Bosnia and Herzegovina is a step closer to EU membership Members Other

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The European Council voted on Thursday to grant Bosnia and Herzegovina EU candidate status, following a recommendation by the European Commission in October and votes in the EU Council and General Affairs Council this week. With its complex internal structures and multi-ethnic composition, Bosnia and Herzegovina has a lot of work to do to achieve the reforms required by Brussels to become a member of the club. The reform priorities are mainly related to 14 priorities that the European Commission presented in 2019, in its opinion on BiH’s readiness to become a candidate country and which the country needs to fulfill in view of opening EU accession negotiations. The key priorities cover the areas of democracy/functionality; rule of law; fundamental rights; and public administration reform – the fundamentals of the EU accession process.

What does yesterday’s decision mean for young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina?

Currently, Balkan nations have some of the highest unemployment rates among people aged 15-24. World Bank data shows that unemployment for this demographic group in Bosnia and Herzegovina is an alarming 40 percent.  At the beginning of 2020, the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report painted a dark picture for the region: Globally, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Croatia ranked amongst the countries most affected by brain drain. Young people have struggled to survive in the home job markets due to inadequate opportunities and low wages. As a result, many have sought better professions and living standards abroad. Furthermore, the Covid-19 pandemic and the further collapse of the job market worsened the situation in the region. According to a public opinion survey Balkan Barometer, the three main origins of the phenomenon are rampant unemployment, a weak economy, and rampant corruption.

Based on these data, we could conclude that the state does not show too much concern for young people, but also that it does not see its clear role in the EU integration process. Although it is important, the role of young people in the process of European integrations is often neglected. People who are now young will occupy important social and political functions once Bosnia and Herzegovina becomes a member of the European Union. It is therefore very important to include them in these processes and motivate them to use the resources they have at their disposal even in this pre-accession period. Young people must be ready to oppose even their own political representatives. Membership in the EU is in the best interest of everyone, including young people, and in that entire process, they must have clearly defined opinions and fiercely demand from those in power to show responsibility.

The coming months and years will show us whether yesterday’s decision was historic, as reported by some local media, or an expected geopolitical move by Brussels. What is certain is that young people will have to be recognized by the government as partners on the EU integration path, if the government wants to restore trust in government institutions and stop negative socioeconomic trends.

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