Three years after BiH submitted the official application for European Union membership, the state has finally taken the first big step on that path.
It was mid February 2016 when the state officials submitted the official application and it was accepted in September 2016. EU showed the efficiency of its institutions and in December 2016 EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn handed over the Questionnaire with more than 3 000 questions for BiH institutions.
“For the candidate status of BiH it is only essential to adequately and professionally in the time framework that it is envisaged, which is six months, to answer the questions from the Questionnaire. There are no additional conditions set by the European Commission or any European institution for BiH”, BiH Council of Ministers Chairman Denis Zvizdić had said on the solemn ceremony.
Those six months became more than a year of work. In February 2018, the Questionnaire was completed and handed over to EU officials. But after it was reviewed, Brussels sent 665 additional questions to be answered. This time, BiH institutions were given a somewhat shorter deadline, which of course was not met, leading to the harmonized answers finally being accepted on Sunday, February 24, at a telephone session of BiH Council of Ministers.
On Monday, the Directorate for European Integration (DEI BiH) submitted the answers to the European Commission in order for it to prepare an opinion on BiH’s application for EU membership. DEI BiH explained that the answers are submitted “after they were being confirmed by all levels of authorities in BiH” and this can be very frustrating in BiH.
Within 35 European integration working groups, 1,083 civil servants from all levels of authorities in BiH, who were appointed to 1,600 positions, i.e. some civil servants took part in several working groups, were engaged in preparing the answers to additional questions. In addition, 15 members of the European Integration Commission were also engaged, while a total of 2,311 pages of the answers to the additional questions were prepared. Along with the answers and the attachments, 153 acts were also submitted as references.
DEI BiH said that the purpose of providing answers to the additional questions is clarification of the previously submitted answers to the questions of the European Commission’s Questionnaire, its amendments or information update.
“Preparing the answers to European Commission’s additional questions is part of an entire process aimed at preparing the opinion on the BiH’s application for EU membership, in which the European Commission is going to give a detailed analysis of the situation in the country and an assessment of the readiness to move to the next phase of relations with the EU”, said the DEI BiH.
Most answers were about the chapters related to political criteria 106, social policy and employment 43, transport policy 38, justice, freedom and security 36, and economic criteria 33.
“The time of obtaining the candidate status depends on our friends in the EU. I hope they will understand the importance of an urgent approval of the (candidate) status and place Bosnia and Herzegovina back on the track that leads to the European Union. That would be the best and most effective message for citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina”, Zvizdić said at a press conference in Sarajevo, on Monday.
Now, BiH can only wait to see what the answer from Brussels will be. According to the latest rumours on a stall in the EU enlargement process, the country could wait for a long time to receive the answer. Maybe more than the EU waited for the answers from BiH./ΙΒΝΑ