Strasbourg, 12 February 2019
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President, Honourable members,
I would like to thank the Rapporteur, Mr Cristian Preda, for the resolution on Bosnia and Herzegovina. We welcome the text which is balanced and largely in line with the Commission’s April 2018 report on Bosnia and Herzegovina. It reflects well the situation in the country, including the challenges and outstanding issues on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s EU integration path.
I welcome the support this resolution provides to the EU approach towards Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is particularly essential at a critical moment of time for the country and its newly elected leaders. A time when the commitments taken before the elections need to be translated into reforms; a time when governments need to be formed across the country; and a time when the divisive rhetoric of the campaigning stress the need for reconciliation, unity and consensus building around the country’s objective, EU integration.
This was the main message to the Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Presidency members whom President Tusk, President Juncker, High Representative Mogherini and myself had the opportunity to meet, two weeks ago in Brussels. This was their first joint trip abroad as newly elected Presidency members, a token of their commitment to advance towards the EU in line with what the citizens of their country demand. And this in the beginning of a critical year for Bosnia and Herzegovina during which we would like to see irreversible progress towards the European Union.
At the same time, we particularly stressed to Presidency members that comprehensive reforms, as done by other countries at similar stages in the process, are required. This is not only about providing answers to our questions stemming from the Opinion Questionnaire but delivering on rule of law, fundamental rights, electoral reform, public administration, good governance as well as further harmonisation with the EU rules and norms. The capacity of the newly elected leaders to deliver will be the yardstick upon which the EU will assess Bosnia and Herzegovina’s readiness to further advance towards the EU.
In this respect, the Commission is fully dedicated to advancing Bosnia and Herzegovina’s EU perspective:
Our upcoming Opinion on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s application for EU membership will provide for the first time a comprehensive roadmap of reforms for the country to carry out, for the first time against the entire obligations EU member states have.
We are stepping up our technical assistance in the country with dedicated field support in the key areas of rule of law and fundamental rights, including the monitoring of a number of high profile cases.
The Commission has also now doubled the financial assistance envelope towards Bosnia and Herzegovina – EUR 80 million per year in grants for the period 2017-2020 – to support the country implementing a number of countrywide strategies such as on energy, environment or rural development. And this in addition to the support provided as part of the regional envelope notably on connectivity agenda projects.
To conclude, I would like to stress that the Commission will continue to support Bosnia and Herzegovina as we believe that the future of this country lies in the EU. At the same time, there are outstanding challenges which need to be seriously addressed, requiring substantial efforts from the country’s elected leaders. We – the EU Institutions – can help and provide guidance but it is only they who can deliver on their citizens’ aspirations. In this respect, I will visit Sarajevo at the end of March to take stock of the progress towards forming governments and resuming with the necessary reforms.
Thank you for your attention.