Member states divided over EU accession talks with Bosnia and Herzegovina

EU member states are divided over the recommendation to begin accession negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina, a meeting of ministers in Brussels showed on Tuesday.

The European Commission announced last week that Bosnia and Herzegovina had made “impressive progress” and recommended that member states open negotiations. On Thursday, the heads of the 27 governments will consider the issue at a summit in Brussels. 

On Tuesday, Germany aligned itself with Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, Slovakia and Slovenia, which recently defended the green light for Sarajevo in a letter. Berlin is in favour of “an immediate start of accession negotiations”, state secretary for European Affairs Anna Lührmann said. “I think we have seen clear progress on reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina over the past months and we should honour that.”

"I think we have seen clear progress on reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina over the past months and we should honour that"

However, France, the Netherlands and Denmark are more sceptical. “We think the efforts made since December are too limited,” France’s deputy European Affairs minister, Jean-Noël Barrot, said. “We must encourage the Bosnian leaders to make efforts to meet the set objectives so that, when the time comes, we can achieve an effective opening of negotiations.”

Bosnia and Herzegovina has only been a candidate country since December 2020. In order to actually start negotiations, it needs to implement a number of reforms, including in the fight against corruption, conflicts of interest and organised crime. Strengthening of the judiciary is also needed. ​ 

It has been divided since the end of the civil war in 1995. The country consists of two entities: a Serb entity and a Bosniak and Croat entity. Partly due to the complicated political situation, it lags behind other countries in the region in its rapprochement with the EU. 

Slovenia and Croatia are already members; negotiations have been launched with Serbia, Montenegro, Albania and North Macedonia. Kosovo is regarded as a potential candidate. 


President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and president of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina Borjana Kristo at a press conference in Sarajevo, 1 November 2023 © ELVIS BARUKCIC / AFP

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