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EU green lights Bosnian accession talks

| 2024-03-23 2 min read

EU green lights Bosnian accession talks

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The EU approved the opening of accession negotiations of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), a candidate since 2022, on Thursday, 21 March 2024. BiH now faces a lengthy reform process to join the EU.

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola wrote: “Today’s decision to start accession negotiations is an important step in bringing the country closer to the EU. An enlarged EU means a stronger EU.”

Justice delayed over last two decades

BiH Council of Ministers Chairwoman Borjana Kristo on Thursday wrote: “Earlier this morning, I sent a letter to all EU council members expressing gratitude for everything we have achieved so far.”

Addressing proposed changes to BiH’s election laws, a major area of contention between BiH and the EU, Kristo added: “Now, it’s time to return to the core of fulfilling our obligations. I also notified them of a new Election Law proposal submitted to the Council of Ministers for consideration.”

Dodik’s separatism increasingly problematic

The EU has largely been seen as unduly delaying BiH’s accession process in recent years, which has been slowly losing momentum and popular support since the 2008 global financial crisis. 

The president of one of BiH’s two entities, the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska (RS) Milorad Dodik has been threatening to secede since his nationalistic election campaign in 2006.

Previously a moderate, Dodik has shifted further and further right ever since, exploiting the lack of action from the international community since BiH signed the 1995 Dayton Agreement after the Balkan Wars. This stasis has enabled Russia, China and Turkey to strengthen relations with ethnic groups in the Balkans, including BiH.

In 2016 Dodik organised an illegal referendum against a BiH Constitutional Court ruling. Last summer he escalated his separatist campaign, passing a series of laws through the RS National Assembly.

EU, US more engaged in Balkans since Ukraine War

The US responded by introducing travel and economic sanctions against Dodik and the RS. For its part, the EU has introduced a EUR 6bn growth package of loans and grants to Balkan countries and has also helped BiH’s state governments and ruling coalition to adopt reform laws.

President of the European Council Charles Michel tweeted: “The European Council has just decided to open accession negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina. Today’s decision is a key step forward on your EU path. Now the hard work needs to continue so Bosnia and Herzegovina steadily advances, as your people want,” Michel added.

Elvira Habota, BiH’s European integration chief, said the decision “carries with it a wave of optimism for citizens, institutions, authorities and the whole Bosnian society”.