Bosnia to meet EU conditions by end of year to open accession talks, says Council of Ministers chairwoman
Bosnia and Herzegovina intends to fulfil the conditions set by the EU Commission to open accession negotiations before the end of the year, the chairwoman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Borjana Krišto, told Euractiv exclusive interview.
EU accession is one of the key issues in Bosnia and Herzegovina on which there is a consensus of all three major ethnic groups (Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs) and citizens, as well as both entities that make up Bosnia and Herzegovina (Croat-Bosniak Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska).
“The positive report gives us a strong incentive to continue working harder, faster, and better to fulfil the remaining criteria to finally get the final date for the opening of negotiations. I am convinced we will fulfil all the remaining conditions by the end of this year. Above all, we in Bosnia and Herzegovina need that for our own sake,” Krišto told Euractiv.
In an interview after the EU Commission, in its report on the candidates’ progress, gave Bosnia and Herzegovina a conditional green light for the start of negotiations, Krišto, who holds the position of Prime Minister of Bosna and Herzegovina, although that position, by the Dayton Peace Agreement of 1995, is called the chairperson of the Council of Ministers, said that Sarajevo is satisfied that “Brussels recognised the effort and will of political subjects in Bosnia and Herzegovina to speed up the European path”.
In response to the question of how realistic the chances are that Bosnia and Herzegovina will meet the conditions required by the EU in a short period, Krišto said that “the chances are real”.
“Now we just need a little extra political courage and will to finally finalise these reforms,” emphasised Krišto.
Several pro-EU laws in Bosnia and Herzegovina have been “on hold” in recent months since they are blocked by political representatives of one of the three constituent nations, using the right of veto granted to them by the Dayton Peace Agreement from 1995.
These laws are already at a high stage of harmonisation, but due to the complex procedure of adopting laws in Bosnia and Herzegovina and disagreements over details, such as whether the headquarters of the appeals department of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina is going to be in East Sarajevo or Banja Luka – both towns located in Republika Srpska, the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot vote on them.
However, Krišto believes that in Bosnia and Herzegovina, there is a strong will to join the EU and thus adopt the necessary laws.
In an interview with Euractiv, she mentioned the implementation of the electoral reform as a priority step that they intend to adopt in Sarajevo to ensure the equality of all three constituent peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the state institutions, as well as the implementation of the decisions of the Constitutional Court of BiH and the European Court of Human Rights.
Also, she added that a set of European laws is already in procedure, and she expects that the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina will adopt them in the next month. Those are the laws on courts, then about the prevention of conflicts of interest and the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities, as well as about the law on the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of BiH.
“Now the primary focus must be precisely on the adoption of these laws, but also on the adoption of the budget of institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina for 2024, the appointment of the state coordinator for IPA III and others,” emphasised Krišto.
In response to our question, to what extent did Bosnia and Herzegovina receive a conditional green light for opening negotiations due to its efforts, and to what extent was it the result of lobbying by Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, and Italy, which Euractiv wrote about, Krišto says that the Council of Ministers is working on the entry of Bosnia and Herzegovina into the EU.
“Many reform processes that we have already discussed need to go faster, but we are also working on that, and it is undeniable that we are on the right track. Likewise, the continuous support of our European friends is, quite clearly, of great importance. We are extremely grateful to them for that. Not long after presenting the official report, I sent everyone a personal letter of thanks. I will still have to single out the Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković in a special way”, said Krišto.
Krišto is the first woman to head the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina. She was appointed to that position after the 2022 elections. She is a member of HDZ BiH, a party that forms part of the ruling coalition at the state level. The focus of her work is the accession of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the EU.
At the end of last year, Bosnia and Herzegovina received the status of an EU candidate country. Despite numerous disagreements on the political scene in that country, Krišto believes that the ruling coalition at the state level has the strength to implement the reforms that are a condition for opening negotiations and entering the EU.
“I am convinced, as the European Commission’s report on Bosnia and Herzegovina for 2023 showed, that the ruling coalition has the capacity to continue implementing the reforms that have been started successfully. Certainly, there are a lot of unresolved domestic political issues… We must discuss all open issues, seek a compromise, and move forward,” she said.
“I constantly call on all political actors in Bosnia and Herzegovina to concentrate our discussions on the future and reforms, not on the past and divisions. Together, we must urgently proceed with the implementation of the remaining European reforms by the end of this year, especially the electoral reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is emerging as one of the key issues in the reform process of our country”, said Krišto.
She emphasised that Sarajevo continues to harmonise the visa regime with that of the EU and that the visa regime of BiH is already almost completely harmonised.
She also said that the Council of Ministers should soon find an agreement on cooperation with Frontex.