President, Honourable members,
I would like to thank the Rapporteur, Mr Cristian Preda, for the resolution on Bosnia and Herzegovina. We welcome the text which is balanced and largely in line with the Commission’s November 2015 report on Bosnia and Herzegovina. It reflects well the state of play in the country, notably when it comes to being back on the reform track and starting to address the outstanding issues on its EU integration path.
I welcome the support this resolution provides for the renewed EU approach towards Bosnia and Herzegovina, in particular the focus on socio-economic, rule of law and public administration reforms as adopted by Bosnia and Herzegovina under the July 2015 Reform Agenda.
In addition, I welcome the Parliament’s call for Bosnia and Herzegovina to ensure that it has an effective coordination mechanism on EU matters in place as well as adapt the SAA following the accession of Croatia to the EU.
The Commission is fully dedicated to advancing Bosnia and Herzegovina’s EU perspective:
- The Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA), which has entered into force in June 2015 is a springboard for deep reforms in the country. In its context, in December 2015 we successfully heldthe SAA Council and the SAA Committee.
- In cooperation with IFIs, we are closely following the implementation of the comprehensive Reform Agenda which started in July 2015.This has resulted in the adoption of a number of key pieces of legislation and strategies and implementation has already started.
- I expect Bosnia and Herzegovina to further implement the Reform Agenda, not only as a key condition for the country on its path to the EU, but also in the best interest of its citizens. This includes the dissemination of the 2013 population census results.
- Together with HR/VP Mogherini, we have taken note of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s application for EU membership submitted to the EU Council Presidency in February.This is a renewed commitment from the country authorities to decisively advance towards the EU, deliver on the necessary reforms and meet its citizens’ aspirations for a more prosperous future.
- The country is also participating in the connectivity agenda and I would expect it to be a close partner when discussing measures for the youth, particularly against the backdrop of massive (55%) youth unemployment.
To conclude, I would like to stress that I have witnessed a positive dynamic during my latest visit to Sarajevo, on 21 March. The EU initiative as launched in December 2014 has shown that Bosnia and Herzegovina can deliver.
At the same time, outstanding challenges remain and need to be seriously addressed, including through the further implementation of the Reform Agenda. This will require the EU to remain fully engaged in Bosnia and Herzegovina and to support the country delivering on its priorities, in close cooperation with international and local stakeholders such as International Financial Institutions and Civil Society Organisations.
Thank you for your attention.