Bosnia Gets the Worst Score in the Latest TI Corruption Perception Index since 2012

Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranked Bosnia and Herzegovina among countries where corruption is rapidly worsening as the country has slipped 11 places on the list, ranking 111 out of 180 countries with a score of 35 (0-100 scale). 

This is the worst score the country has had since 2012. 

BiH is now at the bottom of the list in the Western Balkans region, where it shares a spot with North Macedonia. 

The best ranked in the SE Europe is Slovenia with a score of 60, followed by Croatia 47. Next are Montenegro 45, Hungary 44, Romania 44, Bulgaria 44, followed by Serbia 38, Kosovo 36 and North Macedonia 35, on the same level as BiH. 

The anti-corruption watchdog said that “the COVID-19 pandemic undoubtedly marked the past year, but also completely exposed the darkest side of corruption, the price which is unfortunately paid by the citizens themselves.” 

Institutions paralyzed by corruption have made the unscrupulous theft of public funds a priority at the expense of ensuring adequate healthcare, TI said. 

The entire period of the pandemic has been marked with non-transparent and unsettled procurement of medical equipment and corruption cases have implicated the very top of the government, it said, adding that lack of public trust in the judiciary has made it only worse as the judiciary “itself has become the most serious problem of BiH society.” 

“Politically instrumentalized, without elementary independence and accountability, it requires urgent and in-depth reform based on the conduct of detailed vetting of all judicial office holders, as a first step in the anti-corruption fight”, it stated. 

The country also lacks adequate policy or strategy for fighting anti-corruption and the legal framework has been waiting for years for a complete and comprehensive reconstruction, although this was listed as one of the priorities for obtaining EU candidate status. 

The situation in the country’s semi-autonomous Federation (FBiH) entity is particularly concerning because the government has not been established although the elections were held two and a half years ago. 

The watchdog described the situation in this entity as “anarchic”, since the Constitutional Court has still been incomplete, there is still no legal framework for the protection of whistleblowers, and the Law on Conflict of Interest and the Law on Suppression of Corruption and Organized Crime has not been implemented. 

„The country has been going in the wrong direction for a long time, but the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis resulting from it, along with the increased deterioration of corruption level, can create a highly unstable situation that can put BiH at high risk of complete institutional paralysis”, said Srdjan Blagovcanin, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of TI BiH, at the presentation of the Index. 

„In such a context, systematic violation of human rights, existential uncertainty for citizens, as well as life-threatening conditions due to the inadequate reaction of authorities concerning the healthcare of citizens may lead to the escalation of anger among the citizens”, he warned. 

Political parties led by absolute leaders have completely taken control over the public sector, using it to gain benefits for themselves, at the expense of public interest, the organization said. 

Restrictions imposed on the freedom of gathering in the Republic of Srpska entity, which has been mentioned in the reports of the European Commission on several occasions are some direct consequences of deep-rooted corruption, TI said. 

“The erosion of democratic standards, suppression of freedom of speech and creation of an atmosphere of intolerance for voices of criticism make a trend that has been constant in BiH for years”, he concluded. 

CPI Index Ranks Serbia 38 in 2020, Its Lowest Score Since 2012

The Global Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranked Serbia at 38th place of its list in 2020 report, one point down from the year before, making it the lowest score the country earned since 2012, CPI said on Thursday (28.01).  

The report added the country’s biggest corruption challenges included serious rule-of-law issues, continued democratic erosion, and efforts to silence critical voices. 

„In response to COVID-19, Serbia took several controversial steps, including suspending Parliament, implementing extensive curfews and inciting violence against protesters”, CPI said. 

It added that „in addition, the police arrested and detained an investigative journalist, while the government restricted access to information on the procurement of medical equipment, and retaliated against health care workers who criticized its response to the public health crisis.” 

„After years of neglect, the country’s health system was tested by COVID-19, with dire consequences. Corruption remains an obstacle to medical specialization and career advancement”, the CPI 2020 report on Serbia said. 

The report also said that Serbia (38), Bosnia and Herzegovina (35), and Republic of North Macedonia (35) were among the top ten countries with the highest brain drain globally, with medical professionals leaving the region in search of better opportunities. 

Belgrade Needs a Strategic Partnership with Washington

Serbia’s Deputy Prime Minister Zorana Mihajlovic said on January 28th, that her country needed a document on strategic partnership with the US, and an office for better relations with that country.  

She told the Parliament that many had changed in the last several years. Serbia was politically more stable and economically more robust than seven; eight years open to investments and relations with all countries. 

“We celebrate 140 years of bilateral diplomatic ties with the US in 2021. Besides, we had an agreement in 2001, a memorandum on cooperation in 2018, and a week ago another memorandum on investments in infrastructure. However, we need a particular document – about the strategic partnership with the US”, Mihajlovic said. 

She recalled Serbia had such an agreement with Russia, China, Azerbaijan, France, Italy, United Arab Emirates, but not with the US. 

“There is not a single reason not to have such a document which could help us to bring our relationship to a higher level”, Mihajlovic said ahead of presenting a study “Serbia’s People Attitude towards the United States”. 

Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Belgrade Gabriel Escobar agreed it was essential to continue and deepen the cooperation, especially in the economy. The US policy was to boost economic and cultural cooperation with Serbia. 

Belgrade Wants MEP Fajon to be Out of Inter-Party Dialogue

The official Belgrade requested the exemption of Tanja Fajon, an MEP and Chair of the European Parliament Delegation to Serbia from the forthcoming inter-parties dialogue ahead of the 2022 elections in the country, she confirmed on Tuesday, January 26th.  

Fajon added it was unacceptable to Brussels because the EU had clear representation rules. 

She announced more details about the dialogue for Thursday, after new talks between the EU’s David McAllister and Serbia’s Parliament Speaker Ivica Dacic. 

„I haven’t heard that from President (Aleksandar) Vucic, but from David McAllister who told me about his talks with Ivica Dacic who asked that I don’t take part in the dialogue any more”, told Fajon. 

She recalled the EU did not put any condition to Serbia in regard to who would represent it. 

„We don’t influence the Serb side’s decision on who will represent it, so Belgrade cannot do that to us. We have our internal rules that envisage that (Vladimir) Bilčík and I participate on behalf of the EP. We never conditioned the representatives of the Serb side. It’s important to us that the authorities and the opposition take part in the dialogue”, Fajon said. 

Asked why she thought she was unacceptable to Serbia’s authorities, Fajon said it could be „because I’m a social-democrat, maybe because I criticized some things in Serbia with arguments. Maybe some think I represent the opposition. I’m sorry because my statements have been understood in that way in Serbia, but I’m used to politicians’ using my name in different ways. That seems to be a part of the political culture in Serbia, but not only there, in Slovenia (her home country) as well”. 

Fajon added it was still not known who would represent the Serb side and that it should become known soon. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the dialogue would be held online, she said. 

She rejected claims the dialogue imperil Serbia’s sovereignty. 

Asked if she has an impression that Belgrade was not dedicated to the European integration, Fajon said that any government should have a hundred days to show its intents. 

Expansion of EU Remain in Focus

Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva said on Tuesday, January 26th, that expansion remains in the European Union’s focus during his country’s presidency. 

He told the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs that he welcomes the new Serbian government’s commitment to the European integration process and the dialogue with Pristina. I hope that there will be progress … and I think the new methodology has been integrated into the current negotiations with Montenegro and Serbia, he added. He also said that he believes Serbia will open at least one chapter this year. 

European External Action Service chief Stefano Sannino said that the EU will devote attention to the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. According to him, the political turbulence in Kosovo is not helping the process but that could change soon. The Western Balkans will be very high on our agenda and we have a special responsibility towards it and can’t leave things unfinished, he said and added that what US envoy Richard Grenell did was useful only for the USA and that the EU has to take the lead in the region. 

Izetbegovic Caused Confusion With His Statement About Serbs

A statement made on January 21st, by the leader of the Party of Democratic Action (PDA) in BiH about voters who keep electing Milorad Dodik for his secessionist policy caused confusion among those who interpreted the statement as Bakir Izetbegovic’s hatred toward Serbs.  

Speaking about what he thinks is behind Dodik’s policy and whether the Bosnian Serb political leader is serious when he keeps announcing the secession of the Bosnia’s Serb-majority Republika Srpska (RS) entity, Izetbegovic said that he believes Dodik wants to be remembered as a politician who kept the idea of secession open for some possible future times when such a thing would be possible. 

When asked whether he was talking about the Serb people as a whole, he said that he was talking about “voters who are supporting him because they want his rude behavior.” 

Dodik, who currently chairs Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency, said on Saturday (23.01) that he is congratulating Izetbegovic for his honesty, adding that the Bosniak political leader finally showed what kind of Serbs are acceptable to him and his party – “those who are suitable and serve Bosniak interests.” 

The leader of the United Srpska party, Nenad Stevandic, said Izetbegovic’s statement represents “pure fascism” and such an ideology “targeted peoples and then destroyed them and killed them, creating concentration camps such as Jasenovac.” 

The head of the caucus of the Party of Democratic Progress (PDP), Perica Bundalo, said that Izetbegovic’s statement was “another stupidity”, which is raising political tensions and which is not contributing to reconciliation in BiH. 

The President of the Serbian Parliament, Ivica Dacic, told that “there are people whose only future is the past and who would lose their popularity if they would not be talking this way”. Dacic said that the statement is “not adding to the stability of the region.” 

Statements like the recent one by Bakir Izetbegovic, the leader of the main Bosniak ethnic party in Bosnia, are not good for anybody and it speaks more about him than about Serbs, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said. 

Sociology professor at the Banja Luka University Dusko Vejnovic told that politicians in BiH have to refrain from hate speech and from dangerous statements that refer to people and collectives. 

“As the High Representative has emphasized several times in the context of war crimes denial and the glorification of war criminals, there are no bad peoples, there are only bad individuals”, the Office of High Representative commented. 

Twenty People in Serbia Report Vaccine’s Side Effects

Until Thursday, January 21st, 20 people in Serbia reported side effects after being vaccinated, all of which were short-time reactions and caused no concern, Pavle Zelic from the state Agency for Medicines and Medical Devices (ALIMS) said.  

He told those reactions were „local and systemic”.   

Zelic said that all three types of the vaccine in Serbia – US-German Pfizer-BioNTech, Russian Sputnik V, and Chinese Sinofarm – underwent all necessary controls and tests. 

„They are as they should be. ALMIS stands behind its decisions”, he added.
So far, 84,075 people in Serbia received a vaccine, mostly Sputnik V, and over 400,000 have registered for the immunization. China sent a million doses of Sinofarm vaccine to Serbia and promised to distribute more in next months.

Dodik Accused of ‘Fascism’ Over Comments Targeting Election Authority Official

The comments Bosnia’s Presidency Chairman Milorad Dodik made when he criticized the decision by the election authority to annul election results in two towns, implying that a member of the institution voted in favor of the decision because she was married to a Bosniak, was met with widespread criticism. 

He complained about one of the members of the Commission from Republika Srpska, Vanja Bjelica-Prutina, voting in favor of the decision. 

“A lady who presents herself as representing the Serb people is married to a Bosniak in Sarajevo. Someone might say what this has nothing to do with anything. Just don’t”, Dodik said. 

His comment was met with criticism on social media. 

Co-Chairman of the US-Europe Alliance, Reuf Bajrovic, said that the comments represent “breathtaking Islamophobia and fascism at full display.” 

“Whenever I hear Dodik attack in the most ruthless and disgusting, raw, arrogant way, I have mixed with feelings of happiness that I am a traitor according to his distorted criteria, and disgust towards his lackeys and followers”, Bosnian economist Svetlana Cenic commented. 

A Migrant Rout at a Camp Near Sarajevo

Several migrants were apprehended after a mass rout that emerged late night on Wednesday, January 20th, at the Blazuj camp, near the capital of BiH Sarajevo. 

Several police officers were injured as they arrived at the site to restore order, while several patrol police vehicles were damaged. 

According to the Sarajevo Canton Interior Ministry’s official report, the clash first emerged when officials of the International Organization for Migrations (IOM) arrived at the camp to relocate one of the migrants who was disturbing order and peace at this location.   

“The migrant is actually the leader of one of the groups in this camp. Migrants tried to set him free forcibly which led to the conflict”, said spokesperson Mirza Hadziabdic. 

The clash started after the actions of his comrades which tried forcibly to free him. 

Several migrants were apprehended, while two police officers required medical assistance. 

Some 3,000 migrants are accommodated in the Blazuj camp and minor accidents were often reported at this location.

Elections in Srebrenica and Doboj Annulled

Bosnia’s Central Election Commission (CEC) decided to annul the election results for 26 out of 28 polling stations in Srebrenica as well as 89 out of a total of 108 polling stations in Doboj, the Commission said Thursday, January 21th. 

During the session, the CEC presented numerous irregularities regarding the voting process in Srebrenica, and Doboj.
They determined that voting without valid documents of the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina has been enabled. Dozens of voters voted without valid documents at several polling stations. 

Also, graphologists have identified numerous irregularities when it comes to voter signatures, i.e. forgeries. Voting with invalid identification documents or documents issued outside the legal deadline was also determined. 

“I think that the draft decision for Srebrenica should have followed much earlier. There are significantly fewer polling stations in Srebrenica and this process could have been completed much earlier than in Doboj. I am exposed to fierce pressure because I supported the conclusion of the investigation of irregularities in these two constituencies”, said CIK member Vanja Bjelica-Prutina. 

CEC member Irena Hadziabdic said that the election day in Srebrenica was very peaceful and that she had no information about any irregularities. 

Member Vlado Rogic did not agree with the annulment of the elections in Srebrenica and Doboj. 

“The CEC has succumbed to the pressure of some media and circles pushing for such a decision”, said Rogic.