Bosnia and the EU

Written by the participants of the TIPSY field study trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and the EU

The European Union and individual member states are very active in Bosnia and Herzegovina. For
example, Austria is the biggest foreign investor in the country. However, our discussions and
conversations in Bosnia showed that the EU has a highly ambiguous reputation in the country. Not
only do many people that we talked to have the feeling that the EU left the country and its
population alone during the time of war, but also today they perceive the EU-Bosnia relations as
dishonest and see no real interest in Bosnia by the Union.

The EU will not include any further member states with unsolved disputes or populistic and
undemocratic tendencies. Too many problems challenge the EU at the moment: for example,
Croatia and Slovenia and their unsolved border conflict or right-wing and anti-democratic
tendencies in Poland and Hungary. However, also the format of the current association process
creates doubts about the EU’s sincerity in regard to a possible future membership of Bosnia and
Herzegovina. Even though Bosnia has at the moment only the status of a “potential candidate
country” (compared to Albania, Serbia, Macedonia, and Montenegro that are all candidate states),
the people we talked to are under the impression that the EU practically treats the Western Balkan
as a package, for instance in the Stabilisation and Association Process or the “EU-Western Balkan
Summit” in May 2018.

This practice brings advantages and disadvantages. Unfortunately, as it was commonly expressed
during our conversations, this underpins the interpretation that the process cannot be successful for
Bosnia as long as Serbia does not solve the conflict with Kosovo, which means, from the
perspective of the EU, recognizing Kosovo as an independent state. At the same time, the EU’s
procedure might bring the advantage that the autonomous entity of Republika Srpska, which is
dominated by Bosnian-Serbs, will not strive for an annexation to Serbia, as this would most-likely
harm Serbia’s attempt to become an EU member state and set back the rapprochement of Bosnia
and Herzegovina and, therefore, of all countries dealt in the package “Western Balkan”. Year 2025
as the year when Serbia and Montenegro could join EU, as stated be Jean Claude Juncker in 2017,
was not perceived as anyhow realistic during our conversations. Consequently, the perspective for
Bosnia is perceived as even worse, let alone that some people do not even see their country as
“ready” for the EU.

Reading advice:
“5 takeaways from EU’s big Balkan get-together” (Politico – 23.05.2018)

TIPSY goes Bosnia October 14 – 21, 2018
In October 2018, nine students of TIPSY – Tampere International Global Society Students travelled
to Sarajevo for a week-long excursion. The trip was organised with the intent to provide students
the opportunity to experience and learn about the post-war reconstruction and democratization
efforts of the Western Balkans. We met with local as well as international institutions responsible
for the development in the region and visited places of uttermost importance such as Mostar and
Srebrenica. The complex and frustrating situation in the country gave us a lot of food for thought
and reflection. For the following week, we will publish short reports written by the participants. The
students will present a few of the impressions and thoughts that developed during and after the trip.
This will include reflections on visits to some local as well as international organisations and
historically highly important places or thoughts on other aspects of present-day Bosnia.