24th Oct 2016

EU and US criticise Bosnian rejection of constitutional reforms

The rejection of a key US and EU-backed constitutional reform by Bosnian parliamentarians has sparked criticism by the international community.

Bosnia and Herzegovina's lower house on late Wednesday (26 April) failed to reach the two-third majority needed to pass the amendments which would strengthen central government, seen as crucial for the country to join the EU and NATO.

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  • The constitutional reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina was backed by the EU (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

A majority of 28 votes was needed to adopt the draft changes, but only 26 members of the 42-seat chamber voted in favour.

The amendments were rejected after a two-day heated debate due to opposition by Croat members of the HDZ 1990 party and the Party of Bosnia-Herzegovina, led by a former Bosnian foreign minster, Haris Silajdzic.

They argued that the changes reinforced the division of the country into two entities and retained mechanisms of voting on the basis of various nationalities.

The bill was supposed to change the ethnic government system, set up by the Dayton peace agreement which ended Bosnia's 1992-95 war.

Under that agreement, the country consists of two highly-autonomous regions - the federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Serb Republic.

The constitutional reform would shift some of their powers to the central government.

"The results of last night's voting sends a negative message to Europe, the United States and the entire international community," said Christian Schwarz Schilling, the international envoy to Bosnia and Herzegovina, AKI agency reported.

The bill was meant to be hammered out before the October elections, so the parliament's failure to adopt it will just mean a waste of time, according to Mr Schwarz Schilling.

"It is an issue which we will have to ponder again, so that Bosnia-Herzegovina could better prepare for integration into the EU and the government can better serve its citizens," he is reported as saying.

US ambassador to Bosnia Douglas McElhaney also argued, "I do not see any other alternative to these amendments."

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