An extended collegium of the Bosnian parliament’s lower house confirmed that the new law on fuel tax – previously okayed by the upper house – will be discussed in the next house session in expedited procedure, unleashing a storm of criticism from the opposition.
The law, now pushed for the fifth time for adoption in the parliament, is a condition for unlocking a loan from the International Monetary Fund, as well as funding for infrastructure projects from the European Union. According to the earlier versions of the law, the fuel tax would be bumped up by 15% to finance road construction. Opposition to the tax hike was strong enough to block the legislation in the parliament four times so far. Now the new draft, championed by Bosnia’s Council of Ministers and the House of Peoples, abandons the increase of fuel tax and instead sets a 15% higher highway toll.
The opposition lawmakers in the Bosnian parliament lambasted the collegium move, saying it violated the rulebook and deliberately pushed for the expedited procedure to give the law a better chance of being passed.
It is uncertain at this point whether the lawmakers from the parties supporting a tax hike will have enough votes in the House of Representatives to pass the law.
The European Union’s mission to Bosnia took a firm position and supported the new law: “The EU firmly believes that it is best to take a difficult decision that will deliver long-term results such as new highways, improved local roads, exports, growth and jobs as BiH embarks on its European journey. Put simply, BiH needs to be connected to its future partners if it is to be able to trade and prosper together with them. And those partners have put more than a billion euros on their side of the table to help BiH get started. That is 12-15 years’ worth of increased excises. We hope that the elected representatives of BiH will consider these facts. The issue has come to represent a significant moment for BiH.”
The EU Delegation said in a statement that the future of Bosnia is “built by those who see beyond narrow political interests and take tough decisions.”
“This is what all major political leaders and parties committed to when signing the Written Commitment in February 2015. The people of BiH deserve to be represented by those who have their best interests and future prosperity at heart and all parties have already agreed that those interests will be best served by pursuing a European path as fast as possible.”