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News 25 Jul 17

Bosnia Slammed for Failure to Sign Transport Treaty

The EU and local politicians criticised Bosnia for not signing a treaty to join a south-east Europe transportation community – a move that also caused the EU Transport Commissioner to cancel a planned visit.

Igor Spaic
BIRN
Sarajevo
EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc cancelled a visit over the issue. Photo: European Union 2014/European Parliament.

Mirko Sarovic, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s minister for foreign trade and the economy, said on Tuesday that the country could lose funds for four projects worth 90 million Bosnian marks (45.9 million euros) if the transport community treaty is not signed soon – adding to criticism already expressed by EU officials.

“I believe the deadline for us to put forward a clear stance and join the transport community is September. If not, we will lose funds for four projects amounting to 90 million Bosnian marks,” Sarovic told Bosnian newspaper Nezavisne Novine.

The failure to sign was caused by a disagreement between the state-level government and the authorities in Republika Srpska, the country’s Serb-dominated entity, although the state premier insisted it would be resolved soon.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is the only one of six countries in the former Yugoslav region that did not sign the treaty to join the community which is intended to stimulate the harmonisation of transportation legislation and bring south-east European countries in line with EU laws.

Bosnia had a national transport strategy ready, but days before the Western Balkans Summit in Trieste on July 12, where all the participating countries were to sign the treaty, the government of Republika Srpska, one of Bosnia’s two political entities, came up with an additional condition.

Republika Srpska demanded that the Bosnia should internationally represented not only by the state-level transport minister but also by representatives of the two entities.

It asked for the country’s transport minister to rotate with the transport ministers from the two entities when speaking and acting on behalf of Bosnia.

According to the constitution, the transport sector comes under the competencies of the entity governments, the Republika Srpska leadership argued.

This was rejected by the state-level government and by the country’s other entity, the Federation. They argued that the country should speak with one voice and not three.

The other summit participants - the EU presidency, the European Commission, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia - signed the treaty in Trieste without Bosnia.

Bosnia’s Prime Minister Denis Zvizdic told N1 television on Monday that EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn had sent a letter criticising the government for not signing the treaty. 

EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc also cancelled a planned visit to Bosnia over the issue.

“Despite extensive diplomatic efforts, Bosnia and Herzegovina was not able to sign the treaty on the day of the summit due to internal coordination issues,” Bulc told local media on Friday. 

“We expect this issue to be solved soon which would allow Bosnia and Herzegovina and sign the treaty and join the Transport Community,” she added.

Zvizdic promised that the problem would be resolved soon.

“The attempt to obstruct the signing of the treaty was done with the goal of sending the message that Bosnia’s Council of Ministers is not functioning properly. It was a bad move and a bad message that will have negative repercussions,” he said.

“But now this has been changed and the treaty will be signed,” he insisted.

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