Labour MEPs have voted for a report outlining Bosnia's progress towards EU accession. It says Bosnia and Herzegovina has made important steps towards fulfilling the EU's membership application criteria, resulting in the submission of a formal application in February this year.
Meaningful progress in the implementation of the reform agenda, the creation of an effective decision-making mechanism for dealing with the EU, and the adjustment of a trade agreement are necessary for the EU to consider a membership application from Bosnia.
Among the reforms Labour MEPs are pushing for Bosnia to implement are prioritising the fight against corruption, guaranteeing and inclusive and non-discriminatory education system for all children, strengthening the protection of minority groups - including LGBTI communities - and ensuring media pluralism.
Afzal Khan MEP, Socialists and Democrats Group spokesperson for Bosnia and Herzegovina, said:
"Labour MEPs welcome Bosnia's formal submission of an EU membership application. Bosnia-Herzegovina has come a long way since the end of the war in 1995 and we must keep this momentum alive.
"Bosnia holds a special place in the hearts of Europeans. We all remember the 1990s and the horrors of the siege of Sarajevo, the destruction of the Old Bridge in Mostar and the incomprehensible Srebrenica genocide.
"The country has made remarkable progress since then, culminating in an EU membership application which now firmly puts it on a reform track. However, much work in lifting up the economy and reforming the government remains to be done.
"How Bosnia and the rest of the Western Balkans progresses is of great importance to all European Union countries, as we seek to bring stability and prosperity to our neighbourhood. This is turn will make us in Europe safer and better off."
Responding to criticism that some in Britain fear Bosnia's future EU membership, Mr Khan added:
"It is lazy, inaccurate and deeply offensive for opponents of Bosnian membership to describe it as a 'breeding ground for terrorism'. The whole of Europe has a problem with violent extremism, not only Bosnia. We must fight it together.
"Bosnia has a population of 3,5 million, half of which are Christians. Bosnia's new penal law was enacted to help prevent young Bosnians from going to fight in Syria, and its implementation has brought success.
"It will take a long time before Bosnia has fulfilled all the necessary criteria to become an EU member. However, it is important to keep the country firmly on the road towards EU and NATO membership.
"We want Bosnia to become a truly democratic society, based on the rule of law, equality and non-discrimination, where all its people are earning a decent living. A European neighbourhood made up of such countries has nothing to be afraid of."