While Bosnia and Herzegovina is still far from meeting the conditions for the entry into force of the stabilisation and association process with the EU, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is ready to launch accession talks, MEPs said in two separate votes on Thursday. They insisted that all candidate and potential candidate countries for EU membership must be treated on their own merits.

Bosnia and Herzegovina - falling further behind

"Bosnia and Herzegovina is unfortunately still lagging behind other countries in the region. To change this, we must see much stronger commitment and willingness of political elites to join forces on a clear vision of the country's overall direction," rapporteur Doris Pack (EPP, DE) said. "For the benefit of the citizens, the cancerous corruption must also be depleted with much more vigour," she added.

In their resolution, MEPs stress that substantial constitutional reform, at both federal and entity levels, is urgently needed to turn the country into a fully-functioning democracy. Bosnia and Herzegovina must also finally implement the European Court of Human Rights 2009 ruling on the equal rights of citizens to stand for election. Empowering women and youth, reforming public administration and better preparing for Croatia's EU membership are among other priorities raised by MEPs.

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia start talks before July

"The EU is rightly welcoming progress between Serbia and Kosovo. Those leaders didn't have to show less courage than what is required today between leaders in Athens and in Skopje. But equally I ask the European Council to understand that when you are in a queue and find yourself continually pushed past, at some point you walk away from the queue altogether," Richard Howitt (S&D, UK), rapporteur for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, said, asking the member states to start accession talks with Skopje without delay.

The resolution says that the start of accession negotiations could itself be a "game-changer" for the current status quo, giving positive impetus to further reforms and better relations with the country's neighbours. It also stresses that the name issue must be solved without delay and that all political forces must respect the country's parliament as a key democratic institution.

Procedure: Council and Commission statements followed by debate (non-legislative resolutions)