15 Feb. — Bosnia and Herzegovina officially submitted an application for membership in the European Union. In answer to the question of how far this step corresponds to the country’s actual situation, European officials and politicians preferred to speak of its significance for the future.
Consideration of Bosnia as a candidate for membership in the European Union began in 2003, only eight years its civil war came to an end. In the following years, the two sides signed several integrating documents, including agreements on a visa regime, trade and association. Negotiations specifically about accession were initiated in 2012.
The submission of the official application was the culmination of a process lasting many years. In a joint statement, EU High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini and the EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn remarked that the country was engulfed in chaos twenty years ago. In their opinion, the present occasion is a “step towards a united and peaceful continent.”
Nevertheless, many have expressed their reservations about whether Bosnia is truly ready to join the EU. Even members of the European Council press service asked the commissioners about the “credibility” of their statement. “Reforms are much delayed,” former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt tweeted. British eurosceptics from the ruling Conservative Party and UKIP immediately began to present the news as evidence that the EU is becoming decreasingly stable.
Even in Bosnia and Herzegovina there were those who, sharing in the general happiness, noted the deficiencies. For example, Republika Srpska Prime Minister Željka Cvijanović stated that despite the positive nature of the act itself, i.e. of initiating the formal procedure, there is nothing else to it. According to her, neither reforms nor an assessment of the consequences for the national market were conducted in a thorough and complete fashion.
However, nearly everyone understands that the start of the official consideration of the application is just an overture. The possibility of membership has been used by Brussels from the beginning as a way to motivate national politicians to keep working together constructively and gradually implement reforms. “It’s the beginning of a long journey,” said Johannes Hahn in an interview with the European Council press-service before the ceremony. “Its desire for membership is a force for peace there,” wrote British politician and Labourite Chris Bryant.