Bosnian Serb entity adopts ‘foreign agents’ law, denounced by EU

The National Assembly of the Serb half of Bosnia-Herzegovina adopted on Thursday a draft “foreign agents” law targeting NGOs funded from abroad, despite criticism from the opposition, civil society and the EU.

BiH, a candidate for EU membership since last December, is divided into the Republika Srpska (RS) and the Bosniak-Croat Federation, both highly autonomous, with a weak central government in Sarajevo.

The draft law about a “special register and transparency of non-profit organisations” was adopted in the RS assembly after being pushed by RS President Milorad Dodik, a secessionist who has been blacklisted by Washington for undermining the democracy in Bosnia.

The bill will be the subject of a public debate for 30 days, after which it will be formally adopted and take effect.

The law will label NGOs with foreign funding as foreign agents and require them to be inscribed in a special register – a move similar to a law previously passed by Viktor Orban in Hungary, which his government eventually repealed in 2021 after a top EU court called it “discriminatory and unjustified”.

The EU’s lead spokesperson for foreign affairs and security policy, Peter Stano, voiced the EU’s concern in a post on X.

“This contradicts commitments by RS and goes against EU principles,” he wrote.

The EU’s diplomatic arm, the External Action Service, said in a statement: “We call on the delegates in the RS National Assembly to reconsider and not move forward with this draft law.”

Opponents of the law in Republika Srpska said it was another step in repressing the freedom of speech and basic human rights.

Radio Free Europe reported earlier this year that several dozen NGOs in RS could be impacted by the law.

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