In November, citizens voted in the 2020 Local Elections for mayoral candidates and local assemblies in cities and municipalities in the Federation and the RS, and for the Assembly in Brčko District. A month later, citizens of the City of Mostar voted in the first elections for the Mostar City Council since 2008. The work of the BiH Central Election Commission (CEC) in successfully organizing two consecutive elections during a pandemic, and in the face of continued political attacks against the institution, taking appropriate safety measures into account and organizing mobile polling teams for quarantined voters, while also reacting promptly to reports of fraud and malfeasance, is commendable. I continue to oppose any attempt to undermine the professionalism and legitimacy of this crucial BiH institution,
These recent elections have shown that goodwill in the institutions charged with conducting elections is not enough to make up for flaws in the system. 2021 constitutes a window of opportunity for electoral reform, which must result in the implementation of the technical recommendations by the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) following the 2018 General Elections, as well as earlier recommendations of the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) and the Council of Europe’s (CoE) Venice Commission. The adoption of amendments to the BiH Constitution and the BiH Election Law are also required to implement decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in the “Sejdić and Finci” group of cases and bring an end to ethnic-based and residence-based discrimination in the electoral process. All these changes are crucial, and must be implemented in a manner that makes the electoral system more transparent and more open. I have made clear that changes cannot result in further ethnic or territorial divisions in BiH. There is no legal reason that would justify such divisions and I strongly believe that the implementation of the Sejdić and Finci group of cases gives us an historic opportunity to move the BiH institutions away from discrimination and closer to openness.
In October, the members of the frequently-divided tripartite BiH Presidency marked the 25thanniversary of the initialing of the GFAP in Dayton, Ohio, with a rare joint statement expressing commitment to respect provisions of the Agreement and the BiH Constitution and to creating a society in BiH tailored to all its peoples and citizens.
In December, after several public calls by me – including in my address to the UN Security Council in November – for the RS authorities to remove the plaque bearing convicted war criminal Radovan Karadžić’s name from the student dormitory in the town of Pale, the plaque was finally and formally removed.
December also marked the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the Armed Forces of BiH, one of the most meaningful and successful post-Dayton reforms. Members of the BiH Armed Forces serve with distinction in peacekeeping missions around the world.
In March, Brčko District authorities demonstrated their commitment to reforms by adopting a Law on the Prevention of Conflict of Interest, which establishes clear guidelines, reporting requirements, and sanctions to ensure that public office holders carryout their activities in line with the public’s interest and not their personal interests. The enactment of this law will accelerate other good governance reforms in Brčko District, ensure the responsible expenditure of public funds, and establish a welcoming environment for private sector investment, all good examples of what is possible in BiH.