Wednesday, December 5, 2007


SARAJEVO, Bosnia, (December 5,2007) – Bosnia initialed yesterday the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with the European Union (EU), the first step for Bosnia towards the EU membership.

The agreement was initialed by EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn and Bosnia's Prime Minister Nikola Spiric.

"I am glad to be here in Sarajevo today, on such an important day, when Bosnia is taking a new step towards its future," Rehn said in a statement.

"I would like to congratulate the people and the leaders of the country for this. Bosnia has worked hard on achieving this result," Rehn said.

The initialing ceremony was scheduled to be attended by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Portuguese Foreign Affairs Minister Luis Filipe Marques Amado, whose country chairs the European Union during the second half of this year.

However, the two top diplomats were forced to cancel their trip to Bosnia because the plane they took was unable to land at the Sarajevo airport due to fog.

Rehn said a formal signing of the accord would depend on further reforms.

Rehn stressed that the agreement with the EU will bring concrete benefits to Bosnia.

"It provides for the establishment of a free trade area and for the strengthening of the ties between the EU and Bosnia. Thus bringing economic benefits to the country, the SAA is also the gateway to candidate status, provided the agreement is properly implemented," said the EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn.

The international community's High Representative and the EU Special Representative in Bosnia, Slovak diplomat Miroslav Lajcak, said that the signing of the SAA deal has "a great symbolic importance after months-long crisis."

He congratulated Bosnia's officials and citizens, but reminded them that much work still has to be done before full EU membership.

Rehn's decision came after the Bosnian State Parliament on Friday adopted new voting rules aimed at streamlining its work, opening the way to defuse the worst political crisis in the country since its 1992-1995 Serbian,Montenegrin and Croatian aggressions against Bosnia.

The European Union initialed the Stabilization and Association Agreement with Bosnia after Bosnia's political leaders adopted an action plan on police reform.

The police reform aims at the integration of the country's two ethnically divided police forces.

The measure had for years been the main pre-condition of the EU for Bosnia to sign the SAA, the first step to the EU membership.

Based on the preliminary political deal on police reform, the Bosnian Government is now supposed to draft a plan to finally set up police bodies at the state level, as the EU wants.

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