BiH citizens divided on EU conditions for membership

BiH citizens divided on EU conditions for membership

The Prime Communications Agency conducted a research on citizens’ opinion in BiH in the period from 5-15 April 2017, for it’s own needs, regarding European Union requirements on admission to membership of BiH. The sample was 1500 respondents, selected in a way to be a representative sample of the general BiH population, older than 18 years.

“First of all, it is quite clear that BiH citizens are divided in opinion about fulfilling the conditions of BiH on the road to the EU. Almost equal percentage of respondents (about 40%) think that the conditions for BiH entry into the EU should be loosened, with those who think that BiH must meet the normal conditions. The first group is saying that EU must take the war into consideration, along with a complex political and geopolitical situation. They are aware that this can be a positive impetus for the country”, Srdjan Puhalo, from Prime Communications told IBNA.

He added that it is obvious that the opposite group, in almost equal percentage, consider that it would not be good for this country and that BiH must fulfill all conditions as other countries to be admitted into this Union of states.

The survey shows that the largest percentage (50%) of the ethnic populations that think the EU should be more flexible towards BiH are the Croats, followed by the Bosniaks with 44.1%. Most Serbs believe that BiH must fulfill all conditions as other countries to be received in the EU.

“The results of the research on the same issue conducted seven years ago, in 2010, show that a little over half of the population of BiH (54.5%) believed that the European Union should ease its conditions in the road of our admission to this organization. At the same time, 41.9% of the respondents at the time had said that these conditions must be the same as for other countries that are in the process of European integration”, Puhalo stressed.

Commenting on the research, BiH Directorate for European Integrations said in a statement that the criteria for the EU membership were set by the EU, as criteria for joining any club would be set by that respective club.

“Accession to the EU is based on a freewill and this is a process to which BiH is committed in line with a number of adopted acts. This process triggers many important reforms essential not just for the future EU membership, but for the strengthening the rule of law and economy for the benefit of citizens. European Commission’s reports indicate that the EU Enlargement policy brings results. The principle of strict but fair conditionality is the basis for its credibility which should be contributed to by both the EU and the enlargement countries”, the Directorate told IBNA.

Since it is quite obvious that EU will not ease the conditions for BiH on the road toward this organization, the EU Delegation to BiH didn’t want to comment on a research they didn’t conduct or support. However, the Delegation reminded for IBNA that the EU assesses the readiness of applicant countries according to three accession criteria defined at the European Council in Copenhagen in 1993 and hence referred to as ‘Copenhagen criteria’. As regards the Western Balkans, applicant countries also need to fulfil the ‘Stabilisation and Association process’ conditions, mostly relating to regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations.

As they said, the European Commission’s Opinion process is based on the Questionnaire, as well as peer reviews and expert missions and continued contacts and exchanges between the European Commission and the country’s’ authorities. The Opinion includes an extensive “analytical report” covering for all three Copenhagen criteria, including 33 policy chapters of the EU acquis as well as conclusions and potential recommendations to the EU Council related to the granting of candidate country status and the opening of accession negotiations.

“Upon completion of the Opinion preparation process, the timing of which depends on the administrative capacity of the country to deliver, the Commission submits its Opinion to the EU Council for a political decision on the next step on the country’s EU path. At the same time, if the country does not sufficiently meet the requirements to move ahead in the process, the Commission outlines in the Opinion the specific reforms, also known as “key priorities”, which need to be delivered upon by the applicant country in order to move forward”, said the EU delegation in responce to a question from IBNA on the issue.

The entire process – from the Council inviting the European Commission to draft the Opinion and its actual delivery – may last up to one year or longer. The process is directly linked to the administrative capacity of the country to deliver high quality coordinated replies to the Commission’s inquiries on the situation on the ground both regarding the replies to the Questionnaire as well as through the specific expert missions and peer reviews./IBNA