Talks on Bosnia's accession to the EU should be opened once it achieves the necessary degree of compliance with the membership and political criteria, the EU European Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, said presenting the European Commission's (EC) opinion on Bosnia's EU membership application.
"Bosnia and Herzegovina does not yet sufficiently fulfil the criteria related to the stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities, set by the Copenhagen European Council in 1993. In this respect, the country needs to dedicate considerable efforts to sufficiently fulfil such criteria," the Commission wrote in its opinion after receiving the answers their Questionaire.
In February 2016, the European Commission sent over 3,000 questions to Bosnia, in order to get a detailed insight into the situation in the country, its structure, the decision-making processes and how the country generally functions.
Bosnia needs to bring its constitutional framework in line with European standards and ensure the functionality of its institutions in order to be able to take over EU obligations, the Commission wrote.
The EC particularly stressed that the country needs to improve its electoral framework and the functioning of the judiciary, as well as the prevention and fight against corruption and organised crime, including money-laundering and terrorism.
As for the economic criteria, the Commission concluded that Bosnia has achieved a certain degree of macroeconomic stability.
"However, to move towards becoming a functioning market economy, which is a criteria set by the 1993 Copenhagen European Council, Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to pay special attention to speeding up its decision-making procedures and improving the business environment as well as the efficiency and transparency of the public sector, in particular of public enterprises," the Commission noted.
The country's track record in implementing its obligations under the Stabilisation and Association Agreement needs to improve, they said, notably regarding the establishment of the parliamentary dimension of the Agreement and by adopting a national plan for the adoption of the EU acquis.
It is overall at an "early stage regarding its level of preparedness to take on the obligations of EU membership and needs to significantly step up the process to align with the EU acquis and implement and enforce related legislation."
"Bosnia s accession would have a limited overall impact on European Union policies and would not affect the Union's capacity to maintain and deepen its own development. At the same time, identified functionality issues within Bosnia, notably related to the internal decision-making process as well as uncertainty and overlaps between the country's various levels of government over a number of competences could negatively affect the decision-making process at EU level, particularly for matters requiring unanimity amongst EU Member States," they concluded. "Bosnia should, therefore, engage in a process to address functionality issues in order to comply with EU membership requirements and take on its related obligations."
Hahn noted that some countries, like Albania and North Macedonia, achieved historic results and the Commission suggested that the EU Council should begin negotiating with them.
He noted that the two countries have fulfilled the set conditions.
"Albania is implementing the judicial reform and North Macedonia continues its ambitious agenda, which is an example of how to strengthen good neighbourly relations and shows the power of the European perspective. Both countries have implemented the reforms they said they would," Hahn pointed out.
Montenegro and Serbia must act with greater determination and implement the rule of law reforms, which is the most important condition on their road to the EU. The dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina must contribute to creating a more stable environment. Tariffs imposed by Kosovo need to be changed," Hahn concluded.
Europarliamentarian Cristian Dan Preda spoke after Hahn, saying he was satisfied with the Commission's positive opinion on Bosnia and that he hopes that Bosnia will get the EU candidate status.
The Commission's positive opinion and recommendation are important for granting Bosnia the status of an EU candidate country.