Page last updated at 07:00 GMT, Monday, 16 June 2008 08:00 UK

Bosnia takes first step toward EU

The ruins of Sarajevo Town hall and National Library, May 2008
Moving towards the EU is a step in post-war recovery

Bosnia-Hercegovina is taking its first step towards joining the European Union - 13 years after its civil war ended.

Ministers are to sign a Stabilisation and Association Agreement - a big step towards EU membership - although it may be a decade before Bosnia qualifies.

The internationally-appointed High Representative, Miroslav Lajcak, has said the country needs the goal of EU membership to counter ethnic tensions.

The country has been split since the devastating war of 1992-95.

The conflict led to the greatest loss of civilian lives in Europe since World War II.

The BBC's Humphrey Hawksley says this first step marks a watershed in the dogged and detailed work needed to turn the country from a failed state into a modern democracy.

Bosnia's US-sponsored peace agreement created a complex political structure based on ethnic interests and aimed at stopping war, our correspondent says, but it will now have to restructure again as it moves towards becoming a viable democracy.

Although Bosnia is technically self-governing, ultimate power still lies with the High Representative, presently Mr Lajcak, a Slovakian diplomat.

He has described the signing of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement - a pact that paves the way for EU candidacy - as the start of a new chapter for Bosnia.


Locals on the 'rebuilding' of Bosnia

Bosnian PM resigns over reforms
01 Nov 07 |  Europe
Country profile: Bosnia-Hercegovina
21 Nov 07 |  Country profiles

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