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BOSNIA AND
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Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 6,963 5,249 4,800 104
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 1,540 1,270 1,240 123
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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Update No: 157 - (25/06/10)

Vital talks in Sarajevo on enlarging the EU
The prospect of Western Balkan countries one day becoming EU members is the focus of talks that took place in early June in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo. Representatives of the US, Russia and Turkey were present.

Of the former Yugoslav republics only Slovenia has joined the EU. Its southern neighbours are at various stages in the accession process. The EU has signalled that more regional reconciliation is necessary first.

Nevertheless, the European Union pledged on June 2 to keep its doors open to membership for the poorer states of the western Balkans, despite mounting worries about expanding the group in the wake of the Greek financial crisis.

At the summit meeting in Sarajevo, senior EU officials sought to reassure government ministers from the Balkan states that once their nations meet the bloc's criteria for joining, they will be admitted. "We came here to firmly say that despite the fact that you might hear different noises from some in Western Europe, Balkan countries still would be welcomed into the union”, said Carl Bildt, the Swedish foreign minister.

Still, serious hurdles remain a decade after the EU first held out the promise of membership. Of the countries that emerged from the violent collapse of Yugoslavia beginning in the 1990s, only Slovenia so far has succeeded in joining the group. Croatia, Macedonia and Montenegro are at different stages of seeking inclusion, as is neighbouring Albania. Bosnia, whose politics remain fractured along ethnic lines, and Kosovo, whose independence isn't recognized by some EU states, have yet to apply. "Integrating the western Balkans into the European family of nations remains one of the last challenges to building a democratic and unified Europe," said Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign affairs chief in a statement issued ahead of the one-day meeting.

New approach from the Open Society Institute
But some diplomats and analysts fear that the prospect of EU membership—which offers few concrete payoffs as countries pass through the intermediate stages of the lengthy joining process—is losing its allure as an incentive for reconciliation and improved national governance. "There needs to be something tangible" to encourage continued progress on fighting corruption, strengthening institutions and overcoming mutual suspicions in the Balkans, said Heather Grabbe, director of the non-profit Open Society Institute's Brussels operations. Stepped-up engagement between the EU and Balkan governments "could avoid a lot of trouble down the road," she said.

Ms. Grabbe and two co-authors wrote a paper in May calling on Brussels to pursue an "intensified" application process to take Balkan candidates through the initial steps toward membership, and early on laying out a detailed map of what each needs to do in order to join.

The Balkan jigsaw
Balkan states have come a long way since armed conflict tore the region apart in the 1990s. Politicians have worked at healing wounds. In late May Croatia's president laid flowers at a Serb Orthodox church in a town in Bosnia where ethnic Serbs were killed by ethnic Croats in 1992.

Both Serbia and Kosovo were represented, despite their sovereignty dispute. Serbia has vowed never to recognise the secession of Kosovo, and to get it to the table, all state names or symbols were removed for the gathering.

Serbia has been told it must locate the remaining fugitives from the Bosnian war of the 1990s before it can join the EU. Former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic tops the list.

Macedonia's progress towards membership is blocked by Greece over its official name. Greece argues that the name should be distinct from its northern province, also called Macedonia.

Bosnia-Hercegovina and Albania are racked by political division and Kosovo's independence from Serbia still has not been recognised by five EU members.

Political commentator Tija Memisevic says integrating the Western Balkans is crucial for the EU. "If you left things unresolved in your neighbourhood, as we saw in the 90s, it can have very negative consequences on the stability of the European Union itself," she told the BBC's Mark Lowen in Sarajevo. "We saw it in the 90s, it can repeat again, of course not in the same way as in the 90s, but to have failed states on its borders - I don't think it's a very good idea."

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