Croatia (Reuters) – Bosnia will hold off applying for European Union membership until it receives more welcoming signals from Brussels, its foreign minister said on Saturday.
All the states that emerged from Yugoslavia’s collapse want to join the EU. Slovenia is already a member, Croatia hopes to join in 2012, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia have applied for membership while Bosnia lags behind because of continued ethnic divisions.
The Office of the High Representative (OHR), installed after the 1992-95 war, still has power to dismiss Bosnian officials or overturn laws seen as endangering the country’s fragile peace.
The country, divided into a Bosnian Serb Republic and a Muslim-Croat Federation, is largely dysfunctional and reforms have been stalled by ethnic bickering. But like others in the Balkans, Bosnia has declared EU membership as its ultimate goal.
“This is also our main goal, but it seems the European Commission is very reluctant to accept the application of Bosnia Herzegovina as long as the OHR is present,” Foreign Minister Sven Alkalaj told Reuters at a conference in Dubrovnik. “I consider personally that this is not a good tactic.”
International officials say they will not end Bosnia’s protectorate status until the two ethnic halves agree to a series of conditions, including on how to divide state property.
Alkalaj had previously expressed hope that Bosnia would apply for membership by the end of 2009, but continuing ethnic tensions derailed such hopes.
Another delaying factor, Alkalaj said, was the parliamentary election in October.
The EU has said it wants all Balkan states eventually to join but many diplomats believe it may be a long process, given the slow pace of reforms in the region.
(Reporting by Adam Tanner; editing by Zoran Radosavljevic and Matthew Jones)