Thursday, 1 December, 2022
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Brussels recommends Bosnia for EU candidate status

The European Commission on Wednesday said it was recommending that EU countries give Bosnia candidacy status to join the bloc.

"The Commission recommends that candidate status be granted to Bosnia and Herzegovina by the (European) Council on the understanding that a number of steps are taken," commissioner for enlargement Oliver Varhelyi tweeted after making the announcement to EU lawmakers.

If the EU, which currently comprises 27 member countries, adopts the recommendation, Bosnia would join seven other nations with candidate status: Turkey, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, Moldova and Ukraine.

The process to join the European Union can take many years as candidates implement reforms that have to be rigorously evaluated by Brussels. It can also grind to a halt, which is the case with Turkey's bid.

Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen told EU ambassadors: "Today we have proposed to grant candidate status to Bosnia and Herzegovina."

But she added: "Of course it is up to the candidate countries to reform their economies and their institutions and to advance towards our union."

The commission said Bosnia needed to make progress on "democracy, functionality of state institutions, rule of law, the fight against corruption and organised crime" as well as guaranteeing media freedom and migration management.

The commission will help all candidate countries in their accession bids, von der Leyen said, stating that "I think that is Europe's moment and it is up to us to seize that moment".

The "wind of change is once again blowing through Europe and we have to capture this momentum," she said. "The Western Balkans belong in our family and we have to make this very, very clear."

Brussels is concerned that other powers, such as China or Russia, might spread their influence into the Balkans if countries hopeful of joining the EU are thwarted.

Already, Serbia is maintaining cosy relations and energy links with Russia, while also keeping visa-free access for citizens of many countries that require visas for the European Union, some of whom try to enter the bloc.

In Bosnia's case, the country of three million people is burdened with ethnic divisions continuing since its devastating war three decades ago.

It remains partitioned between a Serb entity and a Muslim-Croat federation connected by a weak central government.

It has a dysfunctional administrative system created by the 1995 Dayton Agreement that succeeded in ending the conflict in the 1990s, but largely failed in providing a framework for the country's political development.