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Bosnia (EU Accession)

Volume 475: debated on Tuesday 13 May 2008

6. What recent discussions he has had with the EU high representative to Bosnia on Bosnian accession to the EU. (204800)

I met High Representative Lajcák on 18 March in Sarajevo. I discussed with him the key reforms needed for Bosnia to move towards EU membership and reaffirmed the UK’s support for his efforts to uphold the Dayton peace agreement.

Following the welcome demonstration by the Serbian people in Sunday’s general election that they want closer links with the European Union, will my hon. Friend ensure that the accession of the Balkan countries, and of Bosnia in particular, remains a high priority in the European Union, so that we can help to contribute to bringing peace and stability to that still-troubled part of Europe?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely correct to say that the result of the election in Serbia was a clear demonstration of the continuing European aspirations of the population of that country. We should acknowledge and celebrate that fact. He is also right to say that the area is recovering from the vile ethnic cleansing of recent years. The United Kingdom Government will do all that they can to support the expansion of the European Union into the western Balkans. It is also in our strategic self-interest to do so.

My hon. Friend will be well aware that the priorities of the people of Bosnia are focused on job creation and on securing further improvements in their standard of living. What contribution does he think that members of the EU could make towards ensuring that the voices of the people of Bosnia are properly heard by their Government at every level?

My hon. Friend is right. The real need for economic development was made clear to me when I met representatives of the Bosnian, Croat and Serb communities in Bosnia. The signing of the stabilisation agreement with the European Union over the next few weeks will be crucial as it will send a clear signal that all 27 EU countries are willing to support Bosnia’s development and economy. In return, Bosnia will of course have to undertake significant structural domestic reform.