Motion for a resolution - B6-0541/2008Motion for a resolution



to wind up the debate on statements by the Council and Commission
pursuant to Rule 103(2) of the Rules of Procedure
by Doris Pack
on behalf of the Committee on Foreign Affairs
on the conclusion of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, of the other part

Procedure : 2008/2654(RSP)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected :  


European Parliament resolution on the conclusion of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, of the other part

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Presidency conclusions of the Thessaloniki European Council (19-20 June 2003) and to the annex thereto entitled 'The Thessaloniki Agenda for the Western Balkans: moving towards European integration',

–  having regard to the Council decision of 7 November 2005 to open negotiations with country-regionplaceBosnia and Herzegovina with a view to an association and stabilisation agreement,

–  having regard to the initialling of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement on 4 December 2007 and its signature on 16 June 2008,

–  having regard to the Council and Commission Decision on the conclusion of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, of the other part (CNS(2008)08225),

–  having regard to the Road Map for visa liberalisation presented to country-regionplaceBosnia and Herzegovina by the Commission on 5 June 2008,

–  having regard to the Interim Agreement on trade and trade-related matters between the European Community, of the one part, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, of the other part, the Annexes and Protocols annexed thereto, and the joint declaration and the declaration by the Community attached to the Final Act,

–  having regard to Rule 103(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) is the first comprehensive international agreement between Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and the European Union establishing a contractual relationship between the two parties which will facilitate BiH's transition towards becoming a fully functional state, a state whose future, as declared at the Thessaloniki European Summit, lies in the European Union,

B.  whereas the SAA has the potential to boost BiH's economy since it contains provisions which commit the country to liberalise its market, thus increasing the competitiveness of its businesses and attracting investment, to modernise its legal framework by making it more efficient and transparent and to approximate gradually BiH's laws and regulations to the EU's acquis communautaire,

C.  whereas the Interim Agreement, which has been in force since 1 July 2008, abolishes gradually most trade restrictions between the two parties and could in the short term strain BiH's economy due to competition by EU products and a reduction in customs revenues,

D.  whereas the SAA contains provisions concerning the strengthening of institutions, the consolidation of the rule of law and respect for human rights, including minority rights,

E.  whereas it stipulates that the parties should cooperate in sensitive areas such as visas, border controls, asylum and migration, money laundering, the fight against terrorism and the fight against organised crime,

F.  whereas the implementation of the agreed reform of BiH police structures should be seen as part of the country's efforts to improve its capacity to address the above issues,

G.  whereas raising the level of general education and vocational education and training in BiH as well as youth policy and youth work, including non-formal education, is also an objective of the agreement,

H.  whereas stronger efforts are needed in order to overcome the division along ethnic lines and move towards genuine reconciliation between the parties; whereas these efforts must be addressed, in particular, to the young generations through common education programmes in both entities and through a common understanding of the recent tragic events that took place in the country,

placeI.  whereas BiH is still in many respects a country divided along ethnic lines, which is an obstacle to its transformation into a really functional state and democracy,

J.  whereas there are still 125 072 people officially registered as displaced persons, of whom, according to the BiH Government, 8000 IDPs are still living in collective centres, notably because of a lack of adequate housing, infrastructure and employment in their areas of origin,

K.  having regard to the sterling work carried out on the ground by NGOs seeking to make the situation of internally displaced persons and refugees more bearable,

L.  whereas there are also 45 000 people officially registered in need of assistance to return to their pre-war places of residence,

M.  whereas war crimes should be pursued with equal determination, means and efficiency at both State and local level,

1.  Welcomes the signature of this important agreement and urges all EU Member States to ratify it swiftly; is convinced that this agreement consolidates the European prospects of BiH and provides a unique opportunity for the country to achieve peace, stability and prosperity;

2.  Reminds the political leaders, in particular, that it is mainly their responsibility to exploit this opportunity by showing sufficient foresight and determination in pursuing jointly reforms at all levels - State, entity and local - with a view to modernising the country and making it more efficient and compatible with EU standards, not least by abolishing all unnecessary legal and administrative barriers and by streamlining administrative structures; believes that the authorities of the Federation, in particular, should as a matter of urgency consider taking concrete steps in this direction;

3.  Recalls in this respect the obligation of BiH, in line with the SAA and the Interim Agreement, inter alia to:

a.  abolish gradually all quantitative restrictions on EU products,

b.  dismantle customs duties according to the schedules negotiated,

c.  simplify the flow of goods by any means of transport throughout the PlaceTypeplaceterritoryPlaceName of BiH, and

d.  make an exhaustive inventory of all aid schemes in the whole country, align all aid schemes to EU legislation and set up an independent authority for State aid;

4.  Considers that the SAA has the potential to boost BiH's economy since it contains provisions which commit the country to liberalise its market, thus increasing the competitiveness of its businesses and attracting investment, and to modernise its legal framework by making it more efficient and transparent; encourages BiH's authorities to undertake the necessary steps to increase the level of foreign direct investment in the country;

5.  Believes that the above measures mean that BiH's administrative capacity must be strengthened at all levels, including at the level of the State, which will have the responsibility to monitor and ensure compliance with the obligations resulting from the agreement, regardless of which bodies are responsible for the implementation of the SAA;

6.  Recalls that both entities need to make progress in the privatisation process but emphasises that this should be done under transparent conditions and within a proper regulatory and legal framework and that the proceeds from privatisation should be invested in order to foster lasting economic development in the country;

7.  Calls on the BiH Parliament, in close cooperation with the entity parliaments, to monitor the implementation of the SAA and to facilitate the adoption of legislation relating to the SAA and the European Partnership;

8.  Is convinced that the provisions regarding cooperation in areas such as visas, border management, migration and fighting organised crime and terrorism will provide a powerful incentive in BiH to build on the recently adopted police reform by promoting further cooperation between the different police structures and achieving greater harmonisation of procedures and practices; calls on the EU Police Mission to BiH to facilitate this process;

9.  Welcomes the fact that the agreement also upholds the principle of non-discriminatory access to BiH's education and vocational training systems irrespective of gender, ethnic origin or religion; believes in fact that serious efforts need to be undertaken in order to overcome the segregationist structures currently operating in the country; considers education and the familiarity gained through having lived side by side from an early age to be key factors in the reconciliation process;

10.  Believes that the EU should promote academic and research cooperation, including exchanges of staff, between BiH and the other countries of the region and between these and the EU Member States; recalls in this respect the contribution that EU programmes can make to this objective and the urgency of establishing a national agency in charge of implementing these programmes which are now open to the countries of the Western Balkans;

11.  Urges the educational authorities in BiH finally to put in place the national agency required to allow participation by BiH citizens in the Community mobility programmes, which, at the behest of this Parliament, have been opened up to the Western Balkan countries; takes the view that, besides fostering students' and researchers' mobility, the relevant Community programmes should also seek to promote cross-entity cooperation between educational establishments;

12.  Is also of the view that, taking into account the social and economic impact which might result from the entry into force of the Interim Agreement, the EU Pre-Accession Instrument must provide support to the modernisation of the country's social security systems and its labour legislation, as well as support for labour market organisations and trade unions, for upgrading of BiH's transport infrastructure in order to facilitate economic development, and for environmental policies to reduce pollution, to optimise energy consumption and to improve waste management; considers it all the more regrettable therefore that the BiH authorities have failed to appoint the national IPA Coordinator, as requested by the Commission;

13.  Calls on the Commission to develop tailor-made measures reflecting the special conditions in BiH in order to assist and facilitate the process of accession to the EU;

14.  Urges the Commission to include the country in all its initiatives for promoting interpersonal contacts, developing civil society and enhancing BiH's economic and social development;

15.  Is concerned about the lack of progress in the return of refugees and IDPs, for example in Posavina; recalls the need to ensure that local authorities are more involved in and committed to the return process, the need to organise targeted outreach activities in order to increase public acceptance of returnees, the need to address outstanding infrastructure and public utilities requirements in the areas of return, the need to create employment opportunities for returnees, and the need to harmonise pension, health insurance and education systems throughout BiH, so as to ensure that returns can take place under safe and dignified conditions, are sustainable and effectively contribute to the reconciliation process;

16.  Recalls in this context the commitment to implement the Sarajevo Declaration of 2005;

17.  Is convinced that increased efforts to facilitate returns are of particular importance in view of the need to carry out by 2011 a new population census, based on disaggregated data, in order to provide an updated overview of the population structure in BiH;

18.  Calls on the BiH authorities to urgently address the problems of the 8000 residents of the still existing collective centres, for whom return in safety and dignity may not be feasible, and to consider appropriate, dignified and durable solutions for this population;

19.  Considers that more efforts should be deployed for the rights of minorities in BiH, given the limited progress in this area; welcomes in this respect the electoral law amendment of April 2008 enabling members of national minorities to stand for local election; nevertheless regrets the fact that the number of seats for national minorities is left to the discretion of municipalities; emphasises furthermore the need to make operational the advisory councils on minorities which have recently been established in the Republika Srpska and are due to be set up in the Federation of BiH; finally deplores the persisting discrimination against 'others' in the Constitution and electoral laws of BiH;

20.  Calls for more funding to be provided for the attainment of the National Mine Action Strategy's goal of ridding BiH of mines by 2009; points out that the main challenge in this area is the lack of funding for implementation of that strategy, and therefore urges the competent authorities to provide the funding required to implement and complete that project as swiftly as possible;

21.  Recalls in this context the need to implement effectively the provisions regarding restitution of property which are already in force and urges the BiH authorities to overcome their hesitations in this respect;

22.  Is also convinced that greater efforts should be devoted to addressing the question of missing persons and reparations to their families, and welcomes in this respect the work done by the International Commission on Missing Persons and the BiH Missing Persons Institute; expresses its grave concern that the establishment of competing agencies at the entity level might undermine that work;

23.  Takes the view that increased attention needs to be paid to war crimes trials at district and cantonal level in order to clarify whether and in what way cases should be distributed between the State and lower-level judiciaries, and to ensure that courts and prosecutors are properly resourced, that witnesses have access to adequate protection, that cross-border police and judicial cooperation is strengthened, and that the legal framework applicable at State, cantonal and local level is harmonised; calls on the Commission and the countries of the Western Balkans to act to make a marked improvement in cooperation at regional and international level in this connection;

24.  Supports in this context the current drafting of the BiH War Crimes Prosecution Strategy, which, by clarifying the number of potential war crimes cases, should help identify the policy, financial and legislative decisions and resources necessary to address these cases;

25.  Is concerned about the climate of intimidation of the media, human rights activists and civil society in general which prevails in the Republika Srspka and urges political leaders to recognise the important role which independent media and NGOs play in the democratic life of their entity;

26.  Regrets the intention announced by the Republika Srpska to withdraw unilaterally from the State power transmission company and to form its own by withdrawing its previous support for the agreed reform; points out that this act undermines Bosnian efforts in the context of the country's Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP); reminds the authorities of the Republika Srpska that the SAP provides the most effective opportunity to overcome current administrative barriers and resume regional cooperation with a view to improving the country's European prospects and preparing the country for EU membership;

27.  Calls for appropriate action to be taken in response to BiH's signing, in connection with the International Criminal Tribunal, of a bilateral immunity agreement with the country-regionplaceUnited States that is out of step with the EU's common position and guidelines in this area;

28.  Regrets the fact that, despite the serious challenges facing BiH in the field of controlling corruption, organised crime, human trafficking, money laundering and drug trafficking, progress in these areas is hampered by political interference and lack of political will and by lack of coordination between the different entity-based agencies and police forces; urges the BiH authorities to undertake quickly further actions to tackle these problems;

29.  Is of the view that the debate on the future constitutional setup of the country must be led by the Parliament of BiH; calls in this respect for a public debate conducted in a transparent and open manner, with full involvement of civil society; is also of the opinion that any constitutional settlement must be the product of voluntary agreement between the different political parties in BiH; nevertheless believes that the international community and the EUSR have an important role to play as facilitators and calls on them to provide, in cooperation with the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, the support necessary for conducting this debate;

30.  Calls on local politicians to recognise the need for a structural reform of the PlaceNameplaceBiHPlaceType State; recalls however that this reform can only succeed if it is based on realistic premises;

31.  Recalls that strengthening the central State does not mean weakening the entities but creating the conditions for an efficient administration which works for the common good of all BiH citizens in many areas, for example in the establishment of a single internal market;

32.  Reminds the authorities of BiH of their obligation to cooperate fully with the ICTY, particularly with regard to facilitating the arrest of the remaining fugitives, identifying and protecting potential witnesses and providing the Tribunal with the documents and other evidence required for trials and investigations;

33.  Regrets the fact that electoral authorities have failed to address the concerns of those BiH citizens who during the war moved abroad but wish nevertheless to exercise their right to vote; believes that a solution should be found in good cooperation with neighbouring countries, to allow these citizens to be registered;

34.  Is of the opinion that closing down the Office of the High Representative whilst strengthening the role of the EU Special Representative should remain the ultimate objective for both the international community and local leaders; therefore urges political leaders to live up to their responsibilities in this respect and to make serious efforts to meet the five objectives and two conditions set by the Peace Implementation Council so as to achieve, by means of a consensual process, the transition from a High Representative to an EU Special Representative;

35.  Is dissatisfied in particular at the lack of progress in finalising the arrangements for the Brcko District; warns political leaders in BiH that the ruling by the Arbitral Tribunal on the status of Brcko is final and cannot be called into question;

36.  Calls also on BiH's politicians to acknowledge the need for a reasonable apportionment of property between the State and the other administrative levels, which is one of the objectives for the closure of the OHR; urges them to engage seriously in negotiations for the solution of this long-standing issue; recalls that the State must be allocated the resources necessary to accomplish its tasks;

37.  Reminds the representatives of the international community that their interlocutors in BiH are the institutions of that country, not the leaders of the main political parties; believes therefore that BiH institutions must be involved and indeed become the primary actors in the reform processes which the country has to carry out;

38.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the governments of the PlaceNameMemberPlaceType States, the Government of Bosnia and country-regionHerzegovinacountry-region and the High Representative for placeBosnia and Herzegovina.