Croatia backing Balkan European agenda

02/05/2014

Croatia's plans to push a Balkan agenda within the EU are shown by non-paper on BiH.

By Selena Petrovic and Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Zagreb and Sarajevo -- 02/05/14

photo

Croatia Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic said the proposal will also keep the region on the EU's radar. [AFP]

Croatia has taken on the role of advocate for the EU integration of other Balkan states.

In a non-paper sent to Brussels, the Croatian government argues that Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) should be permitted to fulfil required criteria during its negotiation process with the EU, instead of being required to meet the criteria in order to start accession talks.

"The proposal should not be seen as a final solution, but as a start of discussion about the European future of BiH," the Croatian Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs told SETimes.

Non-papers are a commonly used form of communication in the EU. The documents can be drafted by the EU or a member country and have no formal standing, but are used to stimulate discussion on an issue.

Croatia Foreign Minister Vesna Pusić said another goal of the non-paper is to keep the region on the EU's radar.

Radovan Vukadinovic, a professor at the Faculty of Political Science in Zagreb, commended Croatia's diplomacy on BiH's behalf, and for showing its own initiative within the EU.

"It is good to keep the interest in the region alive because it seems that big players' attention has already been diverted from the Balkans to other important events. Lastly, it is good to show to the BiH leaders that they can count on Croatia, who will be their advocate in the EU," Vukadinovic said.

Pusic was in Sarajevo in March, where she met with BiH leaders who informed her about efforts the country has been making to show its political will to EU member states.

During the visit, she emphasised that Croatia's suggested approach for BiH would not lower the EU criteria.

"Criteria remain the same, they might even include some additional chapters, but European institutions and member states would have a more active role in co-operation with BiH in order to achieve the criteria," Pusic said after her meeting with BiH Council of Ministers' Chairman Vjekoslav Bevanda.

Experts in BiH said Croatia's proposal could serve as a model for future relations between countries that want to join the EU, adding that reforms should not suffer under the burden of politics.

"Political issues should be resolved separately. However, crucial issues, such as fighting against corruption, judicial reforms, and the economy should not be treated as special issues," Bojan Vlaski, a professor at the Law Faculty in Banja Luka, told SETimes. "Politics can wait to be resolved, but the judicial system and economy need to be reformed right away."

Mirsad Djonlagic, an MP in the Federation of BiH parliament, agreed.

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"BiH is a specific country with a complicated political system. I think that the proposal from Zagreb is good and such initiatives should be supported. Every country is specific, and the EU should be aware of that when the negotiation process starts," Djonlagic told SETimes.

Vukadinovic said Croatia is looking for the most adequate ways to assist its neighbours with European integration.

"Croatia said its role would be to promote interest in the Balkans and to help other countries in the region become Union members. I think Croatia's proposal on BiH is a continuity of this policy," he said.

What else can Croatia do to assist Balkan countries with their EU bids? Add your suggestions below.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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