Sarajevo says it will sign first EU pact on June 16

SARAJEVO (Reuters) – Bosnia will sign its first pact on closer ties with the European Union on June 16, Prime Minister Nikola Spiric said yesterday on his return from Brussels. The signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement, the first step toward eventual EU membership, had been delayed twice since April due to problems in translating the bulky document into the official languages of the 27-member bloc. Aside from Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in February, Bosnia is the only country in the region without the accord, the first rung on the ladder for all Balkan states in their efforts to join the EU. «I wish to express personal satisfaction that yesterday in Brussels we opened the negotiations on the liberalization of the visa regime (with EU) and got confirmation that the SAA will be signed on June 16,» Spiric told a news conference. «This is good news for all in Bosnia-Herzegovina.» Until the SAA gets ratified by all EU member countries and comes fully into effect – a process that can take months – Bosnia had the chance to get trade benefits in advance as granted by an interim agreement, Spiric said. The interim agreement could come into effect on July 1 if Bosnia’s presidency formally approves it and the parliament adopts amendments to the customs tariffs law in accordance to the EU standards, he added. «I expect we shall do everything from our side to enable the interim agreement to become effective on July 1,» Spiric said, noting this required «a new approach and intensified communication within Bosnia.»