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Bosnia should get back on EU track: top envoy

26 May 2010, 16:49 CET
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(SARAJEVO) - The top international envoy in Bosnia, Valentin Inzko, said Wednesday that the crisis-stricken country should get "back on track" to join the EU, speaking days ahead of an EU-Balkans summit.

Inzko said he and a host of international officials visiting Bosnia recently have all made the same point: "that the country must get back on track".

"In this regard we will have a big EU summit in Sarajevo on 2 June," Inzko said in an interview with AFP.

The summit will gather EU representatives and officials from all Western Balkans states that want to join the EU. Bosnia wants to join the EU but the current political crisis has blocked vital reforms demanded by Brussels.

"In the last four years overall the country has found itself in a political impasse. The political climate has deteriorated and political leaders now have their eyes set on general elections to be held in October," the Austrian diplomat said.

Inzko, whose official title is High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, lamented that "negative rhetoric is also on the rise" in the run-up to the vote.

"Suggestions that (a) dissolution of the country is possible (by Bosnian Serbs) have led to strong reactions from other political quarters" he explained.

Since the end of its 1992-1995 war Bosnia has been split into two entities, the Muslim-Croat Federation and the Serbs' Republika Srpska. The two are linked by weak central institutions while each has its own government.

The European Union is pushing for a change to the constitution to strengthen Bosnia's central government, which it says is necessary if Bosnia is to become an EU member. Bosnian Serbs strongly oppose any strengthening of joint institutions at the expense of their entity's autonomy.

Inzko stressed that Bosnia's politicians would have to get back on the path to EU membership for the sake of their citizens, with polls showing that 85 percent of Bosnians want to join the EU.

In 2008 Bosnia signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) a first step towards EU membership but the process has since stalled as reforms could not be agreed upon.

Political analyst Jacques Rupnik from the Paris-based CERI Centre for International Research and Study said Bosnia will need to establish "integrated, simplified and effective" government institutions.

"The perspective of entry into the EU needs not only a state but a state that functions, a government that functions," he told AFP.

"(Bosnia's government) is the most complicated, most absurd system I know as a political science professor," Rupnik said.

"With this system you can never join the EU".

In Bosnia itself there has been criticism mainly from the Bosnian Serb side that Inzko's Office of the High Representative (OHR) is contributing to the non-functioning of the Bosnian government.

The plan has always been to transform the OHR into an office of the European Union special envoy to Bosnia. But this has been postponed several times, due to continuing political instability.

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