Sarajevo, 2 November 2023 (TDI): The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, delivered a strong message to Bosnia and Herzegovina during a joint press conference with Borjana Krišto, Chairwoman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Von der Leyen called on the nation to unite and speak “with one voice” to move its European Union (EU) accession process forward.

Bosnia and Herzegovina gained candidate status for EU membership last year. This marked an important milestone in its journey towards integration with the EU. 

Leyen said, “The work you’ve done in your first year shows that the country can deliver”. She also highlighted the progress made by Bosnia and Herzegovina and underlined the critical role of the country’s future within the European Union.

Her visit to Sarajevo comes at a time when the EU is eager to expedite the integration process for Western Balkan countries and encourage them to pursue necessary reforms. During her visit, Leyen discussed the details of a substantial 6 billion euro package for Western Balkan nations.

The Western Balkan countries, including Albania, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Kosovo are all at different stages of their EU accession journey which is expected to take several years. Bosnia and Herzegovina in particular faces challenges such as corruption, ethnic divisions, and political disagreements that have persisted since the 1992-95 war.

Bosnia Serb leaders advocating for separation from the nation. Such divisions have resulted in sanctions from the United States and the United Kingdom.

The President of the European Commission also addressed concerns related to freedom of speech and civil society in Bosnia, which have been challenged by recent legislative changes.

Bojana Kristo, Chairwoman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, echoed the call for unity during her meeting with President von der Leyen. She emphasized the importance of seizing the opportunity to make significant progress.

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She added that “Bosnia-Herzegovina’s future is in the European Union as a single, united, and sovereign country.

President von der Leyen concluded her message with a strong call for “resolute progress” in democratic reform and urged Bosnia and Herzegovina to take the necessary steps to initiate formal accession negotiations.