This research shows that Bosnia still lacks capacities, knowledge, and skills for better exploitation of the available EU funds.
The news that has marked last week is related to our first neighbours. In the next budget period Croatia will be able to receive up to 11.7 billion Euros, of which 8.092 billion for the cohesion policy, 3.462 for the common agricultural policy, and 203.7 million for the Schengen border. In addition to these funds, Croatia will be able to compete for funds for the common programs using the initiatives aimed at youth employment that amount in total to around 6 billion Euros. The aim of the four-month long Populari research into what we called “understanding European Union (EU) money in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH)” was to learn about the challenges different governmental levels in BiH face in their understanding of financial opportunities offered by the EU.
When it comes to the EU accession processes, due to the endless internal political battles, in 2013, BiH is further away from EU accession than it was five – or even ten – years ago. With the exception of the relatively recent visa liberalisation process, the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) and the Feasibility Study done almost ten years ago were the most comprehensive exercise BiH has undertaken in the post-war period. It has, without doubt, helped create a pro-European and dynamic climate in the country. The following years have not manifested the same level of commitment to the process of EU accession. Rather, political stalemates and an absence of discussion on the country’s EU aspirations have become the norm. As a result of this delay, there is a colossal amount of work that still needs to be undertaken on BiH’s road to the EU. It includes changing and adapting laws and regulations, streamlining public administration and improving its capacities and skills, all of which are required to meet EU standards.
The question we are asking is, whether political disagreements and disinterest made the EU destination more distant when it comes to the money that has been made available by the EU in the pre-accession process. Looking into practical implications of the EU financial assistance in BiH, Populari visited places that are very often below the radar and are rarely heard of. How they understand the EU, have they used any of the possibilities and what they expect in the future were the central questions of the research. The tour captured a variety of actors: small and somewhat bigger ones, those that have good prospects by default and those who need to create them on their own.