BRUSSELS – The Council welcomes that Bosnia and Herzegovina is back on the reform path necessary to move forward in its EU integration process. The Council welcomes the adoption of the Reform Agenda in July 2015 and of the accompanying Action Plan in October 2015 by Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities. Noting that the country has started moving towards the Union this year, the Council calls on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leadership to maintain positive momentum by continuing to implement the reforms, in cooperation with civil society. Meaningful progress in the implementation of the Reform Agenda is necessary for the EU to consider a membership application from Bosnia and Herzegovina, in line with previous Council Conclusions, in particular those of December 2014.
The Council therefore encourages Bosnia and Herzegovina’s authorities to continue translating the Written Commitment into action by further adoption and continued implementation of the necessary reforms, in particular in the rule of law field, including in the fight against corruption and organised crime, public administration reform, as well as socioeconomic reforms. The Council notes with concern the backsliding on the conditions for exercising the right of freedom of expression and media. Strengthening public administration, and establishing functionality and efficiency at all levels of government, including the swift establishment of an effective coordination mechanism on EU matters will also be necessary for the country to be able to face the challenges ahead on the EU path. Progress in this regard will open the way for Bosnia and Herzegovina to fully benefit from the EU funding available.
The Council recalls that when requesting the Commission’s Opinion on the membership application, the Council will ask the Commission to pay particular attention to the implementation of the Sejdić-Finci ruling.
The Council reiterates that following the entry into force of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA), Bosnia and Herzegovina should fully uphold its commitments and obligations under this Agreement, including, as a matter of urgency, those relating to the adaptation of the SAA following the accession of Croatia to the EU. The full implementation of the SAA, including its adaptation, is an important element of the country’s commitment to the EU integration process.
The Council recalls that the Structured Dialogue on Justice is the instrument to address any outstanding shortcomings in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s judiciary, in line with the Venice Commission’s recommendations of 2013. The Council reiterates its serious concern about the preparations for holding an entity-level referendum on the state-level judiciary in Republika Srpska. The holding of such a referendum would challenge the cohesion, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It would also risk undermining the efforts to improve the socio-economic situation of all Bosnia and Herzegovina citizens and to make further progress in EU integration.