BiH is moving toward EU, but must intensify efforts

BiH is moving toward EU, but must intensify efforts

The Stabilisation and Association Council (SA Council) between BiH and the European Union (EU) called on BiH to continue and intensify its efforts to ensure effective implementation of the reform agenda in line with the schedule of the action plan agreed by the BiH authorities, for the benefit of its citizens and in close cooperation with the European Union, international financial institutions and other international partners, as well as civil society.

The SA Council held its second meeting on Monday in Brussel under the chairmanship of EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini. The BiH delegation was led by the Chairman of the Council of Ministers Denis Zvizdic, who was accompanied by Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers and Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations Mirko Sarovic, Minister of Foreign Affairs Igor Crnadak, and Deputy Minister of Finaces and Treasury Mirsad Zuga.

In a joint statement issued after the meeting it was emphasized that the SA Council welcomed BiH EU perspective as a single, united and sovereign country. The Council also noted the progress of BiH in its EU integration process following the country’s application for EU membership of February 2016 and the Council conclusions of September 2016 inviting the European Commission to submit an opinion on the merits of BiH’s application. It was stressed that credible implementation of commitments undertaken by BiH’s leadership is the only way to move the country forward on its EU integration path.

“The SA Council welcomed the establishment of the coordination mechanism on EU matters in August 2016 as well as the start of its activities and called on all levels of governance in BiH to ensure the effective implementation of the mechanism, including for the purpose of ensuring harmonised and consolidated answers to the Commission’s opinion questionnaire, as an indispensable step towards improving the efficiency of the BiH administration, with due input from all levels of governance across the country”, announced the participants in the joint statement.

The Council stressed the need for the BiH authorities to prepare a strategic programme for the country’s legal approximation with the EU, as required under the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, and to ensure smooth functioning of all joint EU-BiH bodies under the Agreement, including the stabilisation and association parliamentary committee.

The Council also noted that the signature in December 2016 of the Protocol on the adaptation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement following the accession of Croatia to the European Union and the full implementation of the SAA are important elements of the country’s commitment to the EU integration process.

Furthermore, the Council welcomed the adoption of a strategy on integrated border management (IBM) and a new legislative framework on migration and asylum.

“The SA Council recalled that BiH urgently needs to meet international standards on anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism. With regard to counter-terrorism, the SA Council noted with concern that BiH has been affected by the phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters and radicalisation. In this respect, the SA Council welcomed the important measures taken by the authorities of BiH over the past year. The SA Council called on the country’s authorities to take further steps in this regard, notably to prevent and fight radicalisation”, is emphasized in the joint statement.

With respect to EU financial assistance, the SA Council encouraged further progress in preparing coherent countrywide strategies in key sectors such as energy and agriculture to unlock further EU funding. The SA Council acknowledges progress made by BiH in adopting a country-wide strategy in the transport sector which will unlock this sector for support under Instrument for pre-accession assistance II. The SA Council also looks forward to the signature of the transport community treaty by all parties.

What the joint statement didn’t mention, is that the RS Government was blamed for the blockade of the BiH accession to transportation community. Minister Sarovic explained, in separate press release that RS Government was directly mentioned, with the demand to stop dragging the entire BiH in full isolation. He said that Mogherini requested from RS authorities to stop the obstructions in this case because BiH will not be able to join this transport community.

At the press conference, Mogherini said that she spoke with RS president Milorad Dodik on Sunday and that he promised that this BiH entity “will act in a constructive manner” and stressed that BiH will adopt controversial set of laws on excise, which is one of the conditions for the next tranche from the International Monetary Fund loan.