EU to end visa regime for Bosnia in November

ZELJKO PANTELIC

13.09.2010 @ 09:26 CET

The European Union is set to decide to liberalise its visa regime for Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) in November, WAZ.Euobserver has learned from sources in the EU in Brussels.

Additionally, the idea to engage former High Representative Paddy Ashdown as some kind of EU envoy for Bosnia, or for the entire region of the Western Balkans, has been abandoned.

A decision is to be taken in November (Photo: wikipedia)

Other aspects of the Union's engagement in Bosnia, however, still await some solutions including major issues such as the closure of the Office of the High Representative, constitutional reforms and European integration.

Talks on these topics are to be postponed until 2011 when a new government in Sarajevo is to take office. The EU appears to be resigned to the prospect that the general elections in BiH, set for 3 October, will not generate substantial changes on the country's political stage.

"Despite attempts in the previous months to make some progress in resolving the open questions in Bosnia, in the end we realised that we should wait for the elections in October and the formation of a new government in order to restart work on preparing Bosnia for European integration," an EU diplomat following the Bosnian dossier told WAZ.EUobserver.

"However, the chances are small that we will have new partners on the Bosnian side after the elections. But with a new mandate and with the fact that, hopefully in the next few months Serbia will make a new step in its European integration, we believe the Bosnian leaders would be willing to make efforts to end this impasse, and catch the train for EU membership," the diplomat continued.

The delay in BiH's European integration had until now not been so obvious because all countries in the region performed modestly in the implementation of the EU agenda.

But if member states give the green light to opening the procedure for granting candidate status to Serbia, BiH will be unique among the countries in the region (apart from Kosovo, which is a case of its own). Pristina has not presented an application for EU membership and so Kosovo is not in the process of obtaining candidate status.

"The EU has become a prisoner of its own imposed condition that BiH could present a application for EU membership only when the Office of the High Representative [OHR] is closed," explained an EU official.

"Now we have three schools of thought inside the EU. One group of member states advocates respect for the imposed condition. A second group promotes moving on with Bosnia's European path even with the OHR. The third group is for a compromise solution of reducing the OHR and moving it from Sarajevo to some other city - Brussels, Vienna or New York - in order to diminish the role of the OHR," the official continued.

The closure of the OHR is conditional upon solving the questions of real estate ownership by the state and the military, and constitutional reform. This condition was not initially foreseen two years ago when the Peace Implementation Committee (PIC) posed five conditions and two objectives for closing the OHR. With time, the US and some EU countries have inserted it as a non-written condition.

The EU recently extended the mandate of its special representative Valentin Inzko, who also serves as High Representative. He will stay until next August, but in Brussels diplomatic corridors there is no doubt that this was the last extension of the special representative's mandate.

"Next summer the EU will have its own chief of delegation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as in other countries in the region. We believe that in one year's time the OHR will be closed, or at least reduced and moved from Sarajevo," a European Commission source told this website.

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