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Bosnia takes first step to EU membership

Bosnia signed a pact with the European Union on Monday that is the first step towards eventual EU membership, nearly 13 years after the end of its bloody civil war.

The signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement, the first rung on the EU accession ladder, has been delayed since April due to problems in translating the bulky document into the official languages of the 27-member bloc and of Bosnia. Aside from newly-created Kosovo, Bosnia was the only country in the region not to have reached that stage since Serbia’s long-delayed signing of its SAA with the bloc on April 29. “This is an important day for Bosnia-Herzegovina, a real milestone,” Miroslav Lajcak, international High Representative and EU Special Representative in Bosnia, told reporters.

“It’s certainly a day to remember the same country only 13 years back and also the day to celebrate,” he said referring to the effects of the bloody war that followed the break up of the former Yugoslavia. “The European Union has just offered Bosnia its European perspective. We have entered the process but it’s up to Bosnia-Herzegovina how long the process will take and when Bosnia-Herzegovina will be able to rewarded with membership in the European Union.” Lajcak stressed that huge challenges remained to be overcome, principally the country’s complex constitutional structure and a recent history of playing the nationalist card as a route to electoral victory.

Recent polls showed support for future EU membership among Bosnians was extremely high, he said. The way for signing the agreement was cleared in April when parliament passed a law unifying the country’s two ethnic-based police forces after four years of often stormy debate. Bosnia’s two autonomous regions, the Muslim-Croat federation and the Serb Republic, have coexisted in an uneasy alliance since the end of the 1992-95 war, but have struggled to agree on key reforms demanded by the EU as prerequisites for closer ties. (Reuters)