Progress possible only if authorities show political will and co-operate on EU-related reforms, warn MEPs.

In a report adopted Thursday on the 2019.-2020 Commission reports on Bosnia and Herzegovina MEPs call on the European Council to continue to back the country’s European perspective, “including sending a positive political message on the granting of candidate status”.                                                                                                                       They recognise steps taken by the government of BiH to address some key aspects of the Commission’s report, recalling that the effective functioning of independent and accountable democratic institutions is a prerequisite for advancing in the EU integration process, including for progression towards obtaining candidate status.MEPs urge authorities, institutions, office holders and political leaders in the country to prioritise reforms in the areas of democratic functionality, the rule of law, fundamental rights and public administration. MEPs express strong support for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina. They condemn any moves to undermine the country’s statehood and constitutional values, recalling that the path towards EU membership depends on a sustainable peace, stability and meaningful reconciliation that underpins the democratic and multicultural character of Bosnia and Hezegovina.

Constitutional, electoral and judiciary reforms

MEPs stress that Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to address shortcomings in its constitutional framework, with reforms that would transform the country into a fully-functional and inclusive state. They call on the authorities to make progress, preferably ahead of the 2022 general elections, through an EU-supported inclusive dialogue facilitated- They reiterate the urgent need for judicial reforms and to strengthen the professionalism and accountability of the judiciary and call for immediate steps to tackle widespread corruption and impunity in the public sphere, in order to rebuild citizen’s trust in the institutions.                            The report also calls on the authorities to resume inclusive negotiations on the electoral reform, eliminating all forms of inequality and discrimination in the electoral process. It emphasises that agreement regarding Mostar elections, enabled the city’s citizens vote in 2020 local elections for the first time since 2008.

Migratory pressure and COVID-19 support

Concerned with increased migratory pressures that led to grave humanitarian conditions, MEPs call for a co-ordinated, strategic countrywide response, enabling improved border management and appropriate reception capacities across the country. They also want to see improved efforts against cross-border crime through enhanced strategic cooperation with neighbouring countries and the relevant EU agencies. The report calls on the EU to strengthen cooperation on the protection of those in need and engage with Bosnian authorities to develop a functioning and sustainable migration and asylum system, providing further operational, technical, logistical and financial assistance to the country.                    Finally, MEPs underline the importance of European solidarity and call on the EU to allocate a sufficient number of COVID-19 vaccines to Western Balkans countries in support of their vaccination efforts.

The rapporteur Paulo Rangel, (EPP, Portugal).said: “Bosnia and Herzegovina is at the heart of Europe and its diversity is at the core of European DNA. Further reforms are needed, building upon modest progress to date. We support an inclusive dialogue involving reforms that will allow BiH to advance on its European path and to obtain candidate status. This is only possible by affirming Bosnia and Hezegovina’s pluralistic nature while ensuring a functional democracy where all citizens are equal!“