration with the EU.


Background

The Feasibility Study is the latest stage of the EU’s Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP), designed to integrate BiH gradually into EU structures. BiH’s first step in this process came in early 2000 when work began on a “Road Map” of 18 priority reform steps. The Road Map was “substantially completed” in September 2002, and at that stage the Commission initiated work on the Feasibility Study. In March 2003 a questionnaire covering all sectors relevant to a future SAA was given to the BiH Directorate for European Integration. BiH’s answers were discussed with the Commission in a series of working groups between May and September 2003. The findings of the Study are thus based on BiH responses to the questionnaire and on the findings of the working groups, complemented by further Commission research.

Success in the reforms outlined in the Feasibility Study would open the way to SAA negotiations. An SAA helps to prepare the countries of the Western Balkans in the same way as the Europe Agreements helped prepare the countries of Central and Eastern Europe for accession.


For further information on EU relations:

http://europa.eu.int/comm/external_relations/see/bosnie_herze/index.htm


[1] The EU Road Map, published in 2000, set out 18 essential steps to be undertaken by BiH before work on a Feasibility Study for the opening of negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement could begin

  • Ref: EC03-287EN
  • EU source: European Commission
  • UN forum: 
  • Date: 18/11/2003


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