The European Commission agreed Friday to open talks with Bosnia on a cooperation agreement that could lead to full EU membership for the Balkan nation. The decision still must be approved by the 25 current members of the European Union. The official in charge of the EU's expansion plans said that closer ties with Balkan countries was a recognition of the region's progress, 10 years after the end of Bosnia's civil war.
"All countries of the region are making steady progress in their relations with the EU," said Olli Rehn, the EU's enlargement commissioner, in a speech Thursday in Geneva. "They show an increasing readiness to reform their societies and institutions."
The Commission warned, however, that it could delay the talks if Bosnia failed to improve co-operation with the U.N. war crimes tribunal for former Yugoslavia.
Bosnia also must adopt laws on public broadcasting and ensure implementation of reforms to end the ethnic division of the police force, it said.
"Lack of progress in these areas may delay the opening of SAA negotiations, or lead to their suspension," the Commission said.
The agreement, similar to those which the EU is negotiating with other Balkan nations, promotes economic ties and free trade between the EU and Bosnia.
It will also seek to bring Bosnian laws closer to EU standards.
"Bosnia-Herzegovina is very satisfied with this decision, which opens a new phase in the relations between Bosnia and the EU," said Bojan Zec-Filipovic, spokesman for Bosnia's Prime Minister Adnan Terzic.
"This defines the mutual obligations which will lead ... to Bosnia becoming a full member of the European Union," Zec-Filipovic told The Associated Press in Sarajevo, according to the AP.
The EU has signed such agreements with Macedonia and Croatia, and is negotiating them with Albania and Serbia-Montenegro. This month, the EU also agreed to open full membership talks with Croatia.
No date was given for starting the talks with Bosnia, but Rehn said this week that they may be able to start before the end of the year.