Bosnia Elite Fears EU Rule of Law, Experts Say

Bosnia made scant progress on its EU path as its politicians have little interest in furthering the rule of law or transparency, analysts say, after Brussels delivered its critical report.Laws on the Census and on State Aid were the only significant legislative moves that Bosnia made over the last year in respect to its EU obligations, Tija Memisevic, of the European Research Center Sarajevo, said.

She referred to the Census Law adopted in February, which set the basis for the first census in Bosnia and Herzegovina since 1991 – the first, therefore, since the 1992-5 conflict.

The State Aid Law regulated the conditions for assigning, controling and implementing budget money, as well as for returning misused budget funds.

“As nothing else was done on the EU integration agenda,” Memisevic said, “it was to be expected that the Progress Report would be negative.”

Memisevic added that Bosnian politicians did little more than distract the public from the core problems with prolonged arguments over the formation of a new government.

“The parties in Bosnia are not in general dedicated to the EU integration process and they do not have an interest in progress in that way,” she continued.

“The reason is that progress in EU integration means the rule of law and increased transparency and responsibility,” Memisevic stated.

In its 2012 Progress Report, published on Wednesday, Brussels said that only limited progress had been made towards meeting the political criteria needed for membership and achieving more functional, coordinated and sustainable institutional structures.

Within the framework of the Stabilisation and Association Process, Bosnia continued to engage constructively with the EU on a Structured Dialogue on justice.

The high-level “Dialogue on the Accession Process”, launched in June, is the key forum for engagement on requirements for the EU integration process. In this respect, the Commission voiced regret that the results so far were below expectations.

Bosnia’s Directorate for European Integration, DEI, said in a press release on October 10 that the Progress Report had restated what was already known – that political consensus was lacking on issues concerning integration.

“At the end of June a high-level dialogue was started with Bosnia…related to that an efficient coordination mechanism is a priority, which would allow the country to speak with one voice with the EU,” the DEI noted.

The DEI recalled the positive moves over the adoption of the two mentioned laws.

But it added that bigger issues remained to be solved, such as implementation of the European Court of Human Rights’ 2009 Sejdic-Finci ruling.

This urged Bosnia to change its constitution in order to allow ethnic minorities to run for top posts currently reserved to representatives of the three largest ethnic groups, Bosniaks [Muslims], Serbs and Croats.

The Progress Report also said that meeting the conditions for the entry into force of the SAA and for a credible EU membership application remained a matter of priority, as did the establishment of an effective coordination mechanism between various levels of government.

The Report continued that political leaders needed to demonstrate greater political will to reach consensus and to realise with concrete actions the EU aspirations of the country.

Memisevic said that the EU should return to the mechanism of setting firm conditions, not just sending messages that politicians should strive for compromise.

“Compromises and political deals are not necessary, but the strict adoption and the use of European standards and regulations…if you want to be an EU member,” she added.

“Political ‘deals’ are being used to prolong the process of EU integration,” Memisevic told Balkan Insight.

A Banja Luka professor of EU subjects, Milos Solaja, told Balkan Insight that Bosnian politicians only formally accepted their EU obligations but did not really work according to them.

“Some political parties… are using them only to implement what they’ve decided at their meetings,” Sojala said, referring to regular meetings of the six ruling parties.

Solaja said if Bosnia failed to work on changes, the EU should remain only formally present in the country while waiting for the local authorities to agree on concrete reforms.

“All of those Bosnian politicians who were in Brussels on June 27 promised changes to [Enlargement Commissioner] Stefan Fule’s face, but nothing happened,” he noted.

Bosnia’s branch of the watchdog organisation Transparency International said in a press release that the Progress Report showed that Bosnia lagged behind in curbing corruption, merely repeating the same pledges year after year.

“We hope that this report will finally be used as a message to Bosnian leaders that their frivolous attitude to combatting corruption cannot lead Bosnia into EU membership,” Transparency International said.

“Proof of that are the countries of the region which did not get candidate status until they started anti-corruption measures,” it added.

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