Bildt: Bosnia not ready for EU entry

The road from Sarajevo to Brussels is a long one, cautioned Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt at a press conference in Bosnia on Tuesday.

Bildt, who was the first post-war High Representative to Bosnia, said the Balkan nation needs to implement sweeping reforms before European Union candidacy becomes a realistic possibility.

“I do not think Bosnia is there yet. There is quite a lot to be done,” Bildt said. “There are a number of other reform issues where we would like to see the speed increase in order (for Bosnia) to be able to accelerate on the European road,” he added.

In June last year, Bosnia signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement, essentially a trade and aid pact with Brussels. Bosnian officials have since repeatedly voiced their intention to apply for EU candidacy status by the end of 2009, but the country’s progress on crucial reforms remains stalled by a deteriorating political situation.

Growing divisive and nationalist rhetoric delayed the EU’s plan to assume responsibility for Bosnia from the international community’s High Representative, which has overseen the country since its 1992-95 war.

The High Representative, established by the Dayton peace deal that ended Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, is empowered to make laws and sack obstructive elected officials. The post was due to be replaced in 2007 with an EU representative, but the mandate was extended for an unspecified period due to political instability.

“There are significant challenges ahead for Bosnia…political leaders of the country devote too much time to political issues and too little to economic and social issues,” said Bildt.

He is to be joined in Bosnia on Wednesday by the Czech and French Foreign Ministers Karel Schwarzenberg and Bernard Kouchner.

The troika, representing former, current and future EU presidencies of France, Czech Republic and Sweden are to hold a number of meetings with local and international officials during their two-day visit to Bosnia.

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