President. – The next item is the Council and Commission statements on the enlargement report for Bosnia and Herzegovina [2011/2888(RSP)].
Nicolai Wammen, President-in-Office of the Council. – Mr President, our third debate this morning concerns Bosnia and Herzegovina. I am happy to be able to give you a more positive assessment of the situation than that given in last autumn’s progress report and reflected in the Council’s conclusions of December 2011. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Doris Pack for her work on this issue.
Important developments have taken place since then, and we have reason to be cautiously optimistic. We expect the newly established Council of Ministers to deliver on a range of issues – economic as well as political – in an effort to ensure the proper functioning of the state and to enhance the European integration agenda. Let me briefly mention some of them.
The most pressing need now is for agreement to be reached on a state budget for 2012 and for it to be adopted. Institutions that have a role in EU integration should be properly financed, and specific policies also need to be funded. A global fiscal framework for 2012-2014 must also be developed to ensure sound fiscal management. Crucially, EUR 100 million of macro-financial assistance from the Commission cannot be released until this framework and an agreement with the International Monetary Fund are in place.
In its conclusions of last December, the Council urged all political leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina to live up to their responsibilities and to develop a shared vision of the future of their country. It has therefore been encouraging to see the different steps taken by the political actors since then in an effort to progress towards the EU. In particular, the recent adoption of the law on State aid and the law on the population census moved Bosnia and Herzegovina in the right direction.
However, a very important step on the path to European integration remains. This concerns the need for Bosnia and Herzegovina to make credible efforts to bring its constitution into full compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights in line with the Sejdić-Finci ruling. The Bosnian authorities must address this urgently. Improving and strengthening the efficient functioning of the state and its institutions is essential, including through the necessary constitutional changes. The European Union will need to see credible effort made in this regard for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s stabilisation and association agreement to enter into force.
Finally, I want to take the opportunity to underline that establishing an effective coordination mechanism for dealing with EU matters is crucial. Bosnia and Herzegovina will need to be in a position to adopt, implement and enforce EU laws and rules in a more efficient manner than has been the case so far.
From my intervention this morning, it is clear that much remains to be done in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Certain developments have been encouraging, and that is very welcome. We will, however, continue to encourage and assist Bosnia and Herzegovina in delivering on the important political and economic reforms which are needed. I know that we can count on the support of this Parliament in this regard. We in the Danish Presidency are also very much looking forward to our continued cooperation with the Commission on these matters.
Štefan Füle, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, let me first of all thank Doris Pack for an excellent report on Bosnia and Herzegovina as the basis for discussion with all of you today.
When speaking to this House about Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is difficult to be overly positive: there is light but there is also shadow. As your resolution points out, in the past year as a whole, progress has been limited. I therefore want to join you in reminding all political actors in the country of the road map towards European Union integration. In the face of last year’s political stalemate, the European Union has consistently maintained this road map and demonstrated its commitment in a variety of ways.
Firstly, the European Union has prolonged the mandate of the EUFOR Althea mission, with a new focus on capacity-building and training the armed forces of the country. This mission now confirms on a regular basis that there is no threat to the safe and secure environment.
Secondly, in light of improvements in law enforcement, we have also been able to decide on terminating the European Union Police Mission in June this year. However, follow-up will be ensured by a technical assistance mission on the ground.
Thirdly, citizens continue to enjoy travelling to the Schengen area without visas, while implementation of the agreement is closely monitored. This demonstrates to the citizens that the European Union perspective is real and tangible.
Fourthly, the European Union has enhanced its presence in Sarajevo by appointing Peter Sørensen in a double-hatted capacity as Head of Delegation, and as European Union Special Representative. The delegation has strengthened outreach and diplomatic activities.
These efforts start to show results. The European Union perspective has finally begun to dominate the political agenda. A series of joint initiatives have been launched in areas ranging from the Structured Dialogue on Justice to the fiscal and budgetary framework and on infrastructure development in transport and energy. The recent developments show that this determination has been rewarded.
After a year of stagnation, there is now a new positive momentum on the European Union agenda in Bosnia and Herzegovina: A State aid law and a law on the population census were adopted and a new state-level government has taken up work in February. The new Chair of the Council of Ministers, Mr Bevanda, whom I met last week, has put European Union integration at the forefront of his government programme.
The first indications are that Bosnia and Herzegovina wants to take great strides towards becoming a member of the European Union. This, in turn, bodes well for the steps that we can undertake once the country fulfils all the necessary conditions.
One of the many important points which you mention in your resolution is the necessary constitutional changes needed to be undertaken in order to enable the entry into force of the stabilisation and association agreement. The European Union needs to see a ‘credible effort’ with regard to the implementation of the Sejdić-Finci ruling to bring the constitution into compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights.
We are in close consultation with your neighbours across the river, the Council of Europe, on what this entails exactly. Decisive movement by Bosnia and Herzegovina here could unlock many new fruitful avenues for our cooperation.
Overall, 2012 will be a crucial year for the progress of Bosnia and Herzegovina on the path towards the European Union. The Commission wholeheartedly supports this endeavour and – as I understand – so does this House.
Doris Pack, on behalf of the PPE Group. – (DE) Mr President, in six weeks, more has happened in Bosnia and Herzegovina than we had expected to occur in 15 months. I would like to congratulate everyone who has taken this route. I hope that the country’s political leaders have understood that they are losing their links to Europe and that they should not constantly become involved in ethnically motivated disputes.
My report has 59 paragraphs, but, unfortunately, I can only mention a few of them. Most of them have already been covered by the two previous speakers. I would like to highlight the fact that the amendment to the constitution following the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the Sejdić-Finci ruling is absolutely essential. We need to see progress being made in the judicial system and, in particular, in the structured dialogue. We urgently need a national budget. It is also important that the necessary institutions are set up to enable the European Union to enter into negotiations with the country. The fight against corruption must produce some real results and an internal market must be created in Bosnia and Herzegovina which will be in the interests both of workers and of investors. The process of reorganising the education system must be speeded up and we also want to see an end to two schools under one roof. The veterinary profession and the food supply chain must be restructured to comply with EU requirements, particularly given that the neighbouring country of Croatia is joining the EU.
We need to investigate whether the office of the High Representative should be closed down in the near future against the background of the recent positive developments, in order to give more responsibility to local politicians.
We welcome the significant commitment shown by the EU ambassador, who has put a great deal of hard work into this country. We also suggest that he is given more resources locally to support his activities. Bosnia and Herzegovina is the only country in the region which has not granted right of entry to the citizens of Kosovo. There are many Bosnians living in Kosovo who have family in Bosnia and Herzegovina and who would like to return, at least for a visit. I am expecting this issue to be resolved soon. I hope that Bosnia and Herzegovina can at least bring its stabilisation and association agreement (SAA) status to an end this year and perhaps even submit its accession application.
(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))
William (The Earl of) Dartmouth (EFD), Blue-card question. – Ms Pack, do you think that it is a good thing for the nation states of Europe for Bosnia and Herzegovina to join the euro, because that is what is required under the Treaty if Bosnia and Herzegovina should, in fact, become a Member of the European Union, which is what you seem to be in favour of?
Doris Pack (PPE), Blue-card answer. – (DE) Mr President, Mr Dartmouth, I do not know why you are looking so far ahead. First, the country has to be prepared for accession and then it will join the EU. After that, it has to meet the criteria and when it shows that it can meet them, it can join the euro area too. We will welcome this, but it will not happen tomorrow or even the day after, and you know that as well as I do. You are familiar with the timeframes. Furthermore, the country’s currency is the convertible mark, which means that it is very close to the euro. You do not need to worry about it. You may not be joining the euro, but Bosnia and Herzegovina definitely will when it has achieved its goal.
Emine Bozkurt, on behalf of the S&D Group. – Mr President, there is progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina with the new government, the State Aid Law and the Census Law. However, Bosnia and Herzegovina still needs to find a durable solution for refugees and implement Annex VII of the Dayton Peace Agreement. The main and last step necessary to comply with the conditions of the SAA (stabilisation and association agreement) is implementing the Sejdić-Finci ruling. The parliamentary committee working on this failed to come up with concrete results – that is regrettable.
If you are already late for the train, small steps to catch that train will not help, especially if that train is already moving. We want Bosnia and Herzegovina to jump in, but quick and well considered reforms are needed. If Bosnia and Herzegovina wants to apply for candidate status in June, the leaders need to deliver to us and, most of all, to their own citizens. The desire of the Bosnia and Herzegovinian people to join the EU crosses all national, ethnic and religious lines and the young people need perspective, and an EU one.
A better coordination mechanism and the country speaking with one voice to the EU are necessary, so is political will and leaders to talk about what binds rather than what divides the country. Divisive nationalism and extremism can divide a country, especially in a fragile region with a fresh war history such as the Western Balkans. All forms of extremism must be condemned and addressed in the region as a whole.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country with many faces, but it is definitely not one of Wahhabites. Therefore, the only reference in the report to Wahhabites is far from reflecting the reality and this reference should disappear. For reconciliation, justice is necessary. The obstruction of justice and the denial of history and of genocide is taking the country backwards not forward. People should also be free to choose whether they want to see a movie or not. Banning the movie of Angelina Jolie is a wrong message for freedom of thought and expression, crucial in any democracy.
Sarah Ludford, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, Ms Pack’s report observes that the lack of job perspectives, especially among young people, is hindering the progress of the country and contributing to social discontent. One of the reasons I was so pleased to push hard in support of Ms Fajon on visa-free travel for Bosnians 18 months ago – with which we succeeded – was to allow travel for study and business in the hope of an economic boost, as well as widened horizons.
Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot prosper economically or otherwise, or find its future in the EU, without a functional state that can take decisions. Progress has been made, as Mr Wammen and Ms Pack and Commissioner Füle have said – formation of the government, adoption of State aid and census laws, for instance – but, as Mr Wammen said, without a budget, BiH cannot get EU aid. Without tackling crime and corruption and having an independent judiciary, business will not invest. Being an epicentre of trafficking in human beings is a huge shame for the country.
There needs to be local ownership of reforms, but international support and guidance – especially from the EU – is still highly relevant. That is why the ALDE Group is backing the amendment from the S&D Group reintroducing the explicit mention of the ‘5+2 Agenda’ as a basis for closing the OHR, and that is also why ALDE has retabled its amendment calling for the EU to sponsor a constitutional conference in cooperation with the Council of Europe across the road, which has great expertise in its Venice Commission. Thank you again to Ms Pack for a very good report.
Marije Cornelissen, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Mr President, religious extremism, like all extremism, is deplorable. A group that refuses to allow women in political posts, wants to base legislation and justice on a religious book and discriminates against other religions, and whose followers put their children in medical danger, should have no place in political institutions. I am, of course, speaking of the Netherlands here, where the party of Mr Belder does all these things out of Christian religious extremism. Aside from the luckily very limited group of voters for his party, most other Christians in the Netherlands are very, very moderate.
In the same vein, almost all Muslims in BiH are very, very moderate, and, in the same vein, it would be as disproportionate to adopt a resolution here that warns of the threat of Wahhabism in BiH as it would be to adopt a resolution on Christian extremism in the Netherlands. We will, of course, adopt a text on the Netherlands tomorrow, but without mention of this.
There is undoubtedly extremism in BiH, as there is in the rest of the Balkans. Let us warn of all extremisms that are intolerant and discriminatory. I, for one, have, up to now, been attacked by nationalist, Orthodox and Catholic extremists at the diverse Gay Prides I have been at, not yet by Wahhabis up to now. I hope you will support us in taking out the specific mention of Wahhabism in the report and let us worry about extremism in general. Otherwise, it is a brilliant report and if this is taken out, we will happily vote in favour.
Oldřich Vlasák, on behalf of the ECR Group. – (CS) Mr President, the European Conservatives and Reformists Group wholeheartedly welcomed the expansion package from October last year. We fully support the regulation and the recommendations of the Commission. We are fully behind the expansion and we believe that a further acceleration in the talks with Croatia and its accession in 2013 will provide a very good incentive and a model for other countries in the Western Balkans, including Bosnia and Herzegovina. This does not mean, however, that the process of further expansion will be problem-free. The statement on the lack of reform progress by Bosnia and Herzegovina in some areas is, in our opinion, an objective evaluation of the current situation in this country. In addition to better cooperation at all levels, there is a particular need to strengthen the judicial system and establish rules for the fight against corruption. Above and beyond this point, I would like to emphasise that we fully support the rapid entry of, and negotiations with, Iceland, and I have personally long stressed the strategic importance of full EU membership for Turkey.
Bastiaan Belder, on behalf of the EFD Group. – (NL) Mr President, according to paragraph 27 of the resolution, the European Parliament is concerned about Wahhabi extremism in the Western Balkans. The statement of this fact gives me immediate reason to put a couple of questions to Commissioner Füle.
Does the Commission share this concern about the Wahhabi events in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and, if so, what is the Commission doing to combat Wahhabi extremism in BiH?
In paragraph 27, praise is given to the Grand Mufti of Bosnia for his stance against terrorism and violence. Prominent Bosnian artists and human rights defenders, such as Refik Hodžić and Feđa Štukan, on the other hand, argue that Grand Mufti Cerić is himself personally responsible for fuelling ethnic distrust and for blatant hate speech, including issuing threats against ‘the infidels’.
I would like to hear from the Commissioner exactly what Brussels’s current assessment is of the Mufti’s social role and contribution, respectively?
Ewald Stadler (NI). – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, firstly, I am of the opinion that we should definitely refer to Wahhabism and the risk of Islamic fundamentalism in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the report and, in this respect, I agree with the rapporteur.
The speeches by the rapporteur, Ms Pack, and by Mr Wammen make the disappointment about the developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina very clear. I believe we must take an objective view of the fact that the country simply does not have the will to form a single cohesive state. It also does not have the will to establish a joint Bosnian and Herzegovinian identity.
The ethnic groups continue to have a sceptical or even a hostile attitude to one another. Therefore, I must advise against taking a falsely romantic view of the development of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Moreover, we should not cling desperately to the concept of a single unified state. Given the constitutional development of this country, we should also consider the possible alternatives, such as a loose federation, which may be capable of surviving, or breaking the country up into cantons, so that we at least have one contact. This country is very far from being ready to join the Union. Candidate status will not be within its reach for a long time.
Bernd Posselt (PPE). – (DE) Mr President, next year, the European Union will have a border with Bosnia and Herzegovina and this year is the 20th anniversary of the outbreak of war there which was instigated by Belgrade. We must be aware of the fact that it is time that genuine reforms were implemented. The EU Special Representatives, Mr Inzko and Mr Sørensen, have both done an excellent job and both deserve our support. However, as Ms Pack rightly said, the initiative must come from the country itself. This is why we need to educate a new young generation of leaders from all three nationalities, strengthen the system of local authorities and make the education system more European, including the establishment of a European university.
State reform is urgently needed to transform this country into a symmetrical federation of three different peoples. All of this may be very difficult to achieve, but I do not believe that we can risk the collapse of Bosnia and Herzegovina. If this were to happen, the central Bosnian Croats, who are never referred to and who live in very isolated communities, and the Muslims would be the losers. However, even the supposed winners, Republika Srpska and Herzegovina, would also lose. It would be a disaster for everyone.
William (The Earl of) Dartmouth (EFD). - Mr President, the UK is not a particularly rich country. Nevertheless, income per head in the United Kingdom is eight times that in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is a problem: how it will be met is by massive subsidies from the British taxpayer and the other EU taxpayers. In fact, the gravy train of EU subsidies has started already. In the last ten years, Bosnia and Herzegovina – not an EU member, not yet even a candidate – has received EUR 1.6 billion in assorted subsidies. There will be more to pay if it becomes a candidate and much, much more if, in fact, Bosnia and Herzegovina does become a member of the EU.
On the evidence of this debate, nobody is properly counting the cost. The idea of Bosnia and Herzegovina being a member of the EU is a complete non-starter, on financial grounds alone, and I urge you all to forget it.
Anna Ibrisagic (PPE). – (SV) Mr President, if Bosnia is to succeed, the EU must also do its part. We must help Bosnia to strengthen the state’s coordination mechanisms. It also needs to be clear that it is the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina that is responsible for this work. When the EU representatives approach Bosnia, it should be the Council of Ministers to which they turn.
We have been discussing Bosnia for so many years, and both Bosnia and the EU have had political goals and ambitions. This year, however, there is new hope, a kind of positive momentum provided by Prime Minister Bevanda’s statement that his highest priority will be Bosnia’s EU perspective and that the country should apply for candidate status as soon as possible. This inspires a great deal of hope. We absolutely must support this goal.
Jan Kozłowski (PPE). – (PL) Mr President, firstly, I would like to offer my sincere compliments to Doris Pack on a very good and balanced report. I welcome the fact that a new government has been formed in Bosnia and Herzegovina; I believe that this represents an opportunity to accelerate the reforms mentioned by previous speakers and also to make further progress on integration with the European Union.
I think that questions of education and employment policy, crucial for the growth and development of the country in socio-economic terms, should be at the centre of the government’s attention. Reforms in the education system should aim to make the provision of education better adapted to the demands of the labour market, and thus to increase employability, particularly among young people. This objective should also be furthered by the use of European educational programmes which support youth mobility, as well as by action to achieve mutual recognition of qualifications in the region. These are questions which could be taken up by the Western Balkans Platform on Education and Training.
Zita Gurmai (S&D). - Mr President, may I thank, among others, Doris Pack, for her great report.
First, let me underline that I firmly believe in the European future and prospects of Bosnia and Herzegovina, along with its Western Balkan neighbours. I also welcome the recent appointment of Mr Bevanda as Prime Minister, which puts an end to 15 months of political crisis. However, though progress has been made, much remains to be done regarding fundamental reforms with a view to EU integration.
I would like to insist here on the human and social rights issues. Though human rights and protection of minorities are broadly ensured, constitutional changes still have to be made regarding compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights as well as the effective implementation of major human rights conventions. Moreover, though state-level anti-discrimination legislation has been put in place, its implementation remains very weak, particularly with regard to the protection of women against violence and the social protection of children.
Finally, I would like to highlight my concerns regarding the number of divided schools and mono-ethnic schools. I know that the scars of the past take time to heal, but I believe that much progress needs to be made in terms of inter-ethnic relations.
Jelko Kacin (ALDE). - Mr President, now that Serbia has been granted candidate status and neighbouring Croatia will join the EU next year, Bosnia and Herzegovina leaders should at last put an end to their internal conflicts along national lines. They need to reach a consensus on constitutional changes and strengthen state-level institutions so that they are capable of carrying out EU-related reforms and, eventually, accession negotiations. Bosnia and Herzegovina needs a proper government, not a council of ministers.
Some of the outstanding issues are the property of the Bosnia and Herzegovina military and the need to follow up the ECHR ruling on the Sejdić-Finci case. The newly-elected council of ministers is doing a good job by dealing with the burning economic issues and moving away from nationalistic discourse. Unemployment and a balanced budget are the real issues that Vjekoslav Bevanda, the Chair of the Council of Ministers (not a Prime Minister), is right to deal with.
Lastly, I would add that Bosnia and Herzegovina needs at least one new ministry at state level, a Ministry of Agriculture. Agriculture is one of the most important topics of the negotiations, and Bosnia needs to have adequate institutions to deal with this topic.
Jaroslav Paška (EFD). – (SK) Mr President, the sensitive and constructive policy of the European Union on the Balkans is also producing results in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Croatia’s accession to the European Union and the opening of accession negotiations with Serbia is certainly having a stimulating effect on the political situation in this country as well. The influence of the EU in this country should still, I think, be focused on stabilising local democracy and calming or combating ethnic tensions.
The motivation of the European perspective for the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as its political leaders, can be a significant incentive for the implementation of the necessary reforms to the political system and the public administration institutions. We need be under no illusion that the road taken by Bosnia and Herzegovina towards a European political culture will be simple. We must be patient and we should be able to appreciate every positive change that occurs in this country.
Franz Obermayr (NI). – (DE) Mr President, unfortunately, there is a significant difference between wishes and reality in Bosnia. It is understandable that the young people want to join the EU, despite all the obstacles, but in reality, things look very different.
In economic terms, the country has hit rock bottom. The ethnic groups have a more than sceptical attitude to one another. The administration is inefficient and, most importantly for me, Islamic fundamentalism is a problem. Even if many of the ladies and gentlemen here in the Chamber do not want to believe this, it is even reaching as far as the primary schools in Austria and we really should not underestimate it.
A state must fulfil its duties in order to be accepted and recognised as a state. I believe that rushing to join the EU is the wrong thing to do.
I would like to make one more comment on Christian extremism, which has already been mentioned by one of the previous speakers. Christian extremism may not be particularly cool, but, unlike the Salafists, the Wahhabists and Sharia law, I do not believe that it represents a threat to Western culture, the European culture of the European Union.
President. – Thank you very much, Mr Obermayr. It is not my job as President to discuss the content of speeches. However, as the Vice-President responsible for issues of extremism, I would like to make it clear that any form of extremism is harmful to society.
Franz Obermayr (NI). – (DE) Mr President, I believe that it is necessary for me to clarify the situation. When I talk about extremism in inverted commas, I do not mean what we generally understand by violent extremism. Instead, as previous speakers have already said, I am referring to Christian extremism. When a religion calls on us to love our neighbours, and that is how I understand it, I cannot envisage it including the form of extremism which you rightly disapprove of and which I am also opposed to.
Boris Zala (S&D). - Mr President, most of us would like to see Bosnia and Herzegovina developing strong and effective institutions at state level.
It is obvious that without a functioning state, no country can cope with the demands of European integration. But there is a real risk here that we, the EU, can overshoot it. If we push too hard for central institutions, our efforts might backfire. It will stoke precisely those centrifugal and nationalist dynamics that we want to prevent, because in the end, for any state to function, it requires democratic legitimacy and that cannot be imposed by outsiders.
Let me be clear: European integration can indeed transform the politics and economics of candidate countries as it has done in my country, but it cannot construct democratic legitimacy of states and their institutions. Only its citizens and its political elites can.
Of course, Bosnia and Herzegovina can only join the EU as a single state, but it needs to be a single state that its citizens and politicians from the three entities will agree upon amongst themselves.
Ivo Vajgl (ALDE). – (SL) Mr President, we have an excellent report before us, thanks to the long-standing efforts and knowledge of our rapporteur, Doris Pack.
The report addresses and supports the European perspective of Bosnia and Herzegovina – the only legitimate approach. I would like to join those Members who believe the reference to the Wahhabis as a threat in Bosnia and Herzegovina is completely unnecessary. In fact, this is misleading and somewhat casts suspicion on what Bosnia and Herzegovina stands for, which has always been cultural, religious and ethnic diversity.
I would like to finish by saying that it is essential that the population of Bosnia and Herzegovina is allowed, as far as possible, to decide its own fate, including the country’s constitutional arrangements. In doing so, the Dayton Agreement, which brought an end to the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, cannot be the only taboo subject.
Andrew Henry William Brons (NI). - Mr President, so yet another part of the former Yugoslavian federation is to give up its independence to a new federation, the EU. The federation is dead; long live the federation.
Is Bosnia’s embracing of the free movement of people going to extend to the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina, or simply to the rest of the EU? Many Bosnians will regard the EU as an attractive escape route from the fragmented and still dangerous Bosnia and Herzegovina. From the point of view of the EU’s existing members, Bosnia will be yet another net recipient of EU funds and, of course, an opportunity for the rest of us to import some of their interesting and enriching ethnic friction, just in case we have not got enough of that already.
(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))
Bernd Posselt (PPE), Blue-card question. – Mr President, Mr Brons, I would just like to ask you whether a) you know that Yugoslavia was a Communist dictatorship and that the EU is a democratic community and b) you are aware that it is possible to leave the EU. We are looking forward to Bosnia and Herzegovina joining the EU. When will you take the initiative and encourage your country to leave? Then we will know whether or not the people of your country are really in favour of membership.
Andrew Henry William Brons (NI), Blue-card answer. – I will answer the last part first. I have been continuously asking my country to leave so at least we are in agreement on that, Mr Posselt. Your mention of Yugoslavia being a Communist dictatorship is absolutely right and therefore, some might say that it is appropriate that it should join the EU, another dictatorship.
Norica Nicolai (ALDE). - Mr President, I want to welcome the report by Doris Pack. It is realistic and balanced, but it is difficult to accept paragraph 27 of the report because it is not – shall I say – ‘politically correct’ to label an entire community as extremist.
I believe for all of us, Bosnia and Herzegovina is important because we must avoid the failure of a state. The crucial issue for this state is to make the appropriate constitutional reforms to benefit the entire community, because it is multicultural and multi-ethnic. How we deal with this community depends on us, and for this reason we must back increased EU support for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Another issue that I want to tackle is the question of impunity. All of us know that in Bosnia and Herzegovina, there have been a lot of war crimes in the form of rape, but impunity still exists. I would like to welcome the current measures, but I consider they are not enough for a realistic approach.
(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))
Ewald Stadler (NI), Blue-card question. – (DE) Mr President, Ms Nicolai, you and one of the other Members in your group have repeatedly said that Wahhabi extremism should not be mentioned in the report. Are you and your colleague really of the opinion that we should keep quiet about this extremism? Do you believe, despite the liberal Muslim tradition in Bosnia and Herzegovina, that we really should say nothing about the influence of Saudi Arabia and the Wahhabi extremists who are putting a lot of money into the country? Do you really think that extremism will go away if we do not talk about it? I believe that it puts at risk the European values which you always swear by and, therefore, it seems important to me to mention this extremism.
Norica Nicolai (ALDE), Blue-card answer. – (RO) Mr President, if something is mentioned in a report, it never disappears. Extremism is a threat, but it is by no means a European approach to consider whole communities extremist, so long as only some of their representatives act in this way. Certainly, Saudi Arabia supports the Wahhabi community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but I hope this situation is not generated by an extremist approach on the part of this state.
End of the catch-the-eye procedure
Štefan Füle, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, honourable Members, it has been a very useful debate indeed and many important aspects have been mentioned.
If I come back to the honourable Member Belder’s question, let me say the following: while continuing to denounce and reject all forms of extremism, the Commission is not commenting on specific religious orientation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. You will not find that in our last progress report.
There are many statements from religious leaders, from all sides on an almost daily basis, and we urge restraint and a spirit of cooperation and reconciliation from all responsible religious and political leaders.
Let me also highlight some other important issues which have been voiced in your debate. As also raised in your draft resolution, it is important that the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina carry out necessary technical preparations for a population census as a matter of urgency. The Commission is ready to give technical support for this and to be actively involved in the census so essential for the socio-economic development.
Your resolution also highlights the urgent need for all levels of authorities to strengthen coordination in all sectors relevant for the transposition of European Union legislation and for financial cooperation. It is evident that in this area, Bosnia and Herzegovina need to undertake substantial efforts.
The debate overall has shown that a large majority of colleagues here share our views. We are united in our joint commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s European future and we are clear in what we expect from the country in the next months in order to move forward and make up for lost time.
It will not be easy with the election campaign starting very soon for the local elections in October. There will be many challenges ahead and we need to make sure that the politicians in Bosnia and Herzegovina are ready to take up a greater part of the ownership of the process.
It is time for Bosnia and Herzegovina to catch up with its neighbours. What we need more than anything else for this is a positive spirit towards compromise. All of us should thus encourage politicians in the country to make compromises in the European spirit, to leave the past behind, and to move the country towards its European future.
Nicolai Wammen, President-in-Office of the Council. – (DA) Mr President, Commissioner Füle, honourable Members, the EU has given the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina the hope of a future within the family. It is therefore gratifying that a new government has now been formed there and that the political leaders are taking joint responsibility for the country’s development.
There are signs that the new government will take a series of initiatives, economic as well as political, in order to be able to bring about progress for the country’s citizens and promote integration in relation to the EU. Thus, there has already been progress in respect of two of the three conditions for the entry into force of a stabilisation and association agreement: firstly, the adoption of the law on State aid and, secondly, the adoption of the law on the population census. The question of bringing the country’s constitution into line with the European Convention on Human Rights is still to be resolved. There can be no doubt that a credible effort in this regard is crucial to the country meeting its obligations.
The next milestone is the entry into force of a stabilisation and association agreement. This will systematise the dialogue between the EU and Bosnia and Herzegovina and make it possible to work in a more targeted way on the reform efforts. It is important to send out the signal that the EU will continue to assist Bosnia and Herzegovina, including via the EU Special Representative, Peter Sørensen, who has done a splendid job which has been much appreciated.
The primary responsibility for pushing things forward lies, of course, with the leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is up to them to show leadership and it is up to them to take the necessary decisions and continue the path of reform so that Bosnia and Herzegovina can also make progress along the path to the EU.
The road to the EU is a long and tough one. It is, and should be, based on hard work and own merit. Croatia’s accession to the EU and Serbia’s recent candidate status demonstrate that EU orientation is available for those countries that are willing to undertake reforms and take the crucial steps. I hope this will be a source of motivation for Bosnia and Herzegovina, and I wish Parliament, the Commission and the Council well in their work in carrying out the important tasks ahead of us in this regard.
(The sitting was suspended at 11.40 and resumed at 12.05)
Written statements (Rule 149)
Vladko Todorov Panayotov (ALDE), in writing. – Along with other Western Balkan countries, Bosnia is currently facing the double challenge of integrating the EU while consolidating the constructions of its nation. Its political, economic, social and structural improvements are unquestionable; this duplicity remains one of the main differences with the 2004 enlargement and could represent an extra burden to achieving the integration. Nevertheless, I believe the EU could make this task easier for the future Member States. In fact, 20 years ago, Europe intended to defend the values of multiculturalism in the Balkan region. Nowadays, it appears that some of the EU’s main leaders have stopped believing in these values. If the principle of enlargement itself is not at stake, how can multiculturalism be promoted in the Balkan region when multiculturalism is discarded by the founding countries of the EU? It is not easy to expand when there are doubts at the core, yet it is desirable and pressing for us to set a good example and structure for these future Member States.