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Bosnia-Herzegovina Leaders Hope to Join EU by End of Decade - 2004-02-05

The leaders of Bosnia-Herzegovina are hopeful their country can join the European Union by the end of the decade. The prime ministers of the country's two entities acknowledged that Bosnia-Herzegovina has a long way to go before integration into European institutions.

At a Washington discussion on the future of the Balkans, the prime minister of Bosnia's Muslim-Croat Federation, Ahmet Hadzipasic, says Bosnia has made a lot of progress since the end of the wars in the former Yugoslavia more than eight years ago.

The prime minister said reforms in defense and the rule of law show how much Bosnia-Herzegovina has matured. He said Bosnia's main problems are economic, especially a lack of jobs and stalled privatization. But he said the country's resources give Bosnians hope for joining the European Union by 2009.

Mr. Hadzipasic warned of instability in Bosnia, if it must wait to join the European Union long after neighboring Croatia gains membership.

Dragan Mikerevic, prime minister of the Serb Republic within Bosnia, says it is vital that Europe see Bosnia-Herzegovina as one stable country.

He is asking European leaders not to judge Bosnia by where it is now, but by which path it plans to take toward integration.

NATO and European Union officials have warned Bosnian leaders that membership conditions are very high. While they plan to help steer the country toward membership, they will not relax their standards.