Continuing reforms towards EU accession

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Bosnian head of state in Berlin Continuing reforms towards EU accession

During a visit by Bosnian head of state Bećirović, Federal Chancellor Scholz said that Germany would continue to support Bosnia and Herzegovina on its way towards entry into the EU. He thanked the Balkan state for its solidarity with Ukraine in its defence against the Russian offensive.

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Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Bosnian head of state Denis Bećirović in the Chancellery.

Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Bosnian head of state Denis Bećirović in the Chancellery.

Photo: Federal Government/Steins

Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz said welcoming Denis Bećirović in Berlin soon after becoming Chair of the Presidency of Bosnia Herzegovina was a matter of great importance to him. He was speaking at a press conference following the two leaders’ talks in the Chancellery on Tuesday.

EU accession overdue

The Federal Chancellor stressed that Germany is fully committed to helping the countries of the Western Balkans achieve a future in the EU. “Their accession is overdue,” he said, given that membership had been promised over 20 years ago.

The European Council resolution in March 2024 to open up accession negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina acknowledged the progress the country had made in the last few years, he said, which sent a clear signal to reform-orientated forces in the country and to the citizens of the entire region, namely that “We are serious about their EU prospects,” said Scholz.

Continuing reform policies

However, this historic decision was also an incentive to push forward the further reforms needed for EU accession decisively and quickly. After all, the enlargement process is based on performance, he said.

“There are no short cuts or special routes into the European Union,” the Federal Chancellor emphasised. He realised that this path was challenging, but the reform efforts were worth it – “above all, for the candidate countries themselves,” said Scholz. He had promised Bećirović the support of the Federal Government during their constructive talks.

Berlin Process promotes regional cooperation

The expansion of regional cooperation in the Western Balkans was on the agenda for the two politicians. Federal Chancellor Scholz described the Berlin Process, which Germany initiated ten years ago, as the right instrument for regional cooperation. Above all, he said, it was important to continue to strengthen the Common Regional Market.

Scholz said he expected Bosnia and Herzegovina to ratify the pending mobility agreement and also to accept the energy declaration adopted in Berlin in November 2022.

Peace cannot be taken for granted

The Russian offensive against Ukraine had demonstrated the importance of more intensive regional cooperation and close communication, according to Scholz, who said: “Unfortunately, peace in Europe can no longer be taken for granted”. He praised the solidarity of Bosnia and Herzegovina with Ukraine, as shown by the country’s commitment to European sanctions against Russia.

Securing stability in the Balkans

Security and stability could not be taken for granted in the Western Balkans states either, Federal Chancellor Scholz warned, and should instead be actively promoted. He emphasised that Bosnia and Herzegovina played a key role here, and “Any attempt to call into question the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country is unacceptable.”

What are the Western Balkan states? The term “Western Balkans” has political as well as geographical significance. It was adopted as an official EU term at the EU summit in Vienna in 1998 and refers to those states in the Balkan peninsula which are not yet members of the EU. This is why, alongside Albania, the Yugoslav successor states Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia are counted as Western Balkan States, but not Slovenia and Croatia, which joined the EU in 2004 and 2013 respectively.

Federal Chancellor Scholz affirmed that Germany supports the important role played by the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina in promoting democracy, the rule of law and human rights in the country. Christian Schmidt of Germany has held this international position since 2021. The High Representative also contributes to monitoring the Dayton Agreement of 1995 to preserve peace.

In order to promote security and stability in the region, Germany rejoined the EU EUFOR Althea mission in 2022. The Federal Chancellor promised to continue this participation as a contribution to security and stability.

In 2014, the Federal Government initiated the Berlin Process as a prelude to the Western Balkans conferences. The goal of this series of annual conferences is to promote peace, security and stability in the Western Balkan states and to support development in the region. The Berlin Process is designed to contribute to improving cooperation among the Western Balkan states.

Denis Bećirović was born in Tuzla in 1975. In 2022 he was elected as the Bosnian representative of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which consists of one member each of the Bosniak, Serb and Croat ethnic groups. The three-member presidency is the collective head of state of the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which consists of the entities of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska.