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Press Statement of the Initiative for Monitoring the European Integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina: “We welcome the decision to open negotiations between B&H and the EU – it’s time for a substantial step forward in fulfilling reforms on the path to B&H’s EU membership”

Sofija Tovarović

The Initiative for Monitoring the EU Integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as the only coalition of non-governmental organizations in the country that has been monitoring the integration process, welcomes the decision to open negotiations between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the European Union. After the formal opening of negotiations, it is time for B&H institutions to return to serious work in fulfilling the needed obligations. This is just the first step in the long process of aligning with EU standards, and it requires the engagement of all available capacities that this country has. In order for B&H to make a real step in this regard, it is necessary to implement all reforms and engage in a participatory process of integration into the EU community.

Annual reports from the Initiative, along with several domestic and international analyses, have shown that the authorities in B&H have not taken a systematic approach to fulfilling the conditions, and some of the reform laws have been merely “cosmetic changes,” often adopted in urgent procedures without serious involvement of civil society and expert public. The country still faces the following challenges:

–           Lack of progress in implementing reforms: despite the decision to open negotiations, we continue to experience minimal progress in implementing key reforms necessary for membership. B&H still needs to adopt a range of reforms, including the law on prevention of conflict of interest, creating conditions for the functioning of the coordination mechanism, and preparing and adopting national programme for  the adoption  of the EU acquis;

–           Strong international pressure and geopolitical circumstances as a basis for approaching full integration with the EU: members of the Initiative demand clearer communication from decision-makers about the significance of geopolitical circumstances that have arisen after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, and the impact of these changes on decision to open negotiations with B&H. Additionally, the influence of international mediators, as well as the presence of the European Union experts in B&H, played a primary role in opening negotiations after adopting part of the reforms;

–           The process of adopting laws was marked by a lack of transparency through the implementation of emergency procedures without adequate consultations with the civil society and the public: we expect processes to be more transparent and that trust in the institutions of our country will be restored through the European integration process.

Considering the challenges mentioned above, the decision to open negotiations represents an opportunity to return decision-making processes to institutions, with a more significant role for experts and civil society, aiming to ensure the best benefits for the citizens of B&H.

The Initiative for Monitoring EU Integration calls on decision-makers to take responsibility for implementing reforms and ensure the involvement of civil society and citizens in decision-making processes. Additionally, members of the Initiative remind decision-makers that only after adopting and implementing reforms will the screening process follow (analysis of the country candidate’s legislation compliance with the EU regulations), providing Bosnia and Herzegovina with a clear picture of its perspective and approach to the European Union.

The Initiative for Monitoring the European Integration will continue to monitor the next steps and will insist on the quality of legal solutions that will create a more democratic and functional system.