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Bosnia and Herzegovina at brink of EU membership

Bosnia and Herzegovina at brink of EU membership, Security Council told

In a final, emotional briefing to the United Nations Security Council today, the chief representative of the European Union EU in Bosnia and Herzegovina said that the Balkan country was primed for EU membership just ten years after the brutal war that had left its people traumatized and an infrastructure collapsed.

Bosnia "has done what many said was impossible even a year ago, let alone at the start of my mandate in May 2002," Paddy Ashdown, the EU's High Representative for the Implementation of the Peace Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina, said. "For the country now stands at the gates of Europe."

Thanks to a combination of enlightened local leadership and international pressure, the major obstacles to Euro-Atlantic integration had now been overcome, he said. Last week, European Union ministers had welcomed the European Commission's recommendation to start drawing up a negotiating mandate for the country's Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU.

The Union, however, backed by the international community and especially the United States, had made it very clear that the remaining conditions for Bosnia and Herzegovina to begin Stabilization Talks were non-negotiable, Mr. Ashdown said.

That was particularly true in the area of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), he added. While the transfer of 12 indictees this year to the International Tribunal was a huge a step forward, another anniversary of the massacre at Srebrenica had passed without the transfer of the most wanted on that list, namely Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic.

"We need to signal, at this tenth anniversary of Dayton, our utter determination to ensure that this chapter of Bosnia and Herzegovina's history is closed," he told the meeting, which also heard the views of numerous delegates.

In many other areas, he said that the reform process was only now beginning, calling on the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina to strengthen the State framework, as part of the marathon task of achieving European standards.

He voiced confidence that this would be accomplished and the country would one day be "a member of the family of European Union nations and regarded as one of its jewels."

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