Rhein on Energy and Climate

It is almost two decades since Bosnia ended its civil war, more than 10 years since the EU has recognised the country as a potential member and six years since the country has signed a ‘stabilisation and association agreement’ (SAA) with the EU which is still not in effect. It has fallen far behind neighbouring Croatia that has succeeded in joining in July 2013 and Serbia that has obtained candidate status in 2013.

This delay is essentially due to the inability of its political class to put their house in order and tackle political and constitutional reforms that are a precondition for membership.

It has failed to simplify its 1995 governance structure which had been meant to last no longer than three years or.

Its governance is therefore far too complex, inefficient and expensive for a country with less than four million people, divided into the Bosnian-Croatian federation (!), the Srbska Republic and ten cantons towered by a central government with three rotating presidents.

No surprise that it has not been able to make optimal use of the huge amounts of foreign assistance that it has received from 1996 onward to rebuild its infrastructure and modernise its institutions. Unacceptably high unemployment, especially for youngsters, has become endemic and is posing increasing social and political unrest.

The lack of good governance accounts for the poor business climate and the high corruption index. And it keeps fomenting periodic uprisings across the country, one of which we are witnessing presently with young people demanding jobs, better education and higher living standards.

As long as this situation persists EU member states will, rightly, feel no incentive to push for accession. It is up to the Bosnian political class to make their country fit for it. This should imply profound constitutional changes, as Bosnia will be unable to function as an effective member state with its present constitution.

The EU Commission has left Bosnia for too long in the shadows, preoccupied with more pressing problems in its wider neighbourhood. The new Commission would be well advised to recommend the Bosnian authorities to define the road-map that might finally lead to membership.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 12/02/2014

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  1. It is impossible to guess the outcome but from my perspective Bosnia is now between changes. People in many towns have demonstrated that together they can have influence at local level. Together without ethnic or religious tensions they can avoid failure like it happened with “Arab Spring”. What is clear is that the current political elites, at least in the Federation, have widely lost their legitimacy. It also for the first time politicians became afraid of citizens, some cantonal governments resigned and some reportedly even left the country. There is real change for progress by creating new power-structures at local level.

    On the opposite there is also change that counter-move by centralized establishment will win with help of EU and US. Bosnia has struggled under the most cumbersome political system in Europe created by the American-brokered and EU-backed Dayton peace accords. Constitutional reforms are needed and apparent political stability should be replaced by a new long-term strategy. However, if they are again conducted by the same power elite than before, the results will again lack the democratic legitimacy and nothing will change. In my opinion a new kind of engagement by both the US and the European Union is needed to replace the failed policies and approaches in Bosnia. EU and US should take new approach with Bosnia, the protests should be welcomed, old power structures and elite ousted and real implementation and progress led by masses at local grassroots level facilitated. By this way I think that “Bosnian Spring” could be flowering.
    (P.S: More about theme in The ‘Bosnian Spring’ BetweennChances – http://arirusila.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/the-bosnian-spring-between-chances/ )

  2. Dear Dr Rhein: It is pointless having nations like these be co-erced to join the EU.

    This need to have Bosnia is less important than having Turkey join.

    We in the EU need Turkey but can live without Bosnia. Concentrate efforts on Turkey

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