BRUSSELS (AP) – The European Union urged Bosnia on Friday to swiftly implement reforms that would allow it to apply for membership in the 27-nation bloc.
“With other countries in the Western Balkans taking resolute steps toward the union, there is no reason why (Bosnia) should slip behind,” the European Council President Herman van Rompuy said.
The EU has been urging the authorities in Bosnia to establish a stronger central government and also change the country’s constitution, saying it violates human rights because it only allows members of the three main communities to run for the joint presidency, thus excluding minorities like Jews or Roma.
Bosnia’s three ethnic groups _ Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs _ fought a vicious civil war from 1992 to 1995 during which nearly 100,000 people perished.
The conflict ended with the U.S.-brokered Dayton accords in 1995. At the time, NATO deployed about 60,000 troops _ half of them Americans _ to ensure peace.
The agreement carved the once-multiethnic nation into mini-states _ one for the Serbs and the other shared by Bosniaks and Croats _ loosely linked by a dysfunctional federal government whose leaders clash regularly over what the country should look like.
Since then, Bosnia’s enduring divisions have stalled its entry into both the EU and NATO.
Van Rompuy spoke after meeting Bosnian Prime Minister Vjekoslav Bevanda, who took office last month.
Before that, Bosnia’s complex political system was blocked for 15 months by the inability of its three main communities _ _ to agree on the formation of a government following elections in October 2010.
Bosnia’s neighbor Croatia is due to join the EU next year, after successfully completing the accession process in 2011. Meanwhile, Montenegro and Serbia are both official candidates for membership but are not expected to complete negotiations until later in the decade.
Bevanda said that he is aware that his country’s path to membership is a long one.
The EU also urged the authorities in Bosnia that if it wishes to join, it must create a stronger central government. But while Bosniaks and Croats want the divisions erased, Bosnian Serbs are insisting on more autonomy for their mini-state.
Aida Cerkez in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, contributed to this report.
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