New diplomacy offensive in BiH

New diplomacy offensive in BiH

Is is apparent that international community diplomats on various levels has begun a new offensive in BiH in order to renew the positive momentum and push local authorities to continue with reforms that will keep the country on the EU path.

In the last several months the reforms process in BiH had almost been extinguished, but international community hopes that political leaders in the state will realise that the future of BiH is not possible out of the EU borders and that they must jointly work on the approach to the Union. Chairman of BiH Presidency, Dragan Covic, hopes that BiH will receive candidate status at the beginning of next year, but at the same time he admits that in BiH Parliament a majority doesn’t exist any more and that this presents an obstacle for the adoption of important reforms. This is wehre EU diplomats have begun the offensive to try to fix the problem and to bring the country back on the road which leads to the EU.

“Over the past two years, BiH has shown that, when there is political will, the necessary reforms can be implemented. In order to achieve this, a permanent commitment is needed. It is therefore of particular importance that BiH political leaders again focus on the further implementation of reforms, especially those from the Reform Agenda. Most important are socioeconomic issues, the rule of law and public administration. In order to achieve this, fiscal changes are needed. They refer to the adoption of additional excise duties on fuel, which are the basis for investing in the infrastructure of the country. We also expect answers to the Questionnaire”, said in an interview for local media EU Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy Commissioner, Johannes Hahn.

He also welcomed the adoption of the National Transport Strategy and is eagerly awaiting the approval of the BiH leaders when other state strategies are concerned, such as agriculture, energy and employment.

That excise duties are important question was emphasised at the meeting of EU Special representative in BiH, Lars Gunnar Wigemark, and US Ambassador to BiH, Maureen Cormack, with member of BiH Presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic. They discussed the need for renewed momentum on the Euro-Atlantic path, implementing reform commitments, and improving the rule of law. They agreed on the urgent need to address the excise package, and unlock €500 million of investments in BiH infrastructure.

As it was announced from EU Delegation to BiH, the participants of the meeting, regarding 2018 General Elections, emphasised the responsibility of all BiH politicians to ensure elections take place smoothly and institutions are formed in a timely manner. Izetbegovic committed to an open and productive dialogue with other political leaders. Cormack and Wigemark underscored that any proposal must respect court decisions and the rule of law and move the country closer to EU standards. The European Union and the United States support constructive efforts to address differences and make progress on the EU path.

It is important to mention that this is the first time that EU and US diplomats hold a joint meeting with BiH politicians, which can be a sign that both of them have an interest in a stable and prosperous BiH on the Western Balkan.

Perhaps the best recent analysis of the situation in BiH was written by EU special rapporteur for BiH, Cristian Dan Preda (photo), who in an article wrote that  there are hardly any reasons to remain optimistic regarding BiH’s European path.

“No serious progress has been made in the fight against the corruption that plagues the country. The rule of law remains problematic and the judicial system, as well as the public administration are in dire need for reforms. The implementation of the reforms contained in the Reform Agenda, agreed by all political forces in the country, and which represents the backbone of the new EU approach, is painfully slow. This is no secret for anybody, and certainly not for BiH’s citizens who have decided to “vote with their feet”. According to data from the World Bank, the number of people from BiH who live abroad is 44.5 per cent of the country’s overall population, which puts it in 16th place in the world for the emigration rate”, Preda emphasizes.

He added that the election campaign begun in March this year regardless of the fact that elections are scheduled for October 2018. In this period, as Preda said, everything is being politicised, and everything risks being blocked. He added that  the complex political set-up of the country, as well as the difficult recent past and the painful legacy of conflict are certainly posing an enduring challenge for BiH. However, Preda goes on, the whole situation prevailing currently in BiH and in particular the state of its European integration, is first and foremost a matter of political responsibility of the authorities and the whole political class.

“It is high time politicians in BiH live up to their role and take the responsibility of their European integration process very seriously. Cooperating for a common goal, and not blocking, is the responsible way of acting. It is often said, by analysts and politicians alike, that the problem is the lack of a common vision for the future for all communities and citizens in the country. I would beg to differ. Such a vision exists, it comes from the will to join the European Union, which nobody seriously denies in the country.  All is needed then is to work seriously and responsibly towards realizing this vision. Put Europe first! Otherwise, nothing good will come for BiH in the foreseeable future”, Preda stresses.

In the next few months, political turmoils in BiH will show the intentions of local leaders on country and regional plans. RS is in this moment in the middle of the parliamentary war between ruling parties and opposition. At the same time, ruling parties will soon face the need for rearrangement of their relations since one of them, Democratic Peoples Alliance (DNS), is now stronger than ever and wants a bigger “part of the cake”. RS opposition, at first read is well organized, in fact it works with a clear goal but without a joint vision how to reach it. Federation BiH faces a similar situation and BiH Parliament works without majority and unable to adopt important documents. What all this means is that international diplomatic offensive is welcome to calm situation down and to bring the country back on the right path./IBNA