EU integration of Bosnia – 2016 Report

European Commission’s 2016 enlargement package. – Key findings of the 2016 Report on Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Political criteria

The electoral legislation was improved, with a number of OSCE-ODIHR recommendations being followed and local elections organised broadly in an orderly manner, despite incidents in some municipalities which need to be investigated. Despite efforts to resolve the Mostar issue, elections could not take place there this year. The Bosnia and Herzegovina Parliamentary Assembly and the entities‘ parliaments made progress towards adopting outstanding reform priorities, in particular those stemming from the Reform Agenda. Cooperation between state-level, entity-level and Brčko district parliaments has improved. However their role and capacities in the EU integration process need to be further improved. Cooperation between the BiH Council of Ministers and the entities‘ governments was effective as regards the Reform Agenda, the implementation of which needs to continue. The coordination mechanism on EU matters was adopted by the Council of Ministers in August. A strategic programme for the country’s legal approximation with the EU acquis has yet to be adopted.

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s constitution remains in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, as per the ruling in the Sejdić-Finci case. Constitutional Court decisions have yet to be fully enforced throughout the country.

While some progress has been made in establishing institutional mechanisms for cooperation between governments and civil society organisations (CSOs), a strategic framework for cooperation with civil society needs to be developed.

„Bosnia and Herzegovina has delivered on the priorities of its reform agenda – that is why the Council tasked the Commission to prepare an opinion on BiH’s membership application. My services are working on the next step, the so-called questionnaire. A positive outcome will depend on progress with tackling socio-economic reforms, strengthening the rule of law and public administration and the implementation of the adopted coordination mechanism.“

Johannes Hahn, EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations

Bosnia and Herzegovina is at an early stage with the reform of its public administration. Backsliding has been recorded with the changes to the Federation entity’s legal framework for the civil service, increasing the risk of politicisation. A harmonised approach to policy development and coordination between different parts of the administration is still largely lacking. The adoption of a new strategic framework for public administration, as well as a strategy on public financial management are needed.

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s justice system has some level of preparation. Some progress was made on accountability and integrity. The action plan needed to implement the 2014-2018 justice sector reform strategy has yet to be adopted. Politically motivated threats on the judiciary by some politicians in the country continued. Judicial independence remains to be strengthened.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has some level of preparation in the fight against corruption. Some progress was made with the adoption of action plans at various levels of governance but their fragmentation makes implementation less effective. Corruption remains prevalent in many areas and continues to be a serious problem. The declared political commitment on this subject did not translate into concrete results.
Regarding the fight against organised crime, Bosnia and Herzegovina has some level of preparation. Some progress was made notably to improve inter-agency cooperation. However, financial investigations need to be stepped up. Fighting organised crime remains fundamental to countering criminal infiltration of the political, legal and economic system of the country. Bosnia and Herzegovina still needs to meet international standards on anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism. Bosnian and Herzegovina has been seriously affected by the phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters and radicalisation. Bosnia and Herzegovina has already taken important measures to deal with this problem which needs to be complemented by further steps to identify, prevent and disrupt the flow of foreign terrorist fighters travelling to conflict areas such as Iraq and Syria.

More work is required addressing human rights and minorities‘ issues. Some progress was achieved in particular with the adoption of amendments to the anti‑discrimination law. The strategic, legal, institutional and policy frameworks for the observance of human rights remain in overall need of substantial improvement.

There is some level of preparation on freedom of expression. However, no progress was made in this area. Cases of political pressure and intimidation against journalists need adequate legal follow up. The financial stability of the public broadcasting system remains to be addressed, as well as the issue of the lack of transparency of media ownership.

With regard to regional cooperation, the country continued to participate actively in regional initiatives. Bosnia and Herzegovina took over the chairmanship of the Central European Initiative in January.

Economic criteria

Bosnia and Herzegovina is still at an early stage in developing a functioning market economy. Some progress has been made in modernising the labour legislation, improving the business environment and addressing weaknesses in the financial sector in the framework of the agreed Reform Agenda. However, the public sector is inefficient and private sector development is slow. Strong and continuing political support for the swift implementation of much-needed structural reforms, in line with the agreed Reform Agenda, will be key.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is at an early stage in building the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union. There was no progress in improving the country’s competitiveness, but implementation of Reform Agenda measures is ongoing.

EU legislation

Regarding approximation with European standards, there is some level of preparation in the fields of public procurement and internal market. The country achieved some level of preparation in the transport area; the adoption of a Framework Transport Strategy at State-level in July is a step forward towards the country benefitting from the connectivity agenda. Country-wide strategies in the areas of agriculture, energy and environment are yet to be adopted. Further sustained efforts are also needed as regards justice, freedom and security matters, the competition area, industry and SMEs, agriculture, environment and climate change policies, energy, and information society and media. The results of the population and housing census conducted in October 2013 were published on 30 June 2016, in line with international standards and recommendations.

Key dates

1999: The EU proposes the new Stabilisation and Association Process for countries of Southeast Europe
June 2000: The European Council states that all the Stabilisation and Association countries are potential candidates for EU membership.
June 2003: Thessaloniki Summit; the EU perspective for the Western Balkans is confirmed
June 2008: Signature of the SAA and Interim Agreement on trade and trade-related issues
December 2010: Visa-free travel to Schengen area for citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina
June 2011: Launch of Structured Dialogue on Justice with the aim of further consolidating the judicial system in B&H
September 2011: Reinforcement of EU’s role in B&H following the decoupling of EU Special Representative’s mandate from the Office of the High Representative
June 2012: Launch of High Level Dialogue on the Accession Process to address EU accession requirements
June 2015: Entry into force of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement
February 2016: Bosnia and Herzegovina submits its application for EU membership
September 2016: EU Council invites the European Commission to present an Opinion on the merits of the Bosnia and Herzegovina’s EU membership application

More information: Bosnia and Herzegovina Report