On February 15, 2016, Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) submitted their application for membership in the European Union (EU). It seemed at the time that this could result in candidate status, especially given that neighboring countries such as Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, or Northern Macedonia were granted candidate status within two years of applying. However, almost six years after applying for membership, Bosnia and Herzegovina has not received candidate status, setting a record in the length of waiting for it.
In May 2019, the European Commission (EC) adopted Opinion on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s application for Membership of the European Union and pointed out that the said state will need to fundamentally improve its legislative and institutional framework to ensure it meets the fourteen priorities (including Rule of Law, Public Administration Reform, Fundamental Rights, and Democracy).
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Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country with a very complex system of government – entities, districts, ten cantons, a certain number of cities, and municipalities. Therefore, decision-making procedures are very slow and complex and require compromises, which ultimately results in the fact that out of all priorities set by the EU for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s membership after submitting the application, only one has been fully implemented, and a few have been partially met, and there are no indications of any activities to fulfill others.
At the same time, while the country’s path to the European Union appears to be completely blocked, the country is in its greatest crisis since the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement in 1995 which ended the bloody war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Decision-making by the state government is stopped, different types of blackmail are used by some of the politicians with separatist tendencies to achieve different political goals (especially when voting for certain laws such as The Election Law), and it seems that membership in the EU has never been less likely, as well as all the benefits that it brings for a country like this.
The possibility of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s membership in the European Union in the future will depend on how to resolve the current crisis now.
Meanwhile, the presence of the EU is paramount for peace and stability in the Western Balkans, as well as long-term prosperity. Brussels’ bureaucratic institutions are, paradoxically, welcome in an area without developed institutions and the rule of law.