Show Willingness and Compromise, EC Urges Bosnian Leaders

A European Commission report on Bosnia’s progress towards membership in the European Union pinpointed several areas in which the country produced no results or even regressed.

The public administration reform, the implementation and adoption of crucial reforms, the functioning of collective head of state, the human rights protection, the freedom of the press, the election law reform – Bosnia fared poorly in those departments in 2017, according to the country report in the “Enlargement Package” – a set of reports on the progress made by individual countries of the Western Balkans that shoot for membership in the European Union.

Bosnia is at an early stage with the reform of its public administration and no progress has been achieved in 2017, according to the report. A country wide public administration reform strategy is being developed and remains to be adopted.

Delivery on a number of reforms delayed

The election law needs to be amended soon in order to ensure proper organisation of the October 2018 elections and a smooth implementation of the results. The EC urged Bosnian political leaders to show willingness and compromise on a solution to the election rules for the Federation entity’s House of Peoples.

The central government in Sarajevo, the Council of Ministers, adopted more country-wide strategies on areas such as environment and rural development, but delivery on a number of reforms was delayed by a lack of agreement within the ruling coalition members, with the exception of a few reforms and the adoption of the excise legislation. Countrywide strategies in areas such as energy, employment or public financial management are yet to be adopted, the report noted.

The adoption of legislation stemming from the EU-endorsed Reform Agenda, including adoption of the excise tax legislation, was negatively affected by tensions between ruling coalition parties and obstruction by opposition parties in parliaments at state and entity levels, leading to a slowdown of the reform pace. The Reform Agenda has been effectively implemented when the state level and the entity levels have cooperated in a coordinated manner.

Domestic violence remains a concern

Some progress was achieved on human rights and minorities’ issues. However, the strategic, legal, institutional and policy frameworks for the observance of human rights are in need of substantial improvement. This includes freedom of expression where political pressure and intimidation towards journalists continued, including physical and verbal attacks. Lack of effective implementation of legislation on the prevention of and protection from gender‑based violence, in particular domestic violence, remains a concern. A more comprehensive and integrated approach towards the Roma population is required to foster their social inclusion.

In the economy department, Bosnia made some progress, but is still at an early stage of establishing a functioning market economy. Some improvements of the business environment have been achieved and the financial sector has been strengthened. Key remaining issues are a weak rule of law, a still poor business environment, a fragmented and inefficient public administration and major labor market imbalances, stemming from a poor education system, weak institutional capacities, and an unfriendly investment climate.

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