German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on politicians in Bosnia and Herzegovina to agree as soon as possible on the adoption of an adjusted Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) so that the process of the country's integration with the EU could continue.
Merkel met in Berlin on Thursday with the three-member Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina to discuss the implementation of a German-British initiative from 2015 on reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Noting that important progress had been made with the adoption of a law on dynamising the labour market and new investments, Merkel said that now Bosnia and Herzegovina's main goal was to obtain EU candidate status.
After Croatia's accession to the EU, the SAA with Bosnia and Herzegovina must be adjusted. Problems must be overcome, Merkel told a news conference.
The glass is half full, she said, stressing that there was no alternative to Bosnia and Herzegovina's integration with the EU and NATO.
She added that she understood the concern of farmers in the Bosnian Serb entity regarding the competitiveness of their products once the country's market opened to limited customs-free imports from Croatia, announcing that Germany was willing to help them financially.
She recalled that EU bodies had to have by July 18 a clear picture as to which conditions Bosnia and Herzegovina had met so that its application for candidate status could be considered.
Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency Chairman Bakir Izetbegovic said that results of reforms were evidenced by a GDP increase of 3% and the employment of 1,000 new workers every month.
"The results are visible, but unfortunately we have problems with the adjustment of the SAA. That people do not have complete information on what has been negotiated is being used in Bosnia and Herzegovina," Izetbegovic said in a comment on opposition from Bosnian Serb authorities to the adjusted SAA.
He said that Bosnia and Herzegovina had to face the competition in trade if it wanted to join the EU and described Germany's willingness to give compensation for a possible financial blow to the agricultural sector as yet one more argument that Bosnia and Herzegovina should accept the adjusted SAA.
Asked about Great Britain's exit from the EU and possible repercussions for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Izetbegovic said, "Unfortunately, the strong British engine that was pulling Bosnia and Herzegovina towards the EU has stopped working", but "the very strong German engine has remained."
Commenting on the publication of the results of a 2013 population census, which has also been opposed by Bosnian Serb authorities, Izetbegovic said that it would probably cause additional nervousness, however, it would not be possible to question the merit of those results.
Politicians should now try to calm the nervousness that will appear, he said.