Sarajevo, July 18, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Mladen Dragojlovic
Head of EU Delegation in BiH, Lars Gunnar Wigemark, and BiH main negotiator with EU, Hamdo Tinjak, signed on Monday the long awaited document that enables BiH to continue the path toward EU.
The Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA), which was adapted after Croatia entered the EU as a member, was the point of discussion in last several weeks in the state. Representatives of RS, entity president Milorad Dodik and member of BiH Presidency Mladen Ivanic, stopped the signing of this document because there was no guarantee that BiH will protect its agricultural production. There was the danger of import of cheaper goods, putting the local farmers in the situation that their products are not competitive on the market.
“The agreement is based on the mutual interest of the two sides, takes into account core sensitive products on the side of BiH, and is comparable to similar agreements with other Western Balkan countries. From the date of its provisional application the EU will automatically re-introduce trade benefits for the BiH exports into the EU of certain agricultural products, e.g. fruits and vegetables uncer so called “autonomous trade measures”, announced the EU Delegation in BiH after signing ceremony.
Adapting the Stabilisation and Association Agreement was one of the outstanding issues to be addressed by BiH on its EU integration path. Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, welcomed the Protocol.
“I welcome the initialling of the Protocol for the adaptation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement which was long overdue. This is a sign of the commitment of the BiH leadership to the EU integration path of their country. The European Commission encourages BiH to continue delivering urgently, with EU support, on the necessary reforms towards the EU, in line with its citizens’ expectations”, Hahn stated.
The full implementation of the SAA, including its adaptation, is an important element of the country’s commitment to the EU integration process. Following the initialling of the protocol, the European Commission and BiH will take the necessary steps for its signing and ratification. Solution like this will not be possible without German guarantee that this state will help farmers to deal with problems initiated by Protocol. As the BiH Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations, Mirko Sarovic, said on the press conference in Sarajevo, German Minister of Agriculture, Christian Schmidt, took the crucial step and removed all doubts.
“During his visit, Schmidt said that he is not bringing a suitcase full of money but that his country will help the farmers who are suffering the biggest problems due to the signing of the Protocol”, Sarovic said.
At same time, many were disappointed with the fact that EU Foreign Affairs Council didn’t put the BiH application for full membership on the agenda of Monday meeting. This was confirmed by Wigemark in Sarajevo.
“I am not able to predict what 28 members countries will say or what high officials will say. But, I know that this is not the issue which will be discussed on the meeting of Council. The signing of the Protocol will be discussed in the future and the Council will call BiH to accelerate the activities and fulfill the rest of its obligations. There is the question of coordination mechanism. It is certain that the EU will not give the green light without all conditions being met”, Wigemark said.