Due to Europe’s perception of the Western Balkan country, Bosnia and Herzegovina is unlikely to become a member of the European Union anytime soon, according to Admir Lisica, a political researcher on the region.
“I honestly believe that Bosnia and Herzegovina will not become a member of the European Union for a long time, and one of the reasons is the current European perception of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Lisica, a researcher of international policy and diaspora communities, told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.
“I think (the country’s candidacy) is positive, but I’m not euphoric because Bosnia and Herzegovina will not become a member in the near future unless certain EU members make a serious turn in their policy towards Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he added.
After the European Council last Thursday granted Bosnia-Herzegovina candidate status for EU membership, Lisica said that Bosnia and Herzegovina's main priority should actually be to join the NATO military alliance.
“Joining NATO would instill some kind of security for citizens, but also for foreign investors. Although we see from the example of Montenegro that even NATO membership does not guarantee complete political and security stability,” he commented.
“Bosnia and Herzegovina is committed to joining NATO and the European Union, which are the main aspirations of the majority of the population in the country. This is positive news, but we must not be euphoric. There is a long way to joining the European Union.”
Bosnia-Herzegovina's top priorities are joining the political and economic community of European states, along with joining NATO.
‘Europe owes Bosnia and Herzegovina’
Lisica said that Europe owes Bosnia and Herzegovina a certain debt due to everything that happened in the 1990s.
“After the concessions recently granted to Ukraine and Moldova, it was expected that Bosnia and Herzegovina would finally receive the long-desired candidacy status,” he said.
According to Lisica, Bosnian authorities should see this status as an incentive to adopt necessary reforms for EU membership.
“These are all necessary reforms and there is nothing controversial about them. Political representatives must find a how to implement all the points that the European Union stipulates because ultimately, all these reforms are in the interest of the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” said Lisica.
He expressed hope that some progress would be made and that the reforms will take place in a reasonable time.
Asked whether the EU decision could help encourage young people not to immigrate to Western countries, Lisica said neighboring Croatia became a member of the union but this did not prevent its young citizens from migrating.
“Young people strive for adequate living conditions, and if they can’t find them in their own country, and some other country offers them, they will leave it regardless of everything. I emphasize again, Croatia is a member of the EU, so its residents are leaving en masse, and there are other similar examples within the EU. It is certain that a certain number of young people will change their attitude in the context of departures, but not to a greater extent,” said Lisica.
Young people believe immigration will continue
Young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where thousands of people immigrate to Western Europe for economic reasons, said they thought immigration from their country would continue even after it became an EU candidate.
Ifeta Neimarlija, a student at the International Universty of Sarajevo (IUS), said that Bosnia and Herzegovina's candidacy status will not prevent what she called the country's biggest problem, youth migration.
“Joining the EU will have both positive and negative effects for Bosnia and Herzegovina. EU member Bosnia and Herzegovina will have a higher status, and the economy will only get better. On the other hand, I believe this will (also) have negative effects for my country, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and we Bosnians will move closer to Western values and away from the values that make us who we are,” said Neimarlija.
Mervisa Halilovic-Alihodzic, another student at IUS, said that she is among those who think that the EU candidacy status will not have any effect on her country.
"We’re the only ones who can change the current situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Getting candidacy status won’t change anything in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is a process that takes a long time and requires great effort,” she said.
"I think it will be more successful on its own. Even now, young people choose to live abroad. I believe that if our country becomes an EU member, more people will leave the country,” she added.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, which applied for EU membership about seven years ago, last Thursday took the first step on a long road with its candidate country status.
The Balkan country became a potential candidate for the bloc at a 2003 European Council summit in Thessaloniki, Greece.
It officially applied for EU membership in 2016.
Candidacy status is the first step in a country's long-term EU accession process.
After a country is granted candidate status, accession negotiations begin in stages, provided that the conditions are met.
Accession negotiations can take years to begin.
In the Western Balkans, Slovenia in 2007 and Croatia in 2013 became EU members, while North Macedonia in 2005, Montenegro in 2010, Serbia in 2012, and Albania in 2014 received candidate country status.
With Kosovo's application for EU membership last week, it is expected that all countries in the region will continue to progress in their hopes to join the EU.