European Commission Report on BaH Finds Little to No Progress in Key Areas

The European Commission presented its 2020 report on the Western Balkans, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, on Tuesday, saying the country was blocked politically and that it had no progress in the Public Administration Reform. The Commission also found little to no progress in the reform of the judiciary, fight against corruption or fundamental rights of minorities. 

“During most of the reporting period the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina was blocked for political reasons, which resulted in a legislative backlog”, the report said, adding that the government was only formed “in December 2019, 14 months after the general elections.” 

“The Federation entity government is still in a caretaker function. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Constitution remains in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), as per the Sejdic-Finci and related cases. No progress was made in improving the electoral framework in line with European standards and ensuring transparency of political party financing”, the report said among other things. 

The European Commission said Bosnia and Herzegovina is at an early stage with public administration reform (PAR) and there was no progress on ensuring a professional and depoliticized civil service and a coordinated countrywide approach to policymaking. According to them, the country is at an early stage in the area of judiciary. 

“No progress was made in this area during the reporting period. No appropriate action was taken to address the findings of the Expert Report on Rule of Law issues. Integrity reforms have met resistance from within the judiciary. Evident signs of deterioration require urgent measures to strengthen the integrity and regain citizens’ trust in the judiciary, starting with a credible and rigorous system of verification of financial statements of judicial officeholders”, the report states. 

Corruption remained widespread, the report noted, and is a serious concern, with all levels of government showing signs of political capture directly affecting the daily life of citizens. 

“There are systemic shortcomings in the operational cooperation of law enforcement agencies and very limited exchange of intelligence. The police is vulnerable to political interference. Financial investigations and asset seizures are largely ineffective”, the report concluded. When it comes to fundamental rights, the report noted that the legislative and institutional framework was largely in place but noticed that a comprehensive strategic framework remains to be adopted. 

“Some steps were made – notably, the Constitutional Court repealed the provision on the death penalty in the Republika Srpska entity Constitution, and the first LGBTI Pride Parade took place peacefully in Sarajevo. Challenges remain on freedom of assembly, notably in the Republika Srpska entity”, the European Commission said, adding: 

“There was no progress on guaranteeing freedom of expression and of the media and the protection of journalists by ensuring the appropriate judicial follow-up to cases of threats and violence against journalists and media workers, and ensuring the financial sustainability of the public broadcasting system.” 

The Commission urged Bosnia to urgently take all necessary measures to prevent a humanitarian crisis regarding the migrant situation from unfolding.

“As regards the economic criteria, Bosnia and Herzegovina has made limited progress and is at an early stage of establishing a functioning market economy. The public sector remained oversized and inefficient. The financial sector remained stable and lending increased, while unemployment has declined, partly due to a substantial labor force outflow”, the Commission’s report said. 

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