Hahn: Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to move from a Dayton logic to a Brussels’ perspective

Remarks by Johannes HAHN, Conference “European Future of Bosnia & Herzegovina – 20 years after Dayton-Paris Peace Agreement in the European Parliament

Thank you, Andrej Plenković.

Dear members of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency,

Honourable members of the European Parliament,

Ladies and gentlemen,

First of all I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation to the European Parliament, in particular to the six members for this initiative, to convene all of us today and therefore for having organised this important event on Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Some of you – and in particular Members of the European Parliament and maybe also some staff – may recall that more than a year ago I was here in the European Parliament at my hearing. I was facing a full set of questions on my priorities for this country and its EU accession path, that was at that time in a stalemate.

Let me repeat what I said at that time: Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to move from a Dayton logic to a Brussels’ perspective.

Let me be very clear on that: Dayton and a clear EU perspective, these are not two separate directions. In other words: it is not either Dayton or the European Union. The European path is the natural further development, building on the stability and peace which was enabled thanks to the Dayton Peace Agreement.

And I am very encouraged to see that the new momentum – as it was said today several times by the different speakers – has been created to make this happen over the last year, with the European Union help: to advance the country on its European path, to deliver on citizens’ expectations.

Over the past year, following the renewed EU approach, the country authorities have shown that they are committed to deliver on the necessary reforms. In this regard, I also would like to thank the Presidents for engaging so actively in this process:  we have come a long way since last year. Let me just briefly outline the elementary stages:

Firstly, all political leaders and parties represented at the State level agreed and signed, thanks to your facilitation, a written commitment to deliver on the necessary steps towards the EU integration in February 2015. I think we cannot underestimate this huge achievement and everybody who is familiar with the situation on the ground has to acknowledge this achievement.  This written commitment was also endorsed by all the country’s institutions.

Secondly, in June, the Stabilisation and Association Agreement entered into force. Therefore, as the High Representative already said, we will be pleased to host the first Stabilisation and Association Council with Bosnia and Herzegovina on Friday [11 December] this week.

Thirdly, and very importantly, in July the country’s authorities adopted and started to implement the Reform Agenda – a set of targeted socio-economic, rule of law and public administration reforms and very concrete measures.

The implementation of the Reform Agenda is first and foremost meant to address the serious socio-economic challenges the country faces.

This includes the very high unemployment, particularly among young people. Up to 60% of young people between 15-24 years of age are unemployed. This is the highest youth unemployment rate in Europe – and I think we all agree that it is unacceptable.

The Reform Agenda is therefore not a bureaucratic exercise. It goes to the heart of the expectations of the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is about creating trust in the institutions and administration, it is about creating a fair and transparent tax system and it is about creating the right conditions for businesses to flourish and create jobs and attract international investors. Simple to give to young people a perspective to stay in the country and to have a future.

Some encouraging initial results have been achieved. The Commission will continue to closely monitor the implementation of the Reform Agenda. Further concrete progress on its implementation will be needed for the European Union to consider a possible EU membership application. So this is key!

Beyond this, let me conclude by stressing two issues which are critical: first the coordination mechanism on EU matters and b) to deliver on the adaptation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement following Croatia’s accession to European Union.

The coordination mechanism is important to have an effective interaction between us, the European Union and its institutions, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. We need a functioning system otherwise it does not work.

Through the Stabilisation and Association Agreement we brought our relationship to the next level. That means that both sides must deliver on all the commitments stemming from this Treaty.

This is not something you do for us. This will help you to ensure a smooth implementation, including pre-accession funds. It is up to the authorities to agree on the most adequate solution.

Secondly, there are high expectations in Member States that the authorities deliver fast on the adaptation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement following Croatia’s accession to the European Union. Let me be clear: This is not a bilateral issue between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is an issue between the EU as a whole and Bosnia and Herzegovina. We need to see that the authorities play according to the rules of the game. Negotiations on this issue need to be resumed and finalised very swiftly.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In short: Bosnia and Herzegovina is back on the reform track. I think we are all happy on this. Good progress has been made over the last year. There is a kind of new momentum, some would even say, that Bosnia and Herzegovina has moved close to be the best puppet in the class. But I would say there is some room for improvement.

But, once again, I think we agree that you are in the good track. But, this is important,  we need to keep our eyes on the ball and keep this momentum to deliver tangible results for the citizens in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

And really I have to underline and to subscribe what Federica Mogherini has said: it is not for us the European Union what you are doing it is for your citizens, your people, young generation which would like to see a perspective and this is what it is about and this is what counts.

I think we have been very clear, fair and transparent in outlining the key issues on which the country needs to walk, if you like “the final mile”: implementing the reform agenda, agreeing the coordination mechanism, and living up to its commitments under the SAA. If that is done, I am sure we can move towards opening another new chapter very soon, for example indeed submitting a credible membership application.

Thank you very much!
More information :http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I113902