EU Special Representative: Bosnia made no progress on rule of law


While Bosnia made progress on some the 14 priorities the European Commission defined for the country to tackle in order to achieve EU candidate status, rule of law is not among them, EU Special Representative in Bosnia, Johann Sattler, said ahead of the ‘Pravo na Pravdu’ (Right to Justice) debate, organised by the EU Delegation in the country.

Sattler said that a year ago the first Right to Justice conference took place where the situation in the judiciary and rule of law in Bosnia were discussed.

“Our findings were very clear,” he said, adding that this is also when a report by Senior EU rule of law expert, Reinhard Priebe, on Bosnia’s judiciary was presented.

“And what happened after that? On the one hand, given that I am a person who is always looking for something positive, in general when it comes to meeting the 14 priorities of the European Commission, we have seen progress,” he said.

Sattler said that Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency reacted to those priorities and praised the agreement on holding local elections in the southern city of Mostar for the first time in 12 years, which he called a “big deal.”

However, there has still been no progress on Rule of Law in Bosnia, he stressed, adding that there was even some decline and that this was confirmed in the European Commission’s Progress Report for Bosnia in October, as well as in a survey conducted among Bosnian citizens.

One of the most important conclusions from this survey was that 68 percent of Bosnians have no trust in the judiciary at all government levels, he added.

Sattler said that Bosnia must show progress in the rule of law on three fronts.

The first one he mentioned is the needed changes to the law on Bosnia’s top judicial body, the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJCP) and “more adequate checks regarding the integrity of those holding judicial functions.”

The second priority Sattler pointed out is the adoption of a Law on Conflict of Interest in the country, something that has been discussed for the past two years.

The third issue that needs to be tackled is protection for whistleblowers.

“All three of these things have to happen and they can happen swiftly. We urge decision-makers to act,” he said.

Sattler also repeated the message of EU High Representative Josep Borrell, who called on political leaders in Bosnia to make use of the next two years when no election is taking place in order to tackle the issues in the country.

“Please, use this time, your citizens want it, and this is the time to move forward,” he said, adding that the EU’s interest in Bosnia is stronger now.