(BENCHER) 2016 Bosnia and Herzegovina country analysis: One step forward, two steps back

2016 marked waking up from an almost decade long slumber in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s path to the European Union. With the new EU approach from December 2014,1 the focus was shifted to addressing urgent socio-economic reforms. In 2015, BiH returned to the road of reforms, leading to the submission of Application for EU membership in February 2016 and the Stabilization and Association Agreement coming into force. At the same time, BiH continues to be in violation of the provisions of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms for failing to implement the decision on Sejdić-Finci and Zornić v. BiH cases. While many skeptics saw the submission of Application as a declarative move, not supported by clear intentions for essential reforms, others saw this move as a positive step and a driving force for implementation of reforms and moving ahead with democratic, political, economic and social changes in BiH. In order for the application to be considered as credible, BiH needed to undertake several crucial steps. The most important of which was enabling the country to speak with “one voice” with the EU (adoption of coordination mechanism on EU matters). And while the mechanism was formally adopted and authorities praised for their efforts, the functioning is still troublesome due to constant inability of different political corners to reach consensus. The second priority was the adaptation of the Protocol to the SAA after Croatia became EU member initialed in July 2016. Third condition BiH faced was continuation with urgent socio-economic reforms presented in the form of Reform Agenda,6 the most comprehensive medium-term reform package aimed at tackling troubling socio-economic situation and advancing the judicial and public administration reforms. BiH submitted its application to the EU Council in the same month when a referendum was held in the Republika Srpska following the decision
by BiH Constitution.

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