Today, we commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Agreement that put an end to the deadliest war on European soil since the World War II. We commemorate the loss of lives, and pay tribute to all the victims. Today, we remember the tragedies of the past with the promise to never let them happen again!
Euro-Atlantic cooperation has always been an important axe in the Western Balkans. The Dayton Peace Agreement was a joint effort of the international community and a milestone in EU-transatlantic cooperation in the Western Balkans.
We consider the region to be of crucial importance for the stability, security and freedom of Europe and it is also our task to help you to overcome the still existing difficulties, such as the heavy legacy of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
We have the same goal: lasting peace, stability, security and prosperity in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the Western Balkans. Therefore, we all must continue to cooperate, and our ambition will bear fruit and give a new peaceful and prosperous future for this country and for the region.
The Western Balkans are a priority for the EU. We share the same history, the same destiny and it is in our strategic and security interest to bring the region into the EU. The future and faith of the Western Balkans is a geo-strategic question and our common responsibility. It is only EU membership than can create longterm peace, security and prosperity.
And we work for a better future for everyone, together. Accelerating the integration of the Western Balkans in the European Union has been the clear priority of the EU and especially of this Commission since the very first day of taking office.
Bosnia and Herzegovina applied for EU membership in 2016. For the country, the time has come to raise from Dayton to Brussels. In its 2019 Opinion, the Commission identified 14 key priorities that the country needs to fulfil in order to be ready to become a candidate for EU accession. We are working on those 14 priorities with Bosnia and Herzegovina. I hope that in the next year we will see the delivery.
For this, we need Bosnia and Herzegovina to deliver on these priorities, by accelerating reforms on key areas like the amendment of the constitution, the independence of the judiciary, fighting organised crime and corruption. It also means: the functionality and cooperation of state institutions must be insured at all levels, so that they are able to effectively participate in EU decision-making and to fully implement and enforce the EU acquis.
Last month, at the Sofia Summit, the leaders of the region have agreed to the creation of a Common Regional Market for the Western Balkans. This is a milestone of economic integration on the way towards EU accession. It will bring down borders for trade, borders for investment and borders for people. It will build bridges within the region we miss for more than 25 years.
These are hard tasks, but Bosnia and Herzegovina is not alone. The European Union will continue to support it.
The year in front of us offers a rare opportunity. I encourage all leaders and citizens in Bosnia and Herzegovina to take the chance to build their own future with determination. And in this struggle for a better tomorrow, the EU will continue to be at your side in the effort towards building a modern, democratic, prosperous and European Bosnia and Herzegovina.