EU integrations and the role of youth
The EU and Bosnia and Herzegovina have established diplomatic relations. The EU is represented in the country by a Delegation of the European Union. In the context of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the Council of the European Union has also mandated a European Union Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the European Union Force Althea. From 2003 – 2012, the Union mandated a Police Mission (EUPM).
In Thessaloniki in 2003, the Council of the European Union declared on the Western Balkans: “The future of this region is in the European Union.” Bosnia and Herzegovina has an EU membership perspective and relations between the Union and the country are developing in this context.
For a short summary of relations between the EU and Bosnia and Herzegovina, see series 2 of these short audio-visual clips at: www.youtube.com/ovojeunija
Current status of relations
The first visible effect of the European integration process for the citizens of BiH was the introduction of a visa-free regime for holders of biometric passports on 15 December 2010.
The Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) signed on 16 June 2008 in Luxembourg, established the framework for implementation of legal, administrative, institutional and economic reforms that will lead the country closer to the EU. An Interim Agreement on Trade and Trade Related Matters was put into force (from 1 July 2008). As a result, the free trade area between EU and BiH was established and the EU is the main trading partner of the country. Additionally, BiH benefits from the EU’s unilateral autonomous trade preferences for countries and territories participating in or linked to the Stabilisation and Association process.
Following completion of the relevant procedures set out in the 15 December 2014 Conclusions of the Foreign Affairs Council of the EU http://europa.ba/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/delegacijaEU_2014121515000547eng.pdf) , the SAA entered into full force on 1 June 2015. The obligations for BiH authorities have thus significantly increased, extending the scope of reforms from trade-related matters to the whole body of EU law.
On 15 February 2016, the application of Bosnia and Herzegovina for EU membership was submitted by the Chair of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Presidency of the Council of the EU.
• The European Commission sends a detailed Questionnaire to BiH.
• The Commission makes an assessment of the replies provided by BiH and makes a recommendation to the Council of the European Union (28 Member States) on whether candidate status may be granted to BiH, and may set a date for opening accession negotiations.
• On completion of the negotiations, a Treaty of Accession is signed and ratified by the Member States and the European Parliament gives its assent.
• The country joins the EU on a given date.
Since the Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina fosters the idea that integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina into the European Union is one of the main foundations for promoting peace and prosperity among the nations in the region, the project focuses on raising awareness among the youth about EU integration and its importance and benefits for the BH society.
Students will get the opportunity to learn about the importance of freedom of thought, conscience and religion in the European Union. This way, these young people will get a better understanding of the European Union, the process of integration, and the historical context of the multireligious background of the European continent. The project will also raise awareness among young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina about Islam's and Europe's shared values and the positive ways in which Islam helped shape Europe.
The project is primarily aimed at increasing the knowledge of young people in Islamic schools in Bosnia and Herzegovina about the European Union with the aim to ease the process of integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina and emphasize the importance of the integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina into the European union and all the advantages of EU membership: stable democratic institutions, rule of law, functional economic market, upholding human rights and freedoms, etc. Throughout their previous education, students of Islamic schools have already shown excellence and many of them continue their education in different fields with similar excellence and further successes in economic, social and political life of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Also, all imams and muallimas are required to have attended Islamic schools, which creates an immense potential for shaping successful people who influence others in the society.
Apart from the aforementioned aims, the project also aims to speed up the process of the accession of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the EU by strengthening the feeling of belonging to the European community among young people in the country and helping Islamic school students to build skills which will help them advocate and discuss issues that are of vital importance for their future. The project activities will also help create a foundation for a new narrative dealing, in a broad sense, with the topic of how young people perceive or would like to perceive the entire idea of inclusion as the foundation of the EU and critically examine their place in the European future.
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.
On the other hand, young people should not idly wait for someone to offer them projects and a place in the entire integration process. Young people, students in particular, already have numerous projects and opportunities at their disposal. BH universities have been a part of Erasmus+ network for a long time, which enables students to study at some of the best European universities. Connecting with their peers in Europe is crucial. It is probably the best opportunity offered to young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the EU integration process. Only through mutual understanding and learning about each other can we preserve or at least prolong the period of peace, stability and security. For a country such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, that is very important.
Another important role young people play in the EU integration process is their mutual discussion, and their interaction with those older than them. At a time when there is a lot of false and unverified information about the EU, migrants and the political situation in general, young people are the ones who need to oppose such opinions and take part in public discussion of these topics. Populist statements spread fast because they sound good and are easy to remember, but are very rarely checked. This is where young people must take a stance and provide correct information about the situation.
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 too must have clearly defined opinions and fiercely demand from those in power to show responsibility. One positive example of this are the concrete results young people achieved when the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina were reluctant to join the Erasmus+ program. Through adequate reaction and demonstrations, they managed to make their political representatives take responsibility, and Bosnia and Herzegovina stayed in the Erasmus+ family.
Finally, the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the EU is their future too. Therefore, they need to take matters into their own hands now.