The EU and Bosnia and Herzegovina have established diplomatic relations. The EU is represented in the country by a Delegation of the European Union (see 'Our Role'). In the context of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the Council of the European Union has also mandated a European Union Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the European Union Force Althea. From 2003 – 2012, the Union mandated a Police Mission (EUPM).
In Thessaloniki in 2003, the Council of the European Union declared in relation to the Western Balkans: "The future of this region is in the European Union." Bosnia and Herzegovina has an EU membership perspective and it is in this context that relations between the Union and the country are developing.
For a short summary of relations between the EU and Bosnia and Herzegovina, see series 2 of these short audio-visual clips at: www.youtube.com/ovojeunija
Current status of relations
The signature of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA), on 16 June 2008 in Luxembourg, was the most important step on BiH's road to EU membership. During a transitional period, BiH will gradually approximate its legislation to the most important rules of the EU internal market. The approximation is facilitated and monitored by joint EU-BiH bodies established under institutional provisions of the SAA, particularly focusing on internal market and trade-related areas and establishing a regulatory framework for free movement of workers, provision of services and movement of capital with financial and technical assistance from the EU.
Pending the completion of the process for the SAA to enter into force, an Interim Agreement on trade and trade related matters has been applied since 1 July 2008. The Interim Agreement comprises provisions on trade liberalization, transport liberalization and the most important/essential aspects of the internal market (competition, state aid, intellectual and industrial property rights, and public procurement).
The most visible effect of the European integration process for the citizens of BiH was the introduction of a visa-free regime for holders of biometric passports on 15 December, 2010.
- BiH needs to make further major reform efforts in order to submit a credible application for membership of the EU.
- Receipt of the application would be followed by a detailed Questionnaire from the European Commission to which BiH shall respond.
- The next step is for the Commission to make a recommendation to the Council of the European Union (the 27 Member States) to grant candidate status to the country.
- A date for accession negotiations would be set.
- On completion of the negotiations, a process that lasts several years, a Treaty of Accession would be signed and ratified by the Member States and the European Parliament would give its assent.
- The country would then join the EU on a given date.
Financial assistance and trade relations
Between 2007 and 2013, Bosnia and Herzegovina is in line to benefit from €660 million from the Instrument for pre-accession assistance (IPA) which aims at providing targeted financial assistance to countries which are candidates and potential candidates for membership to the EU. In particular, IPA helps strengthen democratic institutions and the rule of law, reform public administration, carry out economic reforms, promote respect for human as well as minority rights and gender equality, support the development of civil society and advance regional co-operation, and contribute to sustainable development and poverty reduction. A second phase of IPA, to run from 2014 – 2020 is now under consideration.
The EU is the main trading partner of BiH. BiH has benefited from EU market access through the introduction of the so called Autonomous Trade measures since 2000. Following the entry into force of the Interim Agreement mentioned above, access of products from Bosnia and Herzegovina to the EU expanded and EU exports to the country have been granted trade preferences.
According to the Progress Report for 2012, the overall level of trade integration with the EU remained high. Total trade (the sum of the volume of exports and imports of goods and services) increased further to 93.2% of GDP in 2011, as compared with 84.2% in 2010. The EU continues to be the country's largest trading partner, with shares of 58% of total exports and 46.6% of total imports in the first eight months of 2012 (goods only). While the share of exports to the EU has increased somewhat, the share of imports from the EU has decreased slightly. The other main trading partners were CEFTA countries which account for 32.2% of exports and 25% of imports