Mercedes Bresso, President of the EU Committee of the Regions, and Stefano Sannino, DGl of the EC's DG General for Enlargement, in visit to BiH
During an official visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina where she met with leaders of the country's authorities (20-23 May), the President of the EU Committee of the Regions (CoR), Mercedes Bresso, reaffirmed the CoR's commitment, alongside the other European institutions and the Bosnian authorities, to securing accession in the near future. Together with Stefano Sannino, Director-General of the European Commission's Enlargement DG, she called for strengthened coordination mechanisms between all levels of government and stronger cohesion so as to successfully pave the way to EU membership.
Mercedes Bresso and Stefano Sannino met with political leaders in Sarajevo, Banja Luka and Mostar, as well as the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Vjekoslav Bevanda, to discuss key EU integration issues and the role played by the regions within the EU. Throughout these meetings, clear messages emerged about a shared willingness to cooperate among the political entities and to further develop local democracy, an issue of particular importance given the intense political debates currently taking place in BiH in the run-up to the municipal elections to be held on 7 October, in which the CoR will participate as part of the international observation mission.
Membership of the EU, development of functional state institutions and balanced decentralisation of powers in BiH were also the main focus of the meeting of the CoR Working Group on the Western Balkans that took place today in Sarajevo. Jointly organised by the CoR and the Canton of Sarajevo under the chairmanship of Franz Schausberger (AT/EPP), representative of the Land of Salzburg in the CoR, the meeting gave mayors and local politicians from both BiH and the EU Member States an opportunity to exchange their experiences. Recent developments in BiH in the context of the EU integration process were also discussed by Fikret Musić, Prime Minister of Sarajevo Canton, and Peter Sørensen, Head of the EU Delegation to BiH/European Union Special Representative.
In her statement at the opening of the meeting, Mercedes Bresso insisted on the role of local development and territorial cooperation under the umbrella of strong state authorities: "Locally elected representatives are the best allies of national political leaders when it comes to explaining both the benefits and the duties inherent in EU membership and identifying solutions, in a spirit of cohesion for the whole country. It is vital that we press ahead with enlargement so that the Western Balkan countries, together with the EU, can benefit from the transformative power that it brings to their societies and their economies." Bresso took this opportunity to announce the possibility of shortly setting up a Joint Consultative Committee between the CoR and BiH in order to step up cooperation between regional and local representatives from BiH and the EU.
Addressing the BiH partners, Franz Schausberger recalled that in his experience, “Regions may have key competences and legislative powers, but in order for their interest to be effectively expressed, they also need a solid dialogue between their national authorities and the European institutions”.
On the same note, Stefano Sannino stressed that “The Committee of the Regions has an invaluable role to play in the Western Balkans, and especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina where its expertise in multilevel governance may inspire the institutional and political leaders of the country to speak with one voice in the process of EU integration, while engaging and coordinating all sub-state entities”.
The European Commission’s Directorate General for Enlargement is working with the CoR under the umbrella initiative of the Local Administration Facility to enhance institutional and administrative capacity in BiH and other adhesion countries.
· Openning Address by Mercedes Bresso - 11th Meeting of the Western Balkans Working Group, Sarajevo, 22 May 2012