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A Fail Start for the European Integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Published on , , Zagreb, Twitter: @AdelinaMarini

2012 started promisingly for Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIH), but ended with big disappointment. In March, the European enlargement commissioner said in the European Parliament that 2012 would be crucial for BiH's progress toward the EU and the president of the country, Bakir Izetbegovic, even announced that he would file a membership application in the EU. MEPs, however, recalled that in order to do that, Sarajevo would have to make huge strides. And in spite of those statements and the crutch the EU provided, BIH ended the year with a fail start. In June, Stefan Fule decided to assist the inflaming of the spark of positivity from the beginning of the year proposing a special dialogue with the Bosnian authorities, similar to that for Macedonia, which contained a roadmap that was aimed at helping the political forces in Sarajevo to succeed with the EU's help in embarking on the path toward membership.

This was the stated objective in the roadmap too - the timely and successful implementation "could lead the country to submit a credible membership
application to the EU before the end of the year
". The conditions the EU put forward were:
- to ensure a political agreement for the application of the ruling of the European Court on Human Rights on the Sejdic-Finci case that requires amendments to the Constitution. The deadline was the end of November. The implementation of that task was one of the conditions the EU put forward for the country to continue forward on the European path;
- to transpose the European legislation to the whole territory of BIH, in accordance with the relevant constitutional competencies;
- to ensure that the positions presented to the European institutions reflect discussions with all the competent institutions and authorities in the country after an efficient process of coordination. That means to create a functioning coordination mechanism;
- By the 31st of October 2012 to present a proposal to the Commission for the establishment of an efficient coordination mechanism with the EU that would allow BIH to speak with one voice to the Union. That mechanism should be agreed after consultations between the governments in the federation, including the cantons, Republika Srpska and the Brcko region;
- to improve and strengthen the efficient functioning of the administration at all levels of government that would allow BIH to adopt, implement and enforce EU legislation and rules;
- to ensure that BIH coordinates well and will answer no later than 31st of October 2012 to the list of questions on selected chapters - fifth "Public Procurement" and chapter 27 "Environment".

Those conditions might seem a lot and tough, but the only thing that is actually needed in order to fulfil them is political will and consensus among the separate communities and political groups. Alas, BIH failed at that first test. That is why the assessment in the end of the year of the Council of the EU was severe. In the conclusions from the beginning of December of the foreign and European affairs ministers of the EU member states, approved later by the EU leaders at their summit on December 13-14, regret is expressed that the deadlines in the roadmap from June were not met. The Council continues to express concern over the lack of implementation of political agreements.

It is reiterated that a major priority for the country should be harmonising the country's Constitution with the European Convention on Human Rights, as in brackets is pointed the ruling on the Sejdic/Finci case. It is underscored that that is a necessary condition in order for the Stabilisation and Association Agreement to be applied and therefore BIH to be able to file a membership application, which was planned for November 30th, 2012. The political leaders of the country are called upon to increase their efforts to implement the commitments they themselves agreed and to achieve results for the sake of the citizens of the country. It is underlined that as a matter of priority a stable government should be formed at all levels that would be able to focus on the EU agenda.

Every attempt, however, to do something in that direction is either insufficient, unpersuasive or with no big chances for success. "This is the toughest political crisis in BIH since 1996 that can be ended in only two ways: parliamentary elections and greater engagement of the international community", said in the end of the 2012 Slavo Kukic, a university professor in Mostar for Al Jazeera Balkans. He said that on the occasion of a meeting in Mostar of the four biggest parties in the country whose objective was to try and resolve the crisis in the federation.

The problem, though, is that BIH cannot handle it alone and it is obvious from the EU's attempts to provide a crutch that this fact is being realised. Not only the country has to fight itself, but it also has to survive in a region which is still not ripe to live in a regime of regional cooperation. And a very indicative example in this regard is another event from the last week of 2012 - the decision of Serbia's President Tomislav Nikolic and Prime Minister Ivica Dacic to visit not BIH as a federation but only Republika Srpska. The decision was severely criticised in Sarajevo. President Bakir Izetbegovic did not miss the opportunity to note, quoited by Al Jazeera Balkans, that Nikolic would have done better, given the Dayton agreements, if he had visited Sarajevo first and then Banja Luka.

Nikolic for his part, who a little while after he was elected in the spring of 2012 said that there was no genocide in Srebrenica, responded by saying that he would have gone if he was invited. "I stated publicly", he said at a news conference in Banja Luka, "that I will go to Sarajevo when I'm invited, but in the end of the day I wouldn't go knocking on the door without being invited", he concluded. The gaffe was glossed over with the dispatch of Serbia's Foreign Minister Ivan Mrkic to Sarajevo to sign together with his colleague Zlatko Lagumdzija a memorandum for cooperation on the path of European integration.

Analysts commented that in fact that was a political show from Serbia's part. In an interview with the Free Europe Radio, Svetlana Cenic, an economic expert, said that even without a protocol for special relations BIH as a federation has a much better trade balance with Serbia than Republika Srpska has with Serbia. The purpose of the Nikolic's visit in Banja Luka was to demonstrate "see how strong our relations are", the analysts said and underscored that obviously something else was being sought. When Serbia says it loves Republika Srpska, either something is being done around Kosovo or it is about elections, she said.

According to Amir Terzic, a Bosnian journalist, Bosnia and Herzegovina today is an ungovernable country in which the institutions are blocked, the power is shared at the expense of citizens and democracy is in danger. In an analysis for Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso, the journalist writes that the country is in fact in a state of coma. The question politicians and citizens of BIH should answer, therefore, is will 2013 be the year when the country will wake up from the coma.

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