European Western Balkans

EU agrees to open accession talks with Bosnia and Herzegovina

BiH and EU flags; Photo: European Commission

BRUSSELS – The European Union agreed Thursday to open membership negotiations with Bosnia-Herzegovina, eight years after country first applied for EU membership. Last week European Commission said BiH made sufficient progress in aligning with the EU’s standards for opening accession talks.

“Building on the Commission’s recommendation of 12 March 2024, the European Council decides to open accession negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina. The European Council invites the Commission to prepare the negotiating framework with a view to its adoption by the Council the moment all relevant steps set out in the Commission’s recommendation of 12 October 2022 are taken”, European Council conclusions stated.

“The European Council has just decided to open accession negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Charles Michel, president of the European Council, posted on X. “Congratulations!” he added. “Your place is in our European family.”

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen welcomed the leaders’ decisions, assessing it as a historic one.

“The country has taken impressive steps towards our Union. More progress has been achieved in just over a year than in over a decade. Bosnia and Herzegovina is now fully aligned with our Foreign and Security Policy. We have also seen sustainable progress on the adoption of important laws. We have seen progress on migration management, Bosnia and Herzegovina has made great strides on dialogue and reconciliation. So I hope that the decision of today will lead to even more progress”, Von der Leyen said.

While all EU member states support the country’s accession in principle, some – such as Denmark and the Netherlands – had expressed concerns that there were still loose ends in the constitutional and electoral reforms Bosnia was expected to complete before it was considered ready for accession talks.

In the Dutch parliament, a motion tabled by the centre-right New Social Contract (NSC) party calling for the talks to be postponed was narrowly voted down on Wednesday, allowing caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte to back the opening of talks in Brussels on Thursday. “We will support the Commission’s proposal to open negotiations,” Rutte confirmed upon arriving at the summit. “But it is crucial that Bosnia does a lot more.”

On behalf of the Council of Ministers of BiH Borjana Krišto, Chairwoman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, welcomed decision and thanked EU leaders and Charles Michel on X.

“Mutual determination and effort have resulted in achieving the necessary level of compliance with the requirements and criteria. We remain strongly determined to continue the work that will result in further progress and development of Bosnia & Herzegovina,” she added.

The President of the RS entity Milorad Dodik welcomed EU leaders’ decision adding that this is a recognition to all citizens and political forces “who persistently advocate for strengthening mutual respect, agreement, and compromise between Serbs, Bosniaks, and Croats”.

He emphasized that this decision that this decision strengthens the foundation on which the RS is ready to strengthen the Dayton-based Bosnia and Herzegovina, which equally belongs to everyone. “Therefore, I consider today’s decision a great recognition to myself and to Repulika Srpska for the policy it has pursued”, Dodik wrote on X.

The EU Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Johan Sattler, sent a message to the citizens of BiH congratulating them on the opening of EU accession talks and noting that the EU recognized the efforts invested in implementing the necessary reforms to this end. He also warned that reforms to come will be even more difficult but in the long term, they will bring economic stability and strengthen the rule of law.

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