Presidency Chairman Meets with President of Israeli Parliament

The BiH Presidency Chairman Mladen Ivanić, who is on an official visit to Israel, met in Jerusalem with the President of Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, and talked about the current political situation in the two countries, as well as the Balkan region and the Middle East. They agreed that the relations between BiH and Israel are good and that there is good cooperation at the parliamentary level, but also a great opportunity for promotion of bilateral relations and exchange of experience.

Chairman Ivanić informed the President of the Knesset about the numerous challenges that BiH has been facing since the war, and about the steps on the path towards the European Union.

Ivanić visited the memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust during World War II, Yad Vashem, in Jerusalem, and laid a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance, as well as at the Jasenovac camp plaque. He said that the museum, which bears witness to the extermination of six million Jews during World War II, is a warning that evil must not be ignored or forgotten, because it can always happen again.

“It is very important that we get back to respecting each other and elementary human values, as well as to the willingness to compromise. We in BiH can learn from this example of where intolerance and hate can take us,” said Ivanić.

Wartime Police Commander Trial Postponed

The start of a trial of wartime Sarajevo police officials and members was postponed, the state war crimes Court said. A new hearing in the war crime case against former commander of the special police unit Dragan Vikić, former Minister of Internal Affairs Jusuf Pušina and police members Nermin Uzunović and Mladen Čovčić will be scheduled later.

The defendants pleaded not guilty at an earlier plea hearing. On 13 January, the Court confirmed the indictment against Uzunović and Čovčić, charged with executing captured members of the Yugoslav army early into the Bosnian war, in 1992. Vikić and Pušina are charged with having knowledge that their subordinates were about to kill prisoners of war, but failed to prevent the crime and punish the perpetrators.

Dragan Vikić is a popular figure of Sarajevo defenses during the 1992-1995 siege of the city.

Federation Will Scrap the Rule on Mandatory Placement of Domestic Products in Stores

An end to the rule about mandatory minimum of 40 percent of domestic products on the shelves in retail stores, once the Federation entity amends its law on internal trade, will not significantly reduce the placement of domestic products in stores because the rule wasn’t strictly followed in the first place, said the entity’s Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber said it was one of the negative effects of the EU accession process, as the rule isn’t compliant with the Union’s trade policies. However, the positive effects of joining the EU market should annul the negative effects of ending the measures of domestic product protection.

The Chamber said that the 40% rule was not followed for objective and subjective reasons. The objective reasons include the lack of domestic products and an insufficient variety range to meet the 40% quota. The subjective reasons include the decision of big retail chains to ignore the rule, partly because of the objective reasons and partly because the inspection authorities failed to enforce the rule with repressive measures. Fines for not following the rule were lower than the profits made by violating the rule.

The Chamber said that awareness campaigns could persuade the consumers to buy more domestic products. The campaigns should be aggressive and lasting to produce any effect, which would require substantial marketing budgets that the domestic producers do not have. Therefore, the government’s help to promote domestic products would be of great importance.

Investigation Announced into Failed ICJ Bid

Following the rejection of the World Court to revise a 2007 ruling that cleared Serbia of Srebrenica genocide, the state prosecution said an investigation will be launched against the lawyer who lodged the revision request on behalf of Bosnia. On Thursday, the International Court of Justice rejected a request filed by Sakib Softic to reverse the Court’s exoneration of Serbia of direct responsibility for the 1995 genocide in the eastern Bosnia town.

The court said that it had informed Softic, Bosnia’s lawyer in the original trial before the court, that he was no longer authorized to represent the country in May 2016. The court’s rejection of the case prompted Bosnia’s prosecutor to “open a case and investigate allegations” about Softic’s role in bringing the appeal before the court, the prosecutors’ spokesman Boris Grubesic told Reuters.

Bakir Izetbegovic, the national presidency’s Bosniak member, had pushed for appeal of the 2007 ruling while his Serb and Croat counterparts did not support it. Izetbegovic repeatedly said that Softic was a legitimate agent to bring the case before the court, based on the presidency’s approval of him as counsel in 2002. But his Serb counterpart and current presidency chairman Mladen Ivanic disputed the lawyer’s legitimacy and sent letters to the court saying that the appeal did not reflect a consensus among the three presidency members.

The Thursday development prompted leaders of several parties in to seek Izetbegovic’s resigation.

 

Local Chain Takes over as Leading Retailer

Local company has become the leading grocery retailer in Bosnia  with a 17% market share at the end of 2016. As a result of Bingo taking over, Konzum (owned by Croatian Agrokor) slipped into second place with 16%, according to a report by Euromonitor.

Konzum originally drove consolidation in the local market, but lost steam at the end of the year, as it was still adjusting operations following its acquisition of Mercator in 2014.

Bingo’s performance towards the end of 2016 enabled it to take the lead in market share, as it invests in new greenfield projects focusing on the shopping mall format. Bingo ended 2016 with 183 stores of different formats, after opening a new shopping mall in Vogosca at the end of December that includes a hypermarket with 4,500 square meters of retail space.

The Euromonitor report revealed that Bosnian consumers increased their demand for grocery and non-grocery items in the second half of 2016 as a result of the improved economic climate. Affordable financing from international creditors such as the World Bank and EBRD fueled the growth of domestically-owned retailers.

 

World Court Will Not Revise the 2007 Genocide Ruling

The International Court of Justice in The Hague rejected the request for revision of the 2007 ruling in Bosnia vs. Serbia genocide case, Klix.ba reported. The website said that the Presidency members were informed about the Court’s decision in a letter. The Presidency was asked earlier to elaborate the mandate of Bosnia’s agent at the ICJ. The three members of the collective head of state sent individual letters to the Court following an unsuccessful attempt to agree on the divisive revision request.

According to Klix, the Court concluded from the contents of the letters that no national body decided to request revision in the name of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Therefore, no action will be taken regarding the request.

The 2007 judgement by the International Court of Justice exonerated Serbia of direct responsibility for the 1995 genocide in Srebrenica, though it said Serbia had failed to prevent genocide.

Entity Gov’ts Meet Today to Discuss IMF Loan Deal

The entity governments of Republika Srpska and the Federation will have a session together in Banja Luka today to discuss the Reform Agenda benchmarks, critical for a loan deal with the International Monetary Fund. The governments will also discuss reports on informal economy and roads, and a methodology for future joint sessions, said the RS government.

 

Federation Prime Minister Fadil Novalić said that the session will give a boost to the reforms.

“One of the most important (reforms) is the establishment of a permanent and effective mechanism to combat informal economy in the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This effort would not be possible if carried out only by one of the entities, therefore we are going to talk about it specifically,” said Novalić.

Bosnia must deliver on its reform pledges by the end of April to continue receiving funding under its current three-year loan deal with the International Monetary Fund, the state-level government said this week.

The release of the second loan tranche has been delayed because Bosnia has failed to meet the reform commitments described in the letter of intent submitted to the IMF last year, but the country still has time to save the deal, the government said in a statement following a meeting on Tuesday between members of the cabinet and IMF mission officials.

The IMF has given Bosnia until the end of April to meet its obligations before it launches concrete discussions on the continuation of the arrangement and the release of the second tranche.

 

In September last year, the IMF approved a three-year 553.3 million euro loan to Bosnia and Herzegovina to support the country’s economic reform agenda. The disbursement of funds hinges on the implementation of a set of reforms which should better the country’s economy.

An IMF mission is on a visit to Bosnia until March 16, to hold meetings with the entity governments and representatives of relevant institutions.