Delegation of the European Union to Kazakhstan

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the press conference after the Stabilisation and Association Council

Brussels, 13/07/2021 - 17:14, UNIQUE ID: 210713_19
Remarks

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Good afternoon,

This was the 4th Stabilisation and Association Council with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

We took stock of the implementation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement and discussed the way forward on reforms, for governance to become more effective, the rule of law to be enhanced and the economic potential of the country finally unlocked.

We have reviewed progress on the 14 key priorities, including the sensitive, but necessary constitutional and electoral reforms.

There has also been some momentum and steps taken since last year.

In particular, the holding of the elections in Mostar, which proved that Bosnia and Herzegovina can advance on difficult reforms when there is the political will.

However, most substantial issues remain pending and the progress in reforms has been limited.

Today, we encouraged the political leadership to step up the necessary efforts during the remaining months of this non-election year.

They have a duty to move the country towards the European Union integration path, in line with the aspirations of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s citizens. This requires the commitment of all sides for a constructive political dialogue.

We discussed in particular the need for an inclusive process of electoral reform. It would eliminate all forms of inequality and discrimination, including at constitutional level where necessary.

The European Commission is ready to deliver, including on candidate status, provided that Bosnia and Herzegovina also delivers with concrete results on fulfilling the key priorities.

I expect Bosnia and Herzegovina to make the most of the months ahead to demonstrate that it takes the European Union integration seriously.

This includes adopting important rule of law and judicial reforms and launching a debate on constitutional and electoral reforms to comply with the requirements of EU membership.

This means full compliance with the European Court for Human Rights rulings and ensuring equal representation in the country for all.

It also means ensuring the functionality of state institutions, so that they are able to, eventually, participate effectively in the European Union decision-making and to enforce the European Union acquis.

Just two days ago, it was the anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide. 26 years later, this day still reminds us of the need for reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also in the whole region, in order to move forward.

Srebrenica is an internationally recognised genocide. It is one of the darkest spots in the modern European history and on the collective conscience of those who participated in it and those who did not prevent it.

Let me be clear, attempts to revise history, to deny genocide and war crimes or glorification of war criminals have no place in Europe, they must stop and, certainly, will not be tolerated.

Today, we agreed on the need for all political actors in Bosnia and Herzegovina to overcome divisive and secessionist rhetoric rooted in the past, to end the glorification of convicted war criminals and demonstrate full cooperation with international tribunals by respecting their decisions.

I also encouraged Bosnia and Herzegovina to step up its alignment with Common Foreign and Security Policy decisions and declarations.

Being in charge of building this Common Foreign and Security Policy, I consider very much important the alignment of Bosnia and Herzegovina with this very much important part of our common European Union behaviour.

I have to regret that the rate of alignment has dropped in the first months of this year and this is, certainly, not in line with the aspirations to become a European Union candidate country.

Finally, the Stabilisation and Association Council also reiterated European Union’s unequivocal commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina's European Union perspective as a single, united and sovereign country, and our commitment to remain firmly by its side as it moves towards the European Union path.

The focus should now be on much-needed reforms to recover from the pandemic and take the path towards Europe.

And we will support rebuilding the economy in this coming period, through the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans to upgrade infrastructure, support business and accelerate the green and digital transformation.

This is our common purpose and we will invest in it together.

Thank you.

Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-209331

Q&A

Q. What do you think of the conditions that are set for Bosnia and Herzegovina and the fact that they were not set for other countries in the past?

Well, it is clear that there is nothing new on that. We have not invented any new conditions. There are 14 clear key priorities that have been fixed before the next steps can take place. You should know them. There is nothing new. No new conditions.

Q. You just mentioned that all 14 conditions are required for a candidacy status but do you have any of them that are more important than others? We know that the electoral reform is very important here at this moment in Bosnia and Herzegovina and that your team is working with our politicians here. Are you going to play an even bigger role in the future?

Well, I think I already talked about it. I think that the 14 priorities have to be fulfilled and I stressed the importance of the rule of law and judicial reforms, launching a debate on constitutional and electoral reforms. This is very much important to comply with the requirements of the European Union membership. This constitutional reform is a process that has to be locally owned, has to be inclusive, transparent, I know that this is not an easy task but this is one of the important points among the 14 priorities. It is not the only one. But all of them have to be fulfilled in order to become a candidate.

[Still on the first question…] I would like just to add, in order to clarify everything and not to allow any misunderstanding. Bosnia and Herzegovina has exactly the same conditions for membership or to be considered as a candidate than any other country. We are not asking Bosnia and Herzegovina more than what has been asked in previous candidate [status] processes.

Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-209333