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President of the European Council meets the members of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina and political Leaders

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In his report presented on May 11 before the UN Security Council, the International High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Christian Schmidt, drew up the gloomy political balance sheet of a country split in three to four months of general elections, evoking an "imminent danger of disintegration" and "risk of a return to conflict".

The aim of the visit was to listen to the Leaders on their key priorities, and to exchange on how to give new impetus to reforms on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s EU path. The discussions were substantial and productive and notably on how the EU can support improving and strengthening the functioning of state institutions and thus also improve the delivery of services, jobs, growth and prosperity for all citizens.  President Michel expressed his readiness to facilitate re-energising the dialogue between all parties.

The President of the European Union (EU) Council Charles Michel met with the President of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidential Council Sefik Dzaferovic and the Serbian member of the council Milorad Dodik at the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidential Building.

The parties made a statement to the press after the meeting.

In his statement, Charles Michel expressed his pleasure to be in Bosnia and Herzegovina and reiterated the EU’s support for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s progress towards the EU.

“We want to deepen our cooperation and strengthen our dialogue”

“I am convinced that the Western Balkans need the EU, but the EU also needs the Western Balkans. It is time to give a new impetus to EU integration,” Michel said. he said.

Reminding that the leaders of the EU and the Western Balkans will meet in Brussels in June, Michel said, “We want to deepen our cooperation and strengthen our dialogue. I wanted to hear your concerns firsthand, understand your priorities, and how we, as the EU, can support you.” said.

“Peace must be preserved at all costs”

Serbian leader Dodik said, “It is important to maintain ‘peace and stability’, which is the key issue in the region and in the world. We agree on this. From this perspective, there is absolutely no alternative. Peace must be preserved at all costs.” made its assessment.

Underlining that he conveyed Bosnia and Herzegovina’s stance on the Ukraine crisis to Michel, Dodik drew attention to the fact that his country would impose sanctions on Russia.

Getting candidate status is very important for the relaxation of relations in the country.

Dzaferovic said, “We have clearly said that Bosnia and Herzegovina and all Western Balkan countries have a European perspective. Western Balkan countries should establish strong cooperation and relations with the Eastern countries, as well as with the EU.” said.

Emphasizing that everyone should respect the Constitution and laws of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnian leader Dzaferovic said, “The blocking of institutions must end. This is good for all of us. We must fulfill the 14 basic priorities of the European Commission and get candidate status as soon as possible. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s candidate status is very important for the relaxation of relations in the country.” he said.

The full remarks by President Charles Michel after his meeting in Sarajevo with the members of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina

First of all, I would like to thank you, the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, for your warm welcome in Sarajevo. It is a pleasure to be here. It is also important for me to be here to reaffirm our support for your EU path.

I would like to repeat what I said in Bled a few months ago. Indeed, I am convinced the Western Balkans need the EU, but the EU also needs the Western Balkans. It is time for a new momentum to advance European integration. I have also shared this message with the members of the Bosnia and Herzegovina presidency.

In June, we will organise a meeting of the 27 EU leaders with the leaders of the Western Balkans, because we want to enhance our dialogue and deepen our cooperation. This is also why I am here today, ahead of the leaders’ meeting. I want to actively listen to your concerns. I want to better understand your priorities, and how we, as the European Union, can support you.

As we speak, Russia is brutally attacking the people of Ukraine. In the 1990s, Bosnia and Herzegovina experienced the terrible consequences of war. So you know the importance of our strong support for Ukraine, of speaking with one voice and of acting together to send a clear message of deterrence. And you are also feeling the broader consequences of the war across the continent, and the most obvious example is the energy supply and prices.

The common challenges we face today require new ways of thinking and new ways of working. We need to speed up EU integration and we must create a new impetus for reform. Almost 20 years ago, the Thessaloniki Summit provided a firm commitment to an EU future for the region, and today we feel a new sense of urgency. And we want to support you, our Western Balkan partners and friends, on your journey to the EU.

We have proposed that we envisage the process of enlargement in a new way that offers concrete, socio-economic advantages and political integration during the accession negotiations. The new dynamism for EU enlargement also needs to be matched by a new push for reforms among the countries of the region. And I would like to be extremely clear: indeed, we propose to have a debate in June in the European Council on the idea to put in place a Geopolitical European Community or a Political European Community, a political platform, and this is extremely clear, this won’t replace the EU accession process. On the contrary, we want to speed up political integration by making sure that we can cooperate, that we can coordinate and address together some common challenges immediately, while waiting for the final decision that will be needed on the topic of the accession process. The Western Balkans and Bosnia and Herzegovina are a high priority for the EU and I strongly believe that your future is within the EU as a single, united and sovereign country.

The EU path is set and now the obstacles need to be cleared. The path to the EU is outlined in key priorities, 14 key priorities, and we hope to see real actions on the agenda of political, social and economic reforms. It is important that all political leaders engage in dialogue. Establishing trust and dialogue is key.

We discussed how we can give momentum to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s European perspective. Advancing on reforms means advancing towards the EU. This war has impacted energy supplies across Europe. We are supporting our EU citizens and businesses to cope with high energy prices and we will also support Bosnia and Herzegovina. Thank you again for your warm welcome. It is my first time in the country and we never forget the first time. I am extremely pleased to take time with you to exchange views and to prepare our common future. Thank you.

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