Thursday, April 17, 2008


BRUSSELS, Belgium (April 17,2008) – EU officials hailed yesterday Bosnia's adoption of long-disputed police reforms, saying it opened the way for the southeastern European state to sign the first accord on the way to European Union membership.

"I welcome the final adoption of the police reform laws, which paves the way towards signing the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA)," EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said in a statement.

The SAA trade and aid pact "will not only bring practical benefits in trade and thus for the economy of Bosnia, but it is also the gateway towards candidate country status for EU accession," Rehn added.

The signing of the agreement would probably take place in May or June, a spokeswoman from the EU's Slovenian presidency said.

Earlier yesterday lawmakers in the upper house of the Bosnian State Parliament adopted the police reforms, removing the last hurdle for the country to sign the key pact on closer EU ties.

Two police reform bills passed by 10 to four votes, ending years of dispute among Bosnia's politicians about the extent to which they should integrate the country's separate ethnic police forces.

The lower house of the Bosnian parliament approved the reforms last week.

The EU had insisted that the laws be passed before it would allow the country to sign up to the SAA.

Eventually the EU and the Bosnian Parliament accepted reforms that will involve setting up seven new state-level police coordination bodies.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana "hailed" Bosnia's adoption of the reforms, his spokeswoman Cristina Gallach.

"It's a fundamental step" which "opens the way to signing the SAA she added.

The deal will require the agreement of all 27 EU foreign ministers but the text is unlikely to be ready for their next meeting in Luxembourg on April 29, the EU presidency spokeswoman said.

The deed was therefore likely to be done at one of their subsequent meeting on May 26 or June 16, she added.

The EU has made the integration of the whole Balkans area, including Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo, a priority to stabilise the region.

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