EU members agree on candidate status for Balkan state

Backing for Bosnia-Herzegovina’s bid is considered a “strong message” of the bloc’s commitment to expansion

The European Union will grant Bosnia and Herzegovina official candidate status, the bloc has decided on a ministerial level. The Council of the EU described the decision as a “strong message of its commitment” to enlargement.

European affairs ministers from all 27 member states agreed to allow the former Yugoslav republic to become a candidate, during a meeting in Brussels on Tuesday. The move has yet to be formally ratified by their countries, which is expected to happen at an upcoming summit on Thursday, unnamed diplomats told journalists. 

If given the green light, Bosnia-Herzegovina will join a club of EU aspirants that currently includes Albania, Moldova, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Türkiye, and Ukraine. Candidacy does not guarantee membership: Türkiye has been waiting for the decision for decades, for example. Of the former Yugoslav republics, only Slovenia and Croatia have joined the bloc. 

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Bosnia-Herzegovina formally applied for EU membership in 2016, having been granted potential candidate status in 2003.

Becoming a member will be a tall order, as “the reforms set out by the [European] Commission and the 14 key reforms agreed in 2019 have to be fulfilled before negotiations would start,” one unnamed diplomat told Reuters. The EU’s demands include constitutional and judiciary reforms, as well as the fight against corruption.

Currently, this task might be complicated for Sarajevo, given that the country’s constitution is an annex of the 1995 peace agreement that ended the civil war. As part of the arrangement, the former belligerents were recognized as self-governing entities – Republika Srpska and the Federation – with an autonomous district at an important crossroads.

Bosnia-Herzegovina’s three main ethnic groups agree on the desirability of joining the EU, but on little else. Though officially independent and sovereign, the ultimate authority in the country is still the high representative of the international community,” currently the former German agriculture minister Christian Schmidt. He lacks a UN mandate, having been appointed in 2021 by the US and its allies, against Russian objections.


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