PositionEuropean Union

One of the first visits by the EU's new High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, will be to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The choice mirrors the Union's concerns. Unlike its neighbours - which are moving in the direction of EU membership, albeit at very different rates - Bosnia is stagnating and the outlook for accession over the longer term is not solid enough to encourage the political leaders of the three communities (Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks, also known as Bosnian Muslims)a to work out their fundamental differences over the country's future.

Bosnia has been dealt a few hard blows in recent months, however. The country did not get visa exemption offered by the EU to Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro on 19 December 2009; it was also clearly told that in the absence of a constitutional reform, EU membership was out of the question; and in early December last year, NATO turned down its membership action plan, while approving Montenegro's. "Political leaders now know the price of their failure to take action," sums up Dimitris Kourkoulas, head of the Commission delegation.

The visa decision, a huge disappointment to the population, nevertheless started the ball rolling. The first biometric passports were issued in November and the country's parliament adopted an anti-corruption law (corruption is one of Bosnia's major problems) in mid-December. These measures are two of the criteria required for the visa waiver, which may become possible by summer 2010.


Fourteen years after the Dayton peace agreements, Bosnia is going through a bizarre period. In spite of the worsening of the economy (Bosnia has one of the lowest standards of living in Europe and the rate of unemployment reaches 40%), the security situation is calm and a resumption of hostilities seems out of the question for almost everyone. The EU's military mission - EUFOR Althea, which has already been cut back to 2,000 men - is marking time, waiting for a decision by the member states on its transformation into a small assistance mission for the Bosnian army. Sarajevo gives the impression of being a relatively calm European city of 400,000 inhabitants.

This appearance of normality stands in contrast with a political climate dominated by the aggressive rhetoric of the majority nationalist parties (Serbian SNSD, Bosniak SDA and Croatian HDZ-BiH), whose positions are still irreconcilable. On one side, the entity of the Orthodox...

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