To define Bosnia and Herzegovina’s path to the European Union as prolonged would be a massive understatement. It is safe to say that unlike the remaining countries in the region of Western Balkans, BiH is lagging behind on its road towards the EU membership.
The relationship between Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and the EU began in 1998 and has come across a plethora of hurdles along the way. As mentioned, in 1998 the EU/Bosnia and Herzegovina Consultative Task Force was established in order to signal the beginning of the process of European integration but has since been replaced by the Reform Process Monitoring (RPM). Bosnia and Herzegovina has been a potential candidate country for the EU membership since 2003, which was decided by the European Council in Thessaloniki that same year.
In 2008, the Stabilization and Association Process (SAP) and the bilateral Stabilization and Association (SAA) agreement were signed in 2008 and ratified in 2011 but have yet to be implemented.
Another major occurrence in 2008 regarding BiH’s European integration was the EU Council signing the European Partnership which set to provide EU assistance to Bosnia through the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) funds. The European Partnership outlines and clearly states that as a potential candidate, Bosnia is eligible to finance the first two IPA components which include Transition Assistance and Institution Building and Cross-Border Cooperation. Currently, Bosnia has not managed to successfully implement the IPA funds in its infrastructure. The European Union has stalled talks on the second round of IPA funds due to the fact that BiH had once again, not carried out the directives it was given. In order for BiH to implement the constitutional reforms, a political consensus of all three peoples has to be reached before any changes can be made.
Since 2011 many dates had been promised and set pertaining to Bosnia and Herzegovina finally meeting the objectives it was given by the European Union. Past possible dates included June 2012, July 2012 and November 2012 with the latest being early 2014. Seeing as how all of these dates have come and gone and yet Bosnia has still not submitted an application, it is unknown whether Bosnia will ever be ready to meet the demands, reforms and deadlines of the European Union.
So who is to blame for the stagnation of BiH’s Europeanization process?
Numerous aspects of Bosnia’s current state of political affairs are directly linked to its current standstill on the road to a EU membership. “Ethno-political segregation and ethnic polarization is still a key feature of the Bosnian social and political climate, preventing almost any democratic initiative in the country. “ (Brljavac 2012). The EU has urgently called upon Bosnia and Herzegovina to create a mechanism of communication and coordination on EU matters between various levels of government.
Bosnia’s political leaders have been accused of solely focusing on local elections and short term goals overlooking the possibility of a future, supranational cooperation with the European Union. Interestingly enough, Bosnian politicians have however, been in favor of joining the European Union in the hope that it will effortlessly resolve the perils the Bosnian economy finds itself in.
However, in a country as decentralized as Bosnia and with such a catastrophically elevated percentage of political corruption, major changes from within have to take place before the road to the European Union can continue in any way, shape or form. Progress can only take place if the focus shifts to a shared political future as opposed to a shared national past.
Author: Dina Rokic, American College of Thessaloniki