Bosnia to apply next month to join EU

(MENAFN- AFP) Bosnia next month will officially apply to join the European Union (EU) in the hope of winning candidate status in 2017, the country's presidency said Tuesday.

"We obtained from the Dutch presidency a date, February 15, to submit our application to join the EU," the chairman of Bosnia's tripartite presidency, Dragan Covic, told reporters.

"We believe we have done enough at this stage to make a credible application," Covic said.

He added that Bosnia -- which currently lags behind most other Balkan countries in the EU accession process -- could be granted official candidate status "at the beginning of next year".

"Then I think everything will take place in an accelerated manner because it will encourage us all," he said.

Bosnia was considered a "potential candidate" to join EU back in 2003 but has never managed to win the status officially owing to years of political bickering between Serbs, Croats and Muslims, which hampered necessary reforms.

The country has been deeply divided along ethnic lines since its 1992-1995 inter-ethnic war.

To try to energise the process, the EU in 2014 adopted a new approach to Bosnia, under the leadership of Britain and Germany, focusing on reforms to revive the economy instead of difficult constitutional issues.

Bosnia's unemployment rate is over 40 percent, among the highest in Europe.

In the presence of EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, Bosnia's parliament adopted a declaration a year ago promising reforms, some of which have since been adopted, including legislation on the labour market.

Covic also said that local authorities have "finally" managed to agree on a "coordination mechanism" enabling various levels of government to "speak with one voice" to the EU -- something on which Brussels particularly insisted.

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