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news 28 Feb 17

Political Quarrels Again Block Bosnia’s EU Path

The preparation of an answer to the EU questionnaire - crucial for country's integration process - has revealed familiar divisions in Bosnia between the Serb-led entity and the rest of the country.

Srecko Latal, Danijel Kovacevic
BIRN
Sarajevo, Banja Luka
The latest blockade will almost certainly affect the EU's decision on granting Bosnia candidate country status. Photo: Pixabay.

Bosnia's path to EU is blocked once again as Bosnian Serb officials refuse to cooperate in the preparation of joint answers to the EU questionnaire, the key document that is to guide the country's future integration process.

“The reform agenda is blocked,” Zeljka Cvijanovic, Prime Minister of Bosnia's Serb-dominated entity, Republika Srpska, said in her address to the RS assembly on Monday.

“They lie to you when they say there is a movement towards EU. There is no such thing,” Cvijanovic added.

“The way how things look now, there is little chance that Bosnia can get the EU candidate status in 2017,” a Western diplomat told BIRN on Monday, noting this show of disunity.

It is another blow to the EU, which now hopes that High Commissioner Federica Mogherini - who is visiting Bosnia and other Balkan countries between March 1 and 4 – will somehow resolve this and other accumulated problems, the same diplomat added.

Local officials confirmed that Republika Srpska has been boycotting the preparation of a joint answer to more than 9,000 questions in the EU questionnaire.

All other relevant administrative levels - including the ten cantons of the Federation entity, the Federation itself, as well as the state and Brcko District - have been closely involved in this process since Bosnia received the questionnaire on December 9, 2016.

The questionnaire is an official document that the European Union uses to evaluate the readiness of a country that has submitted an application for membership before it open negotiations on accession.

The submitted answers are used by the European Commission to develop an “Opinion” on the application for EU membership and to guide the future integration process.

Cvijanovic on Monday said that that the RS government had already finished preparing its own answers to the questionnaire, but had refused to allow those answers to be merged with the answers of other administrative levels.

She said the mechanism for coordination of EU integration process among Bosnia's different administrative levels - agreed last year - had never been fully implemented and had not become operational.

Because of this, the RS did not want its answers to be edited, shortened or deleted by institutions that are outside the agreed mechanism, Cvijanovic said.

This statement seemed to taking aim at the Directorate for European Integration, the body in charge of most technical parts of the EU integration process, including the preparation of a unified answer to the questionnaire for all other administrative levels.

This latest blockade will almost certainly affect the EU's decision on granting Bosnia candidate country status, which some local officials optimistically said would happen by the end of 2017.

So far, the EU has mostly tried to ignore Bosnia’s internal political battles and has pushed for formalization of Bosnia's agreement on the coordination of the EU accession process.

However, many ambiguities as well as conflicting views and positions of different local political actors remain unresolved.

As a result, the mechanism for coordination of the EU accession process, which was formally agreed in August last year, remains mostly a dead letter.

Local leaders have barely moved forward to establish the bodies, mechanisms and procedures required by this agreement.

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