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EP Resolution on BiH: MEPs concerned by slow progress in EU-related reforms

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STRASBOURG, February 13 (FENA) - The European Parliament in today’s session in Strasbourg adopted the Resolution on European Integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina, expressing concern over the dramatic slowdown in the reform process, due to "disagreement between the political parties and a very polarized election campaign that started very early".

468 members voted for the resolution, 123 opposed and 83 abstained.

Before the vote, a debate was held on Tuesday afternoon in the European Parliament on the text of the Draft Resolution.

In this regard, representatives of the three European institutions: the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Council warned that the reforms have been seriously slowed down and called for the establishment of governments at all levels in the country as soon as possible.

The author of the Resolution, an MP and Rapporteur for the European Parliament for BiH Dan Preda stressed that at the beginning of his term in 2014, he expected that during his mandate, BiH would receive the candidate status.

“Demons from the past reemerged again, along with political divisions and polarization along ethnic lines,” Preda said, adding that the progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina is possible only if political elites "give up political games and stop instigating hatred for their own gain".

MEPs have called on the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to proceed with constitutional, political and electoral reforms, to advance the EU integration process.

In a report assessing the latest progress made by Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) on the country’s road towards possible EU accession, the European Parliament notes that, since mid-2017, there was a noticeable slowdown in the adoption of EU-related reforms, despite the country’s commitment to the Reform Agenda.

MEPs also remain concerned by the widespread corruption in BiH, which was shown by the general elections held on 7 October last year, and the preceding electoral campaign, that was once again dominated by ethno-nationalistic rhetoric and too focused on divisive issues linked to the past, rather than on proposing solutions to the daily concerns of BiH citizens

They also firmly stress the need for a rapid formation of the BiH’s Federation House of Peoples, in line with the rulings by the country’s constitutional court, while underlining that functioning democratic institutions, including the parliament, are a prerequisite for advancing the EU integration process.

The European Parliament also reiterates the need for BiH to proceed with constitutional, political and electoral reforms to transform the country into a fully effective, inclusive and functional state based on the rule of law;

Demands a definite push by BiH delegates to finally agree on the rules of procedure for the EU-BiH Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee (SAPC), which has previously been impossible due to attempts to introduce ethnic blocking in the SAPC’s voting rules;

Takes note of the Central Election Commission (CEC) decision on allocation of seats in the Federation House of Peoples, adopted on 18 December 2018 and calls on all political actors to address the remaining legal gaps in the BiH Elections Law in a systematic way;

Remains concerned by the widespread corruption in BiH, and the persistent gap between the declared political will to fight it and the lack of concrete results;

Reminds all political leaders and institutions in BiH that they have a responsibility to assess war-time events objectively, and deplores any kind of glorification of persons convicted of crimes against humanity;

Regrets the lack of progress on freedom of expression and media independence, while emphasizing that producing and broadcasting TV and radio content in all official languages of BiH would contribute to protecting the country’s cultural diversity;

The European Parliament Acknowledges that although the country is still at an early stage of establishing a functioning market economy, there has been some progress made by BiH regarding economic development and competitiveness.

The MEPs finally highlight that BiH’s EU membership application represents a strategic choice and a commitment, to advancing towards the EU. The report was adopted by 468 votes in favour, 123 against, with 83 abstentions.

The EP rapporteur Cristian Dan Preda (EPP, RO) said “The European Parliament remains a strong supporter of BiH's European integration. But we are worried by the marked slowdown in the pace of reforms and the general political situation following the elections of 7th of October 2018. Authorities at all levels must swiftly be formed, so that work can restart on a set of new EU-oriented reforms, both economic but also political reforms. If BiH wants to obtain candidate country status soon, it needs to show not only commitment to the EU path, but also concrete results. ”

Bosnia and Herzegovina is the only Western Balkan country on which EP has not adopted this document, which builds upon Commission’s annual reports on the candidate countries, released in April 2018.

European Parliament’s Resolutions on Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia were adopted in late November 2018.

In his interview for the European Western Balkans portal in December, Rapporteur for Bosnia and Herzegovina Cristian Dan Preda, stated that the postponement in the case of this country is due to the lack of signals that it wants to cooperate with the European institutions, namely by not forming the Joint Stabilization and Association Parliamentary Committee.

During the debate, MEPs called on the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to proceed with constitutional, political and electoral reforms, to advance the EU integration process.

In a report assessing the latest progress made by Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) on the country’s road towards possible EU accession, the European Parliament notes that, since mid-2017, there was a noticeable slowdown in the adoption of EU-related reforms, despite the country’s commitment to the Reform Agenda, Parliament’s press release reads.

MEPs also remain concerned by the widespread corruption in BiH, which was shown by the general elections held on 7 October last year, and the preceding electoral campaign, that was once again dominated by ethno-nationalistic rhetoric and too focused on divisive issues linked to the past, rather than on proposing solutions to the daily concerns of BiH citizens.

They also firmly stress the need for a rapid formation of the Federation of BiH Parliament’s House of Peoples, in line with the rulings by the country’s constitutional court, while underlining that functioning democratic institutions, including the parliament, are a prerequisite for advancing the EU integration process.

“The European Parliament remains a strong supporter of BiH’s European integration. But we are worried by the marked slowdown in the pace of reforms and the general political situation following the elections of 7th of October 2018”, stated Rapporteur Preda.

He added that the authorities at all levels must swiftly be formed, so that the work can restart on a set of new EU-oriented reforms, both economic but also political reforms. “If BiH wants to obtain candidate country status soon, it needs to show not only commitment to the EU path, but also concrete results,” Preda concluded for EWB.

(FENA) S.R.