“As I noted in my report, Bosnia and Herzegovina, like most of our countries, is currently in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. While it is still too early to make a thorough assessment, I am pleased to report that so far, the country has apparently managed to avoid the widespread outbreaks and significant loss of life that has befallen some other countries,” High Representative Valentin Inzko stated on Wednesday.
While both entities, the Federation and Republika Srpska, took appropriate and early measures, and initially showed preparedness to work together, including with the state level, the country ultimately has not succeeded yet in establishing a functional coordination mechanism to fight the health crisis and appropriately coordinate measures to deal with its economic consequences. As a result of the lack of coordination, there are currently different levels of measures applied in each entity, and it so far does not appear that there is no countrywide plan to mitigate the economic setbacks.
In this crisis, the international community has done an excellent job of assisting BiH by providing financial and material assistance to the BiH authorities at all levels of government. On the other hand, the authorities in BiH to date have failed to reach a political agreement on the distribution of IMF financial assistance. Yet one of the bigger challenges for the country is how to minimize corruption risks related to the management of international financial and material assistance. While the BiH authorities must investigate and process these allegations, I strongly recommend to colleagues in the international community to set up international community-run mechanisms to track their financial and material assistance to avoid profiteering.
On 28 April, the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina announced the launching of the process to implement the 14 key priorities in the European Commission’s May 2019 Opinion on BiH’s Application for EU Membership.
In doing so, the Presidency reaffirmed Bosnia and Herzegovina’s commitment to EU membership as a strategic foreign policy goal and a priority. The Presidency established an ad hoc Political Working Group. This group the day before yesterday adopted a clear road map for the implementation of the EU-related priorities.
This is the result of the efforts of the EU and its international partners, and I applaud them and wish every success for this endeavour which is even more significant ahead of the Western Balkans Summit in Zagreb, which also begins today.
I am concerned, however, that some political parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina will soon return to the pre-pandemic status quo, in which decision-making at the State level was blocked by parties of the governing coalition in Republika Srpska. With the blockade, these parties tried to force a discussion on the removal of the foreign judges of the BiH Constitutional Court. Should the foreign judges leave the BiH Constitutional Court, some political parties that aim to dismantle the existing arrangements in BiH would de facto gain political control over the Court. In such case, they could enforce their separatist or third entity agendas with the assistance of the court. They could even constitutionalize such decisions.
For this reason, I fully support the appointment of Professor Angelika Nuβberger, an outstanding lawyer, a German national, to the BiH Constitutional Court, and look forward to further continuation of the work of international judges. All this is based, of course, on the BiH Constitution and the Dayton Peace Accords.