By Ljiljana Kovacevic
The European Commission’s (EC) latest assessment of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s progress towards EU accession is one of the most critical ever, officials acknowledge.
“The EC report objectively and in detail pointed to all areas in which the state should invest its additional efforts to further advance the process of EU accession,” Directorate for European Integration Director Nevenka Savic told SETimes.
Delivered on Wednesday (October 12th), the report pointed to the lack of a functioning government — one year after elections were held — as a major obstacle. It also said the country’s political, economic and security situations are critical, and that BiH politicians lack a joint vision about in which direction to go.
The fight against organised crime is lagging, as are efforts to harmonise legislation with EU standards and implement economic and administrative reforms as well as improvements in human rights, the EC determined. Overall, the report found, the pace of reforms is “very limited”.
The only bright spots in the otherwise gloomy picture appeared to be visa liberalisation with the Schengen zone and the beginning of structural dialogue with the EU on judicial reform.
Will the negative news from Brussels galvanise local politicians into action? Many appeared sceptical.
“Life is ever more difficult, the majority of citizens sink into apathy, the EU vision is spent in daily political games,” said political analyst Vedran Dzihic. “At the same time, the BiH political elite continues the practice of presenting the deep crisis as normal, while the protection of national (read: their own) interests in accordance with their ethno-political populism is a substitute for serious reform,” Dzihic told SETimes.
“The authorities were not at all worried about the report; I even think they are very satisfied. Those in BiH, and especially in Republika Srpska, prefer isolation because they can more easily manipulate the citizens,” parliament member and Party for Democratic Progress (PDP) President Mladen Ivanic told SETimes.
According to Sarajevo-based commentator Senad Pecanin, “the impression one gets is that at this rate, BiH will not enter the EU for another ten years.”
Part of the problem, he said, is that members of the public are too busy struggling economically to focus their attention on the issue. Warnings from Brussels affect the public less and less, and they in turn do not pressure the political elite, he said.
“When the people do not know how they will survive tomorrow, then the question about EU membership is not one which the public would pressure the ruling oligarchy about,” Pecanin said.
Still, those interviewed by SETimes indicated they are concerned about the situation, though pessimistic about prospects for change.
“All the countries in the region are progressing, only BiH remains in place,” Sarajevo administrative worker Haris Halilovic said, summing up a widespread view. “As long as national interests are above individual and civil rights, there will be no progress in this country.”