The foreign ministers of Austria, Croatia and Slovenia are seeking to open accession negotiations with Bosnia this year in order to achieve geopolitical stability in the region.
The European Union officially classified Bosnia and Herzegovina as a candidate country in December. However, in order to begin accession negotiations, the country must meet the 14 criteria set by the European Commission.
Despite these requirements, the three countries seek to begin accession negotiations this year.
“The EU must open EU accession negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina by the end of this year,” the foreign ministers wrote in an opinion piece published by several Balkan media outlets and seen by Euractiv.
They also stressed that enlargement is “the most powerful tool for stabilizing the EU” and welcomed the European Commission’s “more geostrategic and less bureaucratic perspective” on EU enlargement.
Austria and Slovenia have been long-time supporters of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s accession to the European Union, and were among the first countries to call for the country to be given official candidate status.
However, one of the biggest obstacles to starting accession talks is Republika Srpska, one of the three constituent states of the federal state of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The situation in Republika Srpska was already one of the European Commission’s main concerns in its country report in 2022. The head of the Bosnian Serb government, Milorad Dodik, is openly calling for secession from Bosnia.
But since then, the situation has deteriorated significantly. Serbian leader Dodik even threatened to arrest UN-appointed High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina Christian Schmidt if he entered Republika Srpska.
In July, the European Commission also warned the troubled region to stop undermining the country’s constitutional order and threatened “serious consequences” if the situation continued. In October this year, the Commission will publish its 2023 country report outlining the progress Bosnia and Herzegovina has made in implementing EU priorities.
Austria, Slovenia and Croatia continue to push for a rapid start of negotiations, but have also stated that a new, more strategic approach will not lower expansion standards and that full implementation of reforms remains essential.
Earlier this month, Austria proposed introducing a “gradual integration” system into the European Union before officially joining the EU. This aims to link these countries more closely to the European Union and prevent Russia from destabilizing the region.
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