Integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the European Union will turn eighteen this year. Establishment of the Consultative Work Group in 1998 is considered a start in institutionalisation of relations between BiH and the EU, and only a year later the Stabilisation and Association Process was initiated, which gave Bosnia and Herzegovina a clear perspective of membership in the EU. In the previous 18 years we witnessed numerous and significant events in the process, quickening and stagnation of its flow, as well as three enlargements of the EU. But the last year by the process was especially intensive and encouraging for BiH. In that period, the Stabilisation and Association Agreement entered into force, and the Reform Agenda was adopted at all the levels of authority, and implementation of systematic reforms was initiated, which are expected to improve the everyday life of BiH citizens in the end. The list of BH products whose export in the EU is now allowed, is now widened by potato, honey and thermo-processed milk, and the crown of all the events was submission of the request for membership of BiH in the EU in February this year.
The efforts, however, do not stop there. Bosnia and Herzegovina is yet to have more complex and challenging tasks in the process of integration. Among the first is answering to the questionnaire of the European commission, which would be forwarded to Bosnia and Herzegovina, after the Council of the EU discussed the request for membership. The institutions at all the levels, in accordance with the constitutional competences will be preparing the answers to the questions on competition, transport, internal affairs, justice, environment, agriculture and numerous other areas. The BiH answers will have to be accompanied by thousands of pages of regulations, strategies and reports supporting the answers, all of the above is to be previously translated to English language. Based on the answers on the condition in these areas, the European Commission will draft an opinion on readiness of BiH to meet the criteria for membership.
One of those criteria is also the Madrid Criterion, established at the summit of the heads of states and governments of the EU members in Madrid in 1995. This criterion dictates that the country that strives to the membership in the EU should have an administration capable for gradual and harmonised integration in the EU. That implies strengthening administrative capability and creating efficient system of administration for implementation of acquis communautaire of the EU and other obligations stemming from the membership. Therefore, there is no doubt in importance of administration for the process of integration in the EU. Administration that is to give answers to thousands of questions of the European Commission from the questionnaire, should also prepare a planning document in the process of integration, harmonise the local legislation with the regulations of the EU, plan the pre-accession assistance of the European Union, prepare the system regulations, and lead negotiations on membership in the EU when the time comes for that.
The biggest burden of integration in the EU, is undoubtedly on administration, but membership in the EU is by no means a task and a job of only the administration and/or institutions. All the segments of society and each individual have a role in it, because integration in the EU is nobody’s exclusive property. Readiness to accept and apply the principles, values and standards of the European Union at work, in public, in school or neighbourhood is the essence of this process. Because, integration in the EU is never an objective for itself. Becoming a part of the EU means becoming a more ordered and desirable society. Criteria and conditions for membership are only a manner to achieve that objective, and the administration is significant, but not the only link in that chain. In the end, so called European affairs are actually our everyday affairs, only published in a more accountable, efficient and more citizen oriented manner.
With the wish to start counting the years of membership in the EU as soon as possible, I wish you an enjoyable reading of this issue of the newsletter.
director of the Directorate for European Integration of the Council of Ministers of BiH