SARAJEVO (Reuters) - European Union and U.S. envoys warned Bosnia’s leaders on Wednesday that the country risked missing out on closer ties with the EU in the near term and losing 2 billion euros in support due to an impasse over reforms.
Bosnia hoped Brussels would consider its EU membership bid at its next ministerial council in mid-July, but without the reforms this may not happen.
“The window to secure a positive response in the near term to the application of (Bosnia) for membership in the EU is closing fast,” Head of EU Delegation and EU Special Representative Lars-Gunnar Wigemark and U.S. Ambassador Maureen Cormack said in a joint statement.
Bosnia, an ethnically divided Balkan nation beset by corruption and economic woes, formally applied to join the 28-nation EU in February and was told it must advance economic and social reforms before its bid can be considered.
Most of the conditions, such as the adjustment of Bosnia’s Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU to reflect changes after Croatia, another ex-Yugoslav republic, joined the bloc, and the approval of an effective coordination mechanism with Brussels, are still on hold due to Bosnian Serb opposition.
Since the 1992-95 war, Bosnia has been divided into the Serb-dominated Serb Republic and the Federation shared by Croats and Muslim Bosniaks.
The Serb Republic President Milorad Dodik said he feared the SAA adjustment would deprive the region’s agriculture sector of an estimated 210 million euros annually and he sought further negotiations.
“The events over the next few days are likely to have a profound effect on the prosperity and security of the country through the next decade,” the diplomats said.
They warned a revising of the SAA and Brussels’ acceptance of Bosnia’s EU membership bid are also critical to keep on track a 550 million euro three-year loan arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), expected to be approved by the lender by mid-July. [L5N18L5UU]
In exchange for reforms the international community has pledged to secure over two billion euros in budget and infrastructure support for the country over the next three to four years, the diplomats said.
“But all of this is predicated upon [Bosnia] being on a stable political path toward Europe. There is simply no time left... The future of [Bosnia] depends upon it,” they said. ($1 = 0.8999 euros)
Reporting by Maja Zuvela; Editing by Alexandra Hudson