The Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) between Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and the EU provides a framework of mutual commitments on a wide range of political, trade and economic issues as well as a legal basis for formalised policy dialogue. Following BiH’s application for EU membership, the European Commission published an Opinion, outlining 14 key priorities that BiH needs to address in order to advance on the EU accession path. 

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    At a ceremony in Sarajevo, leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina hand over replies to the European Commission’s questionnaire to President Juncker and Commissioner Hahn, as part of the Opinion process.

    Bosnia and Herzegovina handing over replies to the European Commission’s questionnaire to President Juncker and Commissioner Hahn, as part of the Opinion process in February 2019. 

    Copyright: EU in BiH 


Political Relations

From the Stabilisation and Association Process to the Opinion

Bosnia and Herzegovina is participating in the Stabilisation and Association Process. The Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the EU was signed on 16 June 2008 in Luxembourg along with an Interim Agreement, which as of 1 July 2008 regulates trade and trade-related matters. The SAA entered into force on 1 June 2015. After Bosnia and Herzegovina submitted its application for EU membership on 15 February 2016, the EU Council invited the European Commission to deliver its Opinion on the country’s EU membership application. 

The European Commission published its Opinion on the country’s EU membership application and its accompanying Analytical Report in May 2019. In the Opinion, the Commission assessed BiH’s application on the basis of the country’s capacity to meet the criteria set by the European Council in Copenhagen in 1993, as well as in Madrid in 1995, notably regarding the country’s administrative capacity and the conditions of the Stabilisation and Association Process. The Opinion, which was welcomed by the Council, identified 14 key priorities that BiH needs to meet in order to be recommended for the opening of accession negotiations with the EU. 

Economic Relations

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s biggest trading partner

The EU is Bosnia and Herzegovina’s biggest trading partner. In 2020, 60.6% of the country’s imports originated from the EU, while 72.3% of its exports went to the EU. About two-thirds of the country’s stock in FDI originates in EU countries. 

Bosnia and Herzegovina participated in an economic dialogue with the EU. Every year the country submits to the European Commission a medium-term Economic Reform Programme (ERP), setting out plans to strengthen macro-fiscal stability and tackle structural obstacles to growth. Based on the ERP, BiH meets annually with the Commission, EU Member States and all other enlargement countries at the Economic and Financial Dialogue, aimed at preparing the country for its future participation in EU economic policy coordination. 

Following the expiration of the 2015-2018 ‘Reform Agenda’, a new set of socio-economic reforms needs to be implemented by the governments at all levels in the country, in full alignment with the policy guidance set out in the joint conclusions of the Economic and Financial Dialogue. The EU remains committed to supporting this process through grants, loans and technical assistance. 

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    Western Balkan leaders, together with EU officials, taking part in the 2019 Poznań Summit, in the framework of the Berlin Process.

    The EU also supports Bosnia and Herzegovina’s regional economic cooperation, including through the framework of the Berlin Process. 

    Copyright: European Commission 

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    Boxes of COVID-19 vaccines are unloaded from an aircraft at Sarajevo International Airport.

    With EU financial assistance and facilitation by the Austrian Government, COVID-19 vaccines arrived at Sarajevo International Airport in May 2021.

    Copyright: EU in BiH 

Financial Assistance

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s largest donor

The EU provides significant financial assistance to Bosnia and Herzegovina. From 1996 to 2007, Bosnia and Herzegovina benefitted from EU financial assistance under the Phare, OBNOVA and CARDS programmes. Since 2007, Bosnia and Herzegovina benefit from EU assistance mainly under the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA), which the EU Delegation to BiH is responsible for implementing via direct management. Adoption of robust sector strategies remains key for BiH’s preparation and eligibility for funding for the IPA III strategic framework. 

Bosnia and Herzegovina has progressively extended its participation in EU programmes, partly co-financed through IPA funds. BiH currently takes part in COSME, Creative Europe, Customs 2020, Europe for Citizens, Erasmus+, Fiscalis 2020, Horizon 2020, and the Third Programme for the Union’s action in the field of health. Bosnia and Herzegovina also takes part in the INTERREG programme. 

At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, the EU committed €7 million for addressing immediate public health system needs across BiH and €73.5 million towards socioeconomic recovery projects. In early May 2021, EU assistance worth an additional €13.7 million for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines has been mobilised. 

Peace and Security

Supporting a peaceful and stable Bosnia and Herzegovina

The European Union continues to support the implementation of the General Framework Agreement for Peace signed at Dayton/Paris in 1995. 

From January 2003 until June 2012, the European Union Police Mission (EUPM) in BiH supported the country’s rule of law institutions in the fight against organized crime and corruption and provided advice on new police laws, as the first-ever CSDP mission launched by the EU. In 2012, the EU Delegation/EUSR in BiH took over providing strategic support to law enforcement in BiH. The EU launched the military Operation, EUFOR Althea, in December 2004. The main objectives of Operation Althea include providing capacity-building and training to the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, supporting BiH efforts to maintain the safe and secure environment in BiH, as well as providing deterrence and continued compliance with the responsibility to fulfill the role specified in Annexes 1A and 2 of the Dayton/Paris Agreement, as a legal successor to SFOR. 

Without prejudice to the military chain of command, the EU Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina offers political guidance to the EUFOR Commander on military issues with a local political dimension. 

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    Members of the BiH Armed Forces and EUFOR watch helicopter flypast in front of Army Hall in Sarajevo.

    Flypast organised in Sarajevo as part of a joint EUFOR-EUSR Europe Day parade. 

    Copyright: EU in BiH 

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    Reinhard Priebe walks to the podium to deliver his address at the “Right to Justice” public debate held at the BiH Parliamentary Assembly in November 2019.

    Reinhard Priebe delivers an address at the “Right to Justice” public debate held at the BiH Parliamentary Assembly in November 2019, ahead of the publication of the Expert Report by Priebe et al. 

    Copyright: EU in BiH 

Entrenching the Rule of Law

From the Structured Dialogue on Justice until today

Policy dialogue between BiH and the EU on the rule of law has taken place since 2011 in the context of the Structured Dialogue on Justice, and since December 2016 in the framework of the SAA Sub-committee on Justice, Freedom and Security. Three of the 14 key priorities outlined in the European Commission Opinion of May 2019 specifically target reforms in the rule of law area. 

The Structured Dialogue on Justice has been assisting Bosnia and Herzegovina to consolidate an independent, effective, efficient and professional judicial system. In particular, the reform of the criminal jurisdiction of the state-level judiciary remains pending, while the Draft Law on BiH Courts, which shall regulate this issue has not yet been finalized in line with the acquis.  

In December 2019, the Expert Report on Rule of Law Issues in BiH (‘Priebe Report’) was issued as the outcome of an EU initiative to enhance the monitoring of the rule of law. Its findings pointed to a series of deeply concerning rule of law deficiencies in BiH, which the EU urged all relevant authorities in BiH to start addressing urgently. As underlined by the report, citizens’ demands for justice must be heard and seriously addressed.