Will a Magic Potion Help Youth and BiH Become Part of EU?

The recently approved opening of negotiations between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the EU marks a significant step toward European integration, offering authorities numerous opportunities to improve conditions for young people in the country.

The reason why these opportunities are merely potential and not fact, is because they depend on the implementation of 14 key priorities outlined in the report of the European Commission in 2019.

The question then arises of whether Bosnia and Herzegovina will truly begin implementing reforms and strengthening state institutions and mechanisms to ultimately become a functional and competitive member of the EU, or if we are relying on some sort of “magic potion.” Before we try to answer that question, let’s take a look at some of the potential benefits of opening accession negotiations.

Access to the EU single market

One important aspect is access to the EU single market, which offers greater trade opportunities, including exporting products and services, and attracting foreign investments. This creates a new dynamic in the labor market that generates new employment opportunities for young workers along with opportunities to improve their qualifications. Access to the single market also encourages young companies and entrepreneurs to export their products and services to the large EU market without customs barriers, which creates a more favorable business climate for young entrepreneurs.

Financial aid and EU funds

Young people would directly benefit from the financial support that BiH can receive from the EU, especially through the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) and structural funds. These funds can be invested in developing educational programs, improving of youth employability, supporting start-up projects and developing the service sector. These funds can be particularly useful for rural development, which is important for young people from rural areas.

European Social Fund + (ESF+)

One of the key aspects for young people is the European Social Fund + (ESF+), which BiH can use to support young people through programs such as Youth Guarantee. This initiative, already successfully implemented in other countries such as Croatia, aims to reduce youth unemployment and provide quality opportunities for employment, continuing education, or learning. It entails government institutions guaranteeing that young people under the age of 30 will receive a quality offer of employment, continued education, additional training or apprenticeship within a certain period after leaving formal education. Bosnia and Herzegovina started planning this program, and Republika Srpska and Brčko District of BiH created action plans. Unfortunately, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina has not yet developed an action plan.

Improving the country’s rating according to international institutions and investors

In addition to the tangible benefits from the opening of negotiations between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the EU, it’s important to highlight the potential boost in the country’s rating with international institutions and investors. Starting the process of European integration and actively working on implementing reforms sends a positive signal to the international community. Potential benefits include:

  • Increased support from international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, which would provide access to additional financial resources and support for the development of key sectors such as education, health and infrastructure.
  • Improved conditions for loans and investments from foreign financial institutions would stimulate economic growth, create new jobs, and raise the standard of living for all citizens, including young people.
  • Increased interest from foreign investors in investing in BiH, particularly in high-potential sectors like information technology, tourism, and energy, would generate new jobs and opportunities for young professionals to advance in their careers.

Active participation of young people in the integration process

It is important to reiterate that the opening of accession negotiations with the EU does not guarantee any benefits for young people, but requires the active participation and engagement of the government, business and civil society in the implementation of reforms and the adoption of EU recommendations. BiH can maximize EU accession negotiation benefits by creating and implementing action plans and collaborating with EU funds.

The answer to our question largely depends on the willingness of government representatives to invest effort in this process, and partly on engaging young people in the civil sector.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, there are non-governmental organizations and civil servants who are willing to work together with young people to implement reforms, but this process hinges on strengthening youth participation in decision-making and amplifying their voices.

At the Institute for Youth Development KULT, we support active young people, civil servants and institutions who are willing and able to persevere in creating and advocating for the European and functional BiH they want to live in. This support and partnership are already yielding results, as we witness an increasing number of programs designed for young people, and requested by young people themselves.

If you are interested in working with young people or are employed in the public sector as a youth officer (or perform the tasks of a youth officer), we have some opportunities that can help you grow:

Public call for participation in training for youth officers

Public call for participation in training for expert youth work associates

There has to be a synergy of reforms, investments, and the active engagement of young people and government representatives if BiH is to build a more prosperous future for all its citizens and emerge as a stable, inclusive, and competitive member of the EU.

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