The European Commission on Wednesday recommended naming Bosnia and Herzegovina as an official EU candidate if several conditions are met — a key step in the long process of joining the bloc.
The move is a major milestone for Bosnia and Herzegovina, which applied for EU membership in 2016. And it comes amid a renewed push to enlarge the EU, prompted by Russia’s war in Ukraine. In June, EU leaders granted Ukraine and Moldova candidate status.
Speaking before the European Parliament, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi called the recommendation “a historic moment for the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
But the Commission’s decision does come with some conditions attached: Bosnia and Herzegovina must first implement a series of rule-of-law and anti-corruption reforms.
Várhelyi urged the country “to make the most of this historic opportunity and swiftly proceed with the steps identified.”
EU leaders still have to sign off on the Commission’s recommendation to make it official.
The Commission’s recommendation came several months after EU leaders in June urged for the bloc to provide more clarity to countries that have long been in EU application limbo, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Serbia.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Várhelyi said Bosnia had made progress on implementing EU reforms and joining EU programs, saying the country “deserves” to become a formal candidate.
But, he cautioned, the Commission’s recommendation is based “on the understanding that a number of steps are taken” to improve the rule of law, ensure media freedom and combat corruption. And, he reiterated, a slate of 14 priorities the Commission previously presented for the country in 2019 remains unchanged. Each must be fulfilled before the EU can officially open accession negotiations — the next major step in the process.