EU Membership Is Still a Distant Goal for Bosnia

A much anticipated strategy unveiled by the European Commission today outlined a concrete way towards membership in the European Union for six Balkan aspirants – Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia – but the document’s reception in Bosnia was mixed.

The bloc’s new enlargement strategy will focus on strengthening the rule of law, security and migration, socioeconomic development, transport and energy connectivity, digital affairs and reconciliation in the six countries. The goal is to have the six aspirants join the EU “in our generation,” said the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

“It is clear today and that is the message – we will share a common future inside our European Union,” Mogherini said in Strasbourg.

Serbia and Montenegro were identified as front-runners toward accession. The new strategy says they could be allowed in by 2025 if they meet all the conditions. Bosnia, on the other hand, is yet to get an opinion from the European Commission on its membership application. With sustained effort and engagement, Bosnia could become a candidate for accession, the Commission said.

“Of course, Bosnian politicians will interpret (the strategy) as a confirmation of their European policies. I would suggest they stop to think about the fact that Bosnia is in the company of Kosovo – the only difference between Bosnia and Kosovo is in the small steps towards the candidate status, although Bosnia gained international recognition in 1992 and had the so-called European partnership with the EU in one form or another for twenty years, while Kosovo is conditionally a country since 2008,” said professor Mile Lasić.

“Meanwhile, both are the synonym for a ‘pariah’ country in the eyes of the Eurocrats in Brussels,” he said.

“Bosnia must do its homework at home (…) the key to which is an agreement between the three (main ethnic) groups. Without that political agreement, there can be no progress. No country can make progress – especially in economy – if it has unresolved inter-ethnic issues,” said Dušanka Majkić, a member of the Bosnian Parliament from the Bosnian Serb SNSD party.

Analyst Ivana Marić said the chances are slim Bosnian politicians will change their ways and stop trading blame and bickering over issues unimportant for the country’s EU membership bid, meaning that the neighboring countries will eventually join the bloc without Bosnia: “Are the authorities and their voters at least ashamed that (Bosnia) was among the first (former communist) countries that took the road towards (membership in) the EU, and now we are the last?”

Bosniak member of the Bosnian Presidency and the leader of main Bosniak party, the SDA, Bakir Izetbegović, said the strategy was a clear message that the Western Balkans is a European space with a future in the EU: “The new strategy allows (Bosnia) to join an open race by 2025, in which we can catch up and leave behind the countries that are currently ahead on the road to membership in the EU.”

His Croat colleague Dragan Čović said that it is up to Bosnia to do the job, starting with the EC Questionnaire: “But we must change the approach. The candidate status is at hand, and there is no time frame.”

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