Speaking on Wednesday in Sarajevo, Slovenia's President, Borut Pahor, said that the EU should extend candidate status to Bosnia and Herzegovina, adding that after the move the "fulfilment of criteria set by the European Commission in 2019 should be insisted upon."
In his address at a business conference in Sarajevo, Pahor said that “everyone was aware that political stability was a precondition for economic development and that the Western Balkans was still a region of political instability.”
“There is a constant threat of instability caused by Bulgaria’s blockade of North Macedonia’s EU entry talks, which has a spillover effect on Albania, the lack of progress in talks between Serbia and Kosovo as well as internal problems in Bosnia,” he said.
The Slovenian president noted that it was “possibly the most important thing now” to resolve the political stalemate in Bosnia, as the country is required to meet a set of 14 priorities in order to be granted EU membership candidate status, the first step that any country wishing to join the bloc needs to go through before starting membership negotiations.
Slovenia was the first ex-Yugoslav country to join the EU, in May 2004, followed by Croatia in July 2013. Montenegro and Serbia have been negotiating membership since 2012 and 2014 respectively, and North Macedonia has been recognized as a candidate but hasn’t started negotiations yet.
Although Bosnia and Herzegovina had formally applied in February 2016, its process of closer EU integration has been hampered by inaction in implementing a number of reforms required by the European Commission.
“The stalemate has lasted for more than two years, and Pahor now proposes that Bosnia should be given candidate status as an important political signal that it has a prospect of EU membership, after which work should continue on meeting the set criteria,” Croatian state agency Hina said.
He explained that “because of being too slow,” the EU integration process “had caused a rise in nationalism” and encouraged “unacceptable ideas about changing borders” in the region. Pahor therefore called for identifying EU enlargement as the country’s most important issue – an issue which he said “has gained prominence in the wake of Russia’s aggression on Ukraine.”
“I support Ukraine’s fast-track integration, but I also want such a procedure for Bosnia,” Pahor said, adding that it was necessary to “seize the moment” and help Bosnia because this was “also important for regional stability.”