European Western Balkans

Key findings of the 2015 report on Bosnia and Herzegovina

The report on Bosnia and Herzegovina is part of the 2015 Enlargement Package adopted today by the European Commission. The Commission concluded that Bosnia and Herzegovina is back on the reform track and has started to address the outstanding priorities on its EU accession path as demonstrated through the adoption of the Reform Agenda in July. For the country to further progress towards the EU, meaningful progress on the implementation of the Reform Agenda is necessary as a condition for the EU to consider an EU membership application from Bosnia and Herzegovina. The political consensus on the country’s EU accession objective demonstrated by the February 2015 written commitment needs to be further translated into the adoption, and harmonised implementation across the country, of the necessary reforms. Strengthening the public administration, improving cooperation at all levels and establishing an effective coordination mechanism on EU matters will also be necessary for the country to be able to concretely address the next steps on its EU integration path. Country authorities are expected to deliver on the key outstanding priorities in the judiciary in line with the recommendations made in the Structured Dialogue on Justice. A positive track record on the implementation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, including its adaptation following Croatia’s accession to the EU, is further expected from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Political criteria

The October 2014 general elections were assessed as being efficiently administered and held in an orderly manner and competitive environment. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Parliamentary Assembly has started to function and deliver on the legislative agenda. Cooperation between the State-level, Entity-level and Brčko District parliaments has however yet to be improved. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s institutions made some progress towards addressing the outstanding reform priorities, notably with the adoption of the Reform Agenda and the starting of its implementation. However, closer cooperation and coordination between all levels of government needs to be established, not least in view of the major socioeconomic challenges that remain to be tackled. The country’s Constitution established a complex institutional architecture that remains inefficient and is subject to different interpretations. Also, the Constitution remains in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, as stated in the Sejdić-Finci ruling. The country is at an early stage in public administration reform.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has some level of preparation when it comes to consolidating a well-functioning judicial system. Following the adoption of the 2014-2018 Justice Reform Strategy, all activities relevant to its implementation need to be launched, including measures to improved judicial independence and efficiency. Regarding the fight against corruption, while some level of preparation has been achieved, the legal and institutional framework remains weak and inadequate and the related political commitment and adopted strategy are yet to materialise into concrete results. Concerning the fight against organised crime, coordination and cooperation between all institutions throughout the country needs to be significantly improved. Bosnia and Herzegovina is at an early stage regarding human rights and the protection of minorities. The legal and institutional framework for the observance of human rights requires substantial improvements and the adopted legislation needs to be effectively implemented, notably regarding anti-discrimination aspects. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community continued to be subject to threats and attacks. Some steps were taken over the registration and housing of the Roma minority, but there was limited action on health, education and employment. The conditions for the exercise of the freedom of expression have deteriorated.

Economic criteria

Bosnia and Herzegovina is at an early stage in developing a functioning market economy, although some progress has been made. However, difficult labour market conditions remain unchanged and external imbalances and public finance deficits have been increasing, with no international capital market access and low public finance quality. The significant state presence in the economy and, despite some efforts, persistent and considerable weaknesses in the business environment, continue to negatively affect private sector development and undermine the growth potential of the economy. Unemployment is high, particularly amongst the youth. A broad agreement has been reached on urgent and much-needed structural economic reforms set out in the Reform Agenda [and which are also reflected in the Council specific country recommendations for Bosnia and Herzegovina]. The government needs to show strong reform commitment by further improving policy coordination and implementing these structural measures on economic governance. Bosnia and Herzegovina is at an early stage in achieving the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union. The country should pay particular attention to developing a more strategic approach to tackling deficiencies in its training and education system, simplifying its complex procedure for exports, and developing a transport strategy as well as an energy strategy.

EU legislation

Bosnia and Herzegovina is at an early stage regarding its overall approximation with the EU acquis. There is a good level of preparation concerning intellectual, industrial and commercial property rights as well and the country is moderately prepared in the customs and taxation area. There is some level of preparation as regards public procurement and internal market. While the country is at an early stage in the transport area, the adoption of the Transport Policy in July is a positive step forward towards the country benefitting from the connectivity agenda. However, significant efforts are needed in most of the policy areas for the country to further align with the EU acquis. This includes financial control as well as statistics where major steps are needed to address outstanding priorities. In this respect, the processing of the 2013 census data and the publication of the results need to be completed. Further sustained efforts are also needed in particular as regards the competition area, industry and SMEs, agriculture, environment and climate change policies, energy, information society and media as well as justice freedom and security matters.  

Key dates

1999: The EU proposes the new Stabilisation and Association Process for countries of Southeast Europe

June 2000: The European Council states that all the Stabilisation and Association countries are potential candidates for EU membership.

June 2003: Thessaloniki Summit; the EU perspective for the Western Balkans is confirmed

June 2008: Signature of the SAA and Interim Agreement on trade and trade-related issues

December 2010: Visa-free travel to Schengen area for citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina

June 2011: Launch of Structured Dialogue on Justice with the aim of further consolidating the judicial system in Bosnia and Herzegovina

September 2011: Reinforcement of EU’s role in Bosnia and Herzegovina following the decoupling of EU Special Representative’s mandate from the Office of the High Representative

June 2012: Launch of High Level Dialogue on the Accession Process to address EU accession requirements

June 2015: Entry into force of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement

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