Bosnia-Herzegovina has applied to join the EU, the President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini has said.
At an event in Brussels, diplomats indicated Sarajevo may not have met all the conditions required to submit an application.
Nonetheless, Ms Mogherini said the 28 EU states would now analyse the application, and she said it was good news for the bloc and for Bosnia, a former Yugoslav republic where a 1990s war killed 100,000 people.
"At a time when the Union is questioned from within, seeing that with our immediate neighbours there is such an energy and willingness to join and work hard to adapt their countries, society, economy, institutions, systems to the European standards, gives us the sense of responsibility we have also towards our European Union citizenship," she told journalists.
What has the EU ever done for us?
What has the EU ever done for us?
1/7 1. It gives you freedom to live, work and retire anywhere in Europe
As a member of the EU, UK citizens benefit from freedom of movement across the continent. Considered one of the so-called four pillars of the European Union, this freedom allows all EU citizens to live, work and travel in other member states.
2/7 2. It sustains millions of jobs
A report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, released in October 2015, suggested 3.1 million British jobs were linked to the UK’s exports to the EU.
3/7 3. Your holiday is much easier - and safer
Freedom to travel is one of the most exercised benefits of EU membership, with Britons having made 31 million visits to the EU in 2014 alone. But a lot of the benefits of being an EU citizen are either taken for granted or go unnoticed.
4/7 4. It means you're less likely to get ripped off
Consumer protection is a key benefit of the EU’s single market, and ensures members of the British public receive equal consumer rights when shopping anywhere in Europe.
5/7 5. It offers greater protection from terrorists, paedophiles, people traffickers and cyber-crime
Another example of a lesser-known advantage of EU membership is the benefit of cross-country coordination and cooperation in the fight against crime.
6/7 6. Our businesses depend on it
According to 71% of all members of the Confederation of British Influence (CBI), and 67 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the EU has had an overall positive impact on their business.
7/7 7. We have greater influence
Robin Niblett, Director of think-tank Chatham House, stated in a report published last year: “For a mid-sized country like the UK, which will never again be economically dominant either globally or regionally, and whose diplomatic and military resources are declining in relative terms, being a major player in a strong regional institution can offer a critical lever for international influence.
Sarajevo said it will speed up the required reforms in expectation that the EU will grant the country candidate status in 2017.
President Dragan Covic submitted the application to Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Bert Koenders in Brussels on Monday.
Bosnia knocked on the door in 2008 when it signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU 13 years after the end of the bloody conflict that left the country ethnically divided.
Unsolved wartime quarrels hindered the necessary reforms and left the country lingering behind its Balkan neighbours.
Reuters and PA