European Union leaders expected to formally sign off on the decision on Thursday in Brussels, amid concerns of growing influence by Russia and China in the Balkan states.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has been granted a "candidate status" to join the European Union, according to diplomats, putting the volatile Balkan nation at the start of a long road to EU membership.
European affairs ministers meeting in Brussels on Tuesday gave the green light to Bosnia and Herzegovina becoming a candidate, after the bloc's executive arm in October recommended that they launch the membership process.
Russia-Ukraine war has breathed fresh life into the EU's willingness to consider letting in more of its eastern neighbours after years at a standstill.
The EU is concerned that other powers, such as Russia or China, might spread their influence into the Balkans if countries hopeful of joining the bloc are thwarted.
The step is expected to be signed off formally by EU leaders at a summit in Brussels on Thursday.
The move comes despite long-standing concerns over the political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country of three million people burdened with ethnic divisions since its devastating war and the Srebrenica genocide three decades ago.
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It has a dysfunctional administrative system created by the 1995 Dayton Agreement that succeeded in ending the conflict in the 1990s, but largely failed in providing a framework for the country's political development.
It remains partitioned between a Serb entity, Republika Srpska, and a Muslim-Croat federation connected by a central government.
A stand-off has seen Republika Srpska block state institutions and cause "virtual paralysis" in the reform process, the EU has said.
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The EU's executive branch, the European Commission, has laid out 14 priorities for reform that it insists Bosnia and Herzegovina must make good on before it can move on to the next stage of opening formal accession negotiations.
EU enlargement commissioner Oliver Varhelyi has told Bosnia and Herzegovina it is now at "a crucial juncture" on its path to the bloc.
Bosnian politicians insist it is high time that the country be granted candidate status.
"It is time for the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina to receive a positive message from the European Union," Denis Becirovic, the Bosnian member of the country's tripartite presidency, said last week. "But of course, that will only be the beginning of the real work."
Bosnia and Herzegovina will join seven other nations with candidate status: Türkiye, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, Moldova and Ukraine.
The process to join the European Union can take many years as candidates implement reforms that have to be rigorously evaluated by Brussels.
Kosovo has announced its intention to apply for membership before the end of the year.
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