The entry into force of the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the EU on 1 June 2015, replaced the Interim Agreement (IA) which had been in force since 2008. The country has set a number of priorities regarding its continuation on the path towards European integration, economic development and the rule of law.
Bosnia is at an early stage in public administration reform, with a high level of politicization and poor service delivery and its judicial system has reached some level of preparation. The country has some level of preparation in the fight against corruption and a new anti-corruption strategy and action plan covering the years the 2015-2019 were adopted. Although there was a substantial increase in the confiscation of assets, corruption continues to be widespread and the political commitment on this issue has not translated into concrete results.
Concerning the fight against organized crime, the country also achieved some level of preparation. While there have been a number of successful large-scale joint operations in the past year, some including neighboring countries, coordination and cooperation between all institutions throughout the country needs to be significantly improved. The number of final convictions remains low. Financial investigations remain under used and the lack of strategic coordination is hampering the effective delivery of police services. The legal and institutional framework for the observance of human rights requires substantial improvements and the adopted legislation needs to be effectively implemented, notably regarding anti-discrimination aspects.
The conditions for the exercise of the freedom of expression have deteriorated over the reporting period. Although there is some level of preparation in this are with legal provisions generally in place, the institutional and political environment is not conducive to creating the conditions for full freedom of expression. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community continued to be subject to threats and attacks.
In the free market area, some progress has been made on improving the business environment, particularly on easing market entry and the granting of construction permits. However, difficult labour market conditions have remained largely unchanged, with unemployment at 27.6%, rising to 62.7% among youth. Bosnia and Herzegovina is at an early stage in achieving the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union. Some progress has been made on the liberalization of energy markets.
However, in order to strengthen the country’s competitiveness, the authorities should pay particular attention to developing a more strategic approach to tackling deficiencies in its training and education system; simplifying its complex procedure for exports and developing a transport strategy and an energy strategy. The country is at an early stage in the transport area, however, significant efforts are needed in most of the policy areas for the country to further align with the EU acquis. Further sustained efforts are also needed in particular as regards justice, freedom and security matters, the competition area, industry and SMEs, agriculture, environment and climate change policies, energy, and information society and media.