Fourteen months after BiH’s general elections a government was formed on December 23rd after Bosnia’s House of Representatives confirmed the appointment of all ministers, with the exception of the Minister of Human Rights and Refugees which will be approved at its next session. The new Council of Ministers proposed by its Chairman Zoran Tegeltija was elected and sworn in with 29 votes in favor, eight against and one abstention.
The new ministers are Vjekoslav Bevanda of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) as Finance Minister, Ankica Gudeljevic (HDZ) as Minister of Civil Affairs, Josip Grubesa (HDZ) as Minister of Justice, Vojin Mitrovic of the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) as Minister of Communications and Transport, Stasa Kosarac (SNSD) as Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations, Fahrudin Radoncic of the Union for a Better Future (SBB) as Security Minister, Bisera Turkovic of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) as Foreign Minister and Sifet Podzic from the Democratic Front (DF) as Minister of Defense.
BiH was unable to form a new government since the October 2018 elections and the previous ministers remained in office for a technical mandate because Bosniak and Croatian members of the tripartite Presidency, respectively, Sefik Dzaferovic and Zeljko Komsic, refused to vote for the new candidate for Chairman, who was supposed to come from the party of Serb Presidency member Milorad Dodik (SNSD). The reason behind this decision was Dodik’s refusal to sign the Annual National Program (ANP), which BiH was to send to NATO Headquarters in Brussels as the next step on its path to membership in the Alliance, as this document would activate the country’s Membership Action Plan.
NATO remains unpopular with Serbs, both in Serbia and in the Republika Srpska (RS) semi-autonomous entity since the alliance staged air strikes against Bosnian Serbs during the 1992-95 Bosnian war and against Serb forces in 1999 in order to stop ethnic cleansing during the conflict between Belgrade and the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
Although a decade ago, newly appearing on the RS political scene, Dodik’s SNSD agreed to BiH’s accession to NATO, later on, with increasing Russian influence in Serbia and the region, changed its decision blocking the country path toward a future membership in the Alliance. In line with Serbia, Republika Srpska also adopted a Resolution on Military Neutrality in 2017, opposing membership in any military alliances.
Contrary to this decision, Komsic and Dzaferovic said they would not vote for Dodik-backed Tegeltija to head the future government unless the ANP is signed. At the end of November 2019, the Bosniak and Croat Presidency members expressed support for Tegeltija after a joint meeting with ambassadors of the United States, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and the Head of the EU Delegation to Bosnia.
In return, Serb Presidency member Milorad Dodik supported a document called the Reform Programme outlining the program of reforms in the field of defence and security, which was sent to NATO, instead of the ANP. In essence, the Reform Programme is not significantly different from the ANP and is also acceptable to NATO, which paved the way for the implementation of BiH’s Membership Action Plan.