Monday

21st Jan 2019

Letter

The EU’s promising new initiative for Bosnia and Herzegovina

  • The new EU initiative is founded upon recognition of BiH sovereignty (Photo: Jennifer Boyer)

The new EU initiative for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s (BiH) European path deserves strong support from those in the international community interested in the country’s economic prosperity and successful integration into the EU.

The initiative, launched late last year by Germany and the UK and led by EU High Representative Mogherini, has achieved broad support within BiH and in the international community. Elected political leaders of all major BiH political parties have signed a written statement outlining their commitment to implementing the initiative.

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  • The initiative is led by EU High Representative Mogherini (Photo: eeas.europa.eu)

It was disappointing, though not surprising, to see a recent “analysis” by a senior associate of the Democratisation Policy Council criticising the initiative. The Democratisation Policy Council rejects the initiative, urging, instead, extensive constitutional change and a return to the radical interventionist policies associated with Paddy Ashdown, backed by a massive increase in the EUFOR military force in BiH.

Forced centralisation of political power in total disregard of the BiH Constitution and international law was the hallmark of the Ashdown regime in BiH. Such policies completely undermined the international community’s asserted objective of building a functional state based upon the rule of law.

The new EU initiative focuses instead upon an ambitious programme of legal and regulatory reform to expand employment and economic growth while aligning BiH economic and judicial structures with the EU standards.

Under the BiH Constitution, economic matters are primarily the responsibility of the two Entities, Republika Srpska (RS) and the Federation, thus much of the focus must be at this level. In response to the initiative, the RS National Assembly has already passed a new round of 13 economic reforms that build on earlier measures to facilitate business, encourage domestic and foreign investment, and reduce unnecessary regulation.

Last year’s EU Progress Report for BiH praised the RS’s implementation of its “ambitious business environment reform,” including its streamlined new system that enables new businesses to register in just three days. The newly formed RS Government has made vigorous implementation of pro-growth, pro-job reforms a priority.

Another priority is reform and reduction of the tangle of redundant and ineffective BiH agencies that are the legacy of Ashdown’s forced centralization of BiH.

The new EU initiative is founded upon recognition of BiH sovereignty and the essential role of democratically elected leaders.

Rather than criticizing the leaders BiH citizens chose, the new EU initiative prioritises local political buy-in and cooperation with Entity and cantonal leaders to achieve efficient delivery of services and effective government to citizens in the most direct, least bureaucratic way.

Recent elections in October 2014 were uniformly judged free and fair by international observers. With a newly elected political leadership and thoroughgoing commitment to local ownership and control, there is sound reason for optimism regarding progress on the European path that BiH has chosen.

Don Picard specialises in public international law with the firm of Picard Kentz & Rowe in Washington DC and is an editor of the website, www.bihdaytonproject.com.

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