Sarajevo.jpg
Sarajevo
Photograph: Photo by Brian Eager, used under CC BY

Britain's decision to leave the European Union was met with wariness in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country that for years has been trying, without any major results, to make more significant progress on the path to EU membership, with Britain's exit now additionally questioning the meaning of reform processes.

A prevailing comment in the first reactions to Brexit is that its outcome is surprising and that its consequences are difficult to predict for now.

There stand out, however, warnings that Brexit could additionally complicate the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina because the current reform process in that country is part of a plan put forward jointly in early 2015 by Great Britain and Germany.

The implementation of that plan is currently on hold because there is no consensus in Bosnia and Herzegovina on changes to a provisional trade agreement with the EU whose purpose is to adjust the document to the fact that Croatia has the right to export its products to third markets like other EU countries.

The Serb member of Bosnia and Herzegovina's collective Presidency, Mladen Ivanic, told the local media that the consequences of Brexit could be very serious, possibly the most for Great Britain itself.

"If the consequences are positive, which I doubt, they will subsequently affect other EU members too, but if they turn out to be negative, I believe it will be a major sobering up for Britain because it will pay a high price for its referendum," Ivanic told the news agency Srna, adding that this by no means meant the end of the EU as it had managed to overcome different crises so far.

He added that the EU now had two options - to further strengthen itself or to decentralise, and he believes the first option is more realistic.

Ivanic believes that there will be no direct consequences for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"We would be better off in the EU, even in an EU shaken by crisis, than outside of it. Bosnia and Herzegovina has been outside the EU for so long and we have a complicated situation, our economy is poor, unemployment is high, there is lack of any prospects... Even in a weak EU we would be much, much better off," said Ivanic.

Bosnia and Herzegovina Foreign Minister Igor Crnadak was adamant that Brexit must not affect reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"It is important that we stay on the reform course and continue on our path to the EU," Crnadak was quoted by the Fena news agency as saying. He added that Britons' decision did not change the reasons why Bosnia and Herzegovina had opted for reforms.

Amir Zukic, secretary-general of the biggest Bosniak political party, the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), had a different opinion, expressing fear of an increase in negative, "secessionist, nationalist and fascist", trends.

He said that far-right political parties would now grow stronger, which would complicate the political situation, which in turn would reflect on the economy.

The chairman of the European Integration Committee of the Bosnian Serb parliament, Branislav Borenovic, said he did not believe Brexit would have any direct repercussions for Bosnia and Herzegovina's European path even though it was now likely that after that referendum additional questions would be raised regarding ongoing processes in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

He stressed that it was important for Bosnia and Herzegovina to adopt European legal standards, criteria and rules as only that would guarantee a better life for all Bosnian citizens.

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