The Chairman of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, Elmar Brok, said in Sarajevo on Thursday that the European Union expected Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) to step up meeting the requirements set for possibly obtaining EU candidate status, confirming that this includes opening the market for duty free imports from Croatia.

Brok visited Sarajevo at the helm of a delegation including Croatian members of the European Parliament Tonino Picula and Andrej Plenkovic. They talked about the situation in BiH with its Council of Ministers Chairman Denis Zvizdic.

We believe this country belongs in Europe, Brok said after the talks, adding that the implementation of BiH's 2015 reform plan was important not only for European integration but the improvement of the overall situation too.

Without those reforms, there will be no more foreign investments and without them, one cannot expect the record high 27 percent unemployment to be dealt with, Brok said.

BiH submitted its application for EU candidate status in February, but for it to be considered, the country must amend its interim trade agreement with the EU so that it can be applied to Croatia. It must also set up a coordinating mechanism for relations with the EU and publish the results of a 2013 population census.

We believe the issue of aligning the interim trade agreement will be solved soon. That's a very important matter not only for BiH's relations with Croatia but also for BiH's access to the EU market, Brok said, adding that the coordinating mechanism was important because BiH must be able to speak with one voice in the negotiations with Brussels.

He said the publication of the census results was BiH's obligation to international organisations. Those are the three known conditions BiH must meet so that the membership application can be considered in July and so that it can be granted in 2017, he said.

Brok said everyone in the EU was aware that BiH's complicated structure hampered reaching agreement and solving problems, but that they wanted the problems to be solved and the country to progress.

Zvizdic said there was progress in meeting those three conditions such as yesterday's decision to publish the census results. "This shows BiH's willingness to respond in time to its obligations and send the message that it's willing to actively and persistently work on the European integration path."

He said the alignment of the interim trade agreement was in the home stretch and that the coordinating mechanism for relations with the EU would be agreed in a matter of weeks. "All that will pave the way for considering the candidate status application."

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