European Union grants Bosnia ‘candidate status’ for membership, long road ahead

The European Union (EU) on Thursday (December 15) granted Bosnia candidate status to join the bloc. This puts the volatile Balkan nation at the start of a long road to membership. Russian invasion of Ukraine has given fresh impetus to EU’s efforts to consider letting in more nations.

Bosnia now becomes the third country after conflict-ravaged Ukraine and Moldova to be granted candidate status in the past six months.

There are concerns within the EU that if new members are not inducted, it leaves doors open for Russia and China to spread their influence in the east European countries.

Approval for Bosnia to be given a candidate status was given at a summit in Brussels.

The move comes despite long-standing concerns over the political situation in Bosnia, a country of three million people burdened with ethnic divisions since its devastating war three decades ago.

Bosnia remains partitioned between a Serb entity and a Muslim-Croat federation connected by a weak central government. 

It has a dysfunctional administrative system created by the 1995 Dayton Agreement that succeeded in ending the conflict in the 1990s but largely failed in providing a framework for the country’s political development. 

While granting candidate status, the European Commission has laid out 14 priorities for reforms Bosnia needs to deliver on. The next stage after this happens is opening of formal accession negotiations.

Bosnian politicians have insisted it is high time the country be granted candidate status.

But a stand-off has seen Bosnia’s Serb entity, the Republika Srpska, block state institutions and cause “virtual paralysis” in the reform process in recent times, the EU has said.

There are also concerns over calls by Serb leaders for closer ties with Russia, and the entity’s nationalist president Milorad Dodik has vowed to stall the push towards the EU if it means more centralisation of power in Bosnia.

Bosnia will join seven other nations with candidate status: Turkey, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, Moldova and Ukraine.

The process to join the European Union can take many years as candidates implement reforms.

(With inputs from agencies)

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