Interview with Adnan Ćerimagić of the European Stability Initiative from Sarajevo, and a participants at the “Move.Link.Engage. New Modes of Governance in the Western Balkans” regional conference organized by the Centre for European Integration of the Belgrade Open School and the Office for Cooperation with Civil Society of the Government of the Republic of Serbia. Ćerimagić was a participant at the session “Where Are We Now from the Perspective of 2016 Country Reports?”
European Western Balkans: Progress reports for Western Balkans states have been published last month. What could be understood as the main points or recommendations for Bosnia and Herzegovina? Were there any surprises within the report?
Adnan Ćerimagić: In the past twelve months Bosnia and Herzegovina continued to make minimal or no progress in aligning itself with the EU acquis and standards. Together with Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina remains the least prepared country for the EU membership. In the next year the Commission will produce its opinion on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s membership application and focus should be on everyone doing their part of the work as best and as quickly as they can.
EWB: Do you think that progress reports adequately asses the situation in different states or are they are perhaps too technical?
AĆ: The main aim of the country reports should be to tell us in the most simple and understandable way how far the countries are from EU membership. The improvements done by the Commission in past couple of years go in a right direction, but my impression is that we are still far away from the point where reports describe the distance of a country from the EU membership in a simple and understandable way.
EWB: What do you think is the role of EU integration for solving internal problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina? Do you think that local actors care about criticism and pressure coming from the EU?
AĆ: Today’s Bosnia and Herzegovina is confronted with number of issues. If the EU would offer BiH a credible membership perspective then the accession process could help tackle number of these issues simultaneously. So far the EU did not offer this to Bosnia and Herzegovina. What the EU repeatedly did instead is that it asked BiH to address one issue at the time. EU’s decisions on which issue should be addressed was made on the basis of very poor analysis. That proved to be a huge problem because the EU eventually had to rightly abandon such poorly chosen conditions and damage its own credibility.
EWB: What do you think are the main obstacles to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s membership in the European Union?
AĆ: The main obstacle is that too many people think of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a special case. Because of that too many people are convinced that Bosnia and Herzegovina has to address specific issues before even being allowed to take part in the accession process. This opinion is usually based on clichés, while facts and reality tell a different story. Changing this will be the main challenge for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Nikola Burazer, European Western Balkans Executive Editor