US and European Union officials resumed talks on electoral reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday in a meeting with parliamentarians gathered in the Inter-Agency Working Group in charge of changes to the Election Law.
Matthew Palmer, the US special envoy for the Western Balkans who met the political leaders on Sunday, said after the meeting with the working group that it is necessary to invite the civil sector and the Central Election Commission to join the group so they can work together and improve the fairness and transparency of the elections before the next election cycle.
He assessed the meeting that he and European External Action Service Director for Western Europe, Western Balkans, Turkey and Great Britain, Angelina Eichhorst had with the working group today as successful.
“2021 is the year to make changes. It is necessary to implement constitutional reforms to enable the implementation of all relevant rulings of the European Court of Human Rights but also to improve the election process implementation,” he said.
There is a need for many changes, he said, one of them being transparency in the elections.
“We call on the inter-agency group to engage the profession in sense of the Central Election Commission and the civil sector so that the fairness and transparency are improved for the next elections,” the US diplomat said.
Eichhorst stated that they discussed essential issues, perhaps not at the level of technical details, but they certainly touched on important issues, “understanding that we are generally accustomed to different political views in our work.”
“On this occasion, we discussed issues that are essential and can significantly change the lives of citizens in BiH. Our visit today is an indicator of the strong commitment of the EU and the USA to Bosnia and Herzegovina, its progress, steps on the European path to full EU membership, i.e. general integration of the entire region of Southeast Europe,” said Eichhorst.
That, she added, is something we will work on together through reforms.
“Reforms may be a word you have heard so many times so far. Now is the final time for it to no longer be a mere phrase, but to become something concrete,” said Eichhorst.
She added that 2021 represents a real opportunity for important steps forward and progress when it comes to constitutional and electoral legislation reforms that should be in line with the opinion of the European Commission and European standards.
According to her, one of the important topics was setting the date when the experts could concretely meet and start working on the implementation of the verdicts, not only “Sejdić-Finci” and other judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, but also the verdict of the BiH Constitutional Court, which would ultimately eliminate discrimination from constitutional and other provisions.
She reiterated that the United States and the European Union have a common position on the ongoing issues in BiH.
BiH Presidency members also expressed their opinions on this issue but they look more like a list of wishes than something which can be implemented. Serb member Milorad Dodik said that it is possible to change the laws in the manner that one person sits in the chairs of the Republika Srpska President and Serb member of the BiH Presidency. For the other two members, Šefik Džaferović (Bosniak) and Željko Komšić (Croat), the “asymmetric model” for the elections of BiH Presidency members is not acceptable.