The commitment of BiH authorities at all levels to the strategic goal of European integration "has not been turned into concrete action, as political leaders continued to engage in divisive rhetoric and unconstructive political disputes," the European Commission (EC) said in its annual report on BiH’s progress towards membership.
The European Commission adopted on Tuesday its 2021 Enlargement Package with an assessment of the progress made by the Western Balkans and Turkey on their paths towards the EU, “with a particular focus on implementing fundamental reforms, as well as clear guidance on the reform priorities ahead.”
As for Bosnia and Herzegovina, the EC’s report says the country “needs to deliver on a critical mass of reforms towards fulfilling the 14 key priorities before the Commission may consider recommending the country for candidate status.”
“The political environment remained polarised in the reporting period,” it said, noting that there were repeated calls from the political leadership in Bosnia’s Republika Srpska (RS) entity to roll back reforms and block State-level institutions.
Meanwhile, in the other semi-autonomous entity, the Federation (FBiH), there is still a caretaker government in place, three years after the October 2018 elections.
“Polarisation between the different levels of government also hampered the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including in terms of procurement of vaccines,” it said.
“Bosnia and Herzegovina has taken some significant step on the 14 key priorities, but most substantive issues remain outstanding,” it said, noting that the first local elections since 2008 finally took place in Mostar in December 2020.
However, an action plan on the key priorities “remains pending with the Council of Ministers due to political disagreements on the distribution of competencies,” the report said, adding that the 2021 State budget has also not yet been adopted.
“The public political commitment of the authorities at all levels of government to the strategic goal of European integration has not been turned into concrete action, as political leaders continued to engage in divisive rhetoric and unconstructive political disputes, which have hindered progress on the 14 key priorities so far,” it said.
Bosnia and Herzegovina “made no progress” in its judicial reforms and is lagging behind on the issue, and “in the absence of any meaningful actions, the overall integrity of the sector continued to deteriorate,” the report said.
The country also made no progress to tackle widespread corruption and signs of “political capture,” it said, adding that the legislative and institutional frameworks remain “inadequate and too fragmented.”
The country also lags behind on fighting organised crime and its contact point for cooperation with Europol is not yet operational, it said.
According to the report, Bosnia and Herzegovina would benefit from “a more strategic approach to counter-terrorism,” as the country’s strategy in this area has expired and “a new follow-up strategy for 2021-2025 that aligns with EU policy, especially on preventing and countering violent extremism should be adopted and implemented.”