High Representative in BiH hands over the Report on the Implementation of the Peace Agreement to UN Secretary-General

May 8, 2018 6:00 PM

This report covers the period from 22 October 2017 through 21 April 2018. While the institutions and political leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) have managed to deliver incremental progress on some of their commitments related to Euro-Atlantic integration processes, the last six months have also seen a notable deterioration in terms of divisive public rhetoric and respect for the rule of law within the country. Crucial domestic issues related to the Election Law and the Criminal Procedure Code have remained unresolved, as many parties in authority are focused on consolidating power and playing to their respective voting bases ahead of the electoral campaign season. In its Interim Report on Bosnia and Herzegovina published along with the 2018 Enlargement package on 17 April, the European Commission (EC) similarly noted that tensions between parties had slowed the pace of reform.

Among positive developments, the most notable achievement during the reporting period was the BiH authorities’ handover of answers to the EC Questionnaire in February, an important step in the country’s attempts at becoming an EU candidate country in the future. Another positive development was the adoption of a set of excise laws, which along with other conditions, resulted in the completion of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) review and approval of the second disbursement of funds under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) arrangement, on 9 February.

Other notable developments included the trilateral meeting in March between the BiH Presidency and the presidents of Serbia and Croatia. Also, in February the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) announced that BiH is no longer subject to special monitoring by the FATF, having made progress in addressing previously identified strategic deficiencies in its efforts concerning anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism.

Despite these positive developments, major challenges remain. The next general elections in BiH are expected to take place in October 2018, yet the formation of authorities after the vote could prove extremely difficult if changes to the election law are not agreed that would regulate the indirect election of delegates to one of the chambers of the Federation parliament. As previously reported, the BiH Constitutional Court struck down provisions of the law regulating elections to the Federation House of Peoples in July 2017, having declared these parts of the law unconstitutional in its December 2016 decision in the so-called “Ljubic case”. The failure to constitute the Federation House of Peoples following the elections would prevent the election of the new Federation President and Vice Presidents, who are responsible for nominating the new Federation Government, and would also prevent the election of Bosniak and Croat delegates to the BiH House of Peoples, one of the two houses of the state-level parliament.

With the announcement of elections expected in May and the elections themselves in October, the relevant authorities in BiH must agree on electoral changes that would enable the smooth conduct and implementation of the results of the 2018 General Elections. As the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board Political Directors outlined in their December 2017 Communique, “[a]s an immediate priority, the 1 December 2016 decision of the BiH Constitutional Court, which specifically concerns the elections to the Federation House of Peoples, must be implemented, and not made more challenging by combining it with political demands.”

An equally pressing issue has arisen concerning the BiH judiciary. In June 2017, the BiH Constitutional Court declared as unconstitutional several provisions of the BiH Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) regulating special investigative measures in criminal proceedings. As the deadline of six months has passed without the BiH Parliament correcting the issue, the Court could soon rule on non-enforcement, leaving the BiH judiciary without the tools necessary for fighting organized crime and corruption. This would represent a very serious setback to the rule of law.

During the reporting period, I continued to urge the leadership of the Herzegovina-Neretva and some other Cantonal Assemblies to act to harmonize these cantons’ constitutions with a decision of the BiH Constitutional Court from 2000 and with the Federation Constitution, in order to ensure the equality of Serbs as a constituent people, and officially recognize the Serb language and Cyrillic alphabet.

Another cause for concern has been the continuation and escalation of divisive and destabilizing rhetoric from prominent political figures on all sides. For example, continuing a long-term trend, the Republika Srpska President has continued to deny the statehood of Bosnia and Herzegovina and advocate for the eventual secession of the entity. During the reporting period public comments were also made glorifying convicted war criminals and calling for the return of an RS army. The Croat member of the BiH Presidency has mused about the further internal division of the country, while other Croat politicians have threatened the dissolution of the country if the current electoral issues are not resolved to their satisfaction.

Under the authority vested in me under Annex 10 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP), I reiterate that the entities have no right to secede from BiH and that the GFAP guarantees the sovereignty and territorial integrity of BiH and the internal constitutional position of the entities.

In addition, I must express my concern over comments made by a number of political figures about the possibility of future conflict if the country were to break apart. These included comments by the Federation Prime Minister about the production of military equipment and subsequent comments by the Bosniak member of the BiH Presidency taking these comments further, suggesting that a rearming effort was underway in preparation for a hypothetical war scenario. These comments followed controversy earlier in the reporting period about the purchase of long-barrel weapons by the RS police.

There is far too much unhelpful and provocative rhetoric in BiH. All public figures must choose their words carefully and responsibly. BiH is a single multiethnic sovereign state consisting of two entities, in which all citizens – the three constituent peoples and others – live and work together, and elected officials above all have a responsibility to contribute to peace and reconciliation.

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