(dpa) - The European Commission on Friday welcomed the approval by the Bosnian parliament of a long-awaited police reform bill, calling it a "major step forward" towards the country's possible membership of the European Union.
Reforming the country's ethnically-divided police force is one of several key measures required by Brussels of Sarajevo in order to sign a pre-membership document known as a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA).
"Yesterday's adoption of the police reform laws represents a major step forward towards the signature of the SAA with the EU," said Krisztina Nagy, spokeswoman of the EU executive's enlargement commission.
"The commission is pleased that the elected representatives of Bosnia-Herzegovina have listened to the voices of their citizens in favour of European integration, prosperity and progress," she added.
Nagy said the commission would start assessing Bosnia's overall prospects of signing the SAA as soon as the police reform bill received its final approval in parliament's upper-house.
Bosnia's police forces are currently divided between Serbs and Muslim-Croats.
Although the bill approved on Thursday falls short of disbanding the two forces, it increases the control over the police of the Sarajevo central government.
Bosnian Serbs, who emerged from the country's 1992-95 ethnic war with broad separate powers, argue that the reform nevertheless allows them to maintain their own security apparatus.
Other key requirements that Bosnia needs to meet before the SAA is signed are proven "full cooperation" with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and progress in the areas of public broadcasting and public administration reform, officials in Brussels stressed.
Bosnia's SAA, which was initialled in December, was expected to be discussed at an April 28 meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.
Nagy said it was premature to say whether the document would be signed on that occasion.