Can BiH obtain EU candidate status by October? Doubtful

Bosnia and Herzegovina will hold general election this fall. It seems clear that the country won't reach EU candidate status by the end of term. However, this doesn't prevent local politicians from repeating unrealistic promises.

Tijana Cvjeticanin
Tijana Cvjeticanin Istinomjer, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Source: Istinomjer
Can BiH obtain EU candidate status by October? Doubtful - NewsMavens
EC. Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

Consensus is a rare phenomenon in Bosnian politics. The irreconcilable differences between political parties interfere in all aspects of public life -- from minor issues to crucial debates on the direction the country should take.

Joining the European Union is one of the very few exceptions to this rule. There is at least a declarative agreement between all major parties that this is the future they want for the country. It's arguably neither genuine nor sincere, but, officially, everyone is on board.

Hence, for more than a decade, the EU candidacy status has been a standard bargaining chip in the pre-election campaign. In the current term, these promises seemed to be less unrealistic then before -- not because the local actors demonstrated a stronger commitment to meet the EU's conditions, but because the EU did whatever it could to overlook the lack thereof.

However, as the end of the term approaches, it becomes more and more obvious that there is simply not enough time to get the job done, even if the burreaucratic process goes smoothly. And it usually doesn't. 

Details from the story:

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina received the European Commission`s questionnaire in December 2016. The longest it took the neighboring countries to answer it was five months. We still haven't delivered our answers.
  • Even if the answers are sent by the end of January, several lengthy steps remain to be taken before the candidacy status is granted. For starters, before making the final assessment, the Commission usually sends additional questions after it reviews the questionnaire.  
  • Another necessary step, largely overlooked, is the adoption of the National Program for Integration -- a comprehensive framework to adjust the country's laws and regulations to the EU law, commonly referred to as acquis. 
  • In Croatia, which had its national program prepared before replying to the EC questions, it took a whole year to implement it once it was adopted. Overall, the country had to adopt or amend 38 laws, 163 legal acts and 37 implementation measures.
  • The current Chairman of the Council of Ministers of BiH, Denis Zvizdić, announced that the national program for adjusting the legislation to that of the EU will be drafted "quickly". This was in 2015.
  • Unlike Croatia, Bosnia has five administrative levels -- the state, two entities, ten cantons, one district and 143 local self-governments.
  • Even if the plan was in place and the implementation started today, adjusting all this to the acquis by the end of current term would be impossible.
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