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news 04 Feb 13

EU 'Losing Patience With Bosnia', Official Says

The EU office in Bosnia has announced a new round meetings aiming to pressurise Bosnian decision-makers to implement a key human rights ruling.

Elvira M. Jukic
BIRN
Sarajevo

After the EU delegation to Bosnia announced a fresh round of meetings with Bosnian leaders on implementation of a key human rights ruling, a senior EU official in Sarajevo on February 1 said Europe's patience was running out fast.

“We have lost a bit patience, to be honest,” the unnamed official said, speaking off the record. “There's been a total lack of political will... You should not expect different treatment for Bosnia than for other countries which want to get into the EU.”

The official said a solution nevertheless has to be homegrown, and the the EU will not impose its own amendments to the Bosnian constitution in line with the ruling.

The 2009 "Sejdic and Finci" ruling by the European Court of Human Rights told Bosnia to change its constitution to allow minorities to run for top governing post currently reserved to the three largest ethnic groups, Bosniaks [Muslims], Serbs and Croats.

“I don't want to lead a group of empty talks,” the official said, adding that next week will see bilateral meetings between EU officials and party representatives from whom Brussels hopes to see real engagement in the search for a solution.

Implementation of the Sejdic and Finci ruling is a key pre-condition for Bosnia to advance its EU membership hopes.

Only then can a Stabilization and Association Agreement, SAA, be put in force, and only then can the country submit a credible EU membership application.

Noting that time is short, the official said talks would first start with the seven largest parties holding power at state level. They will also include smaller parties with seats in parliament.

“If this thing fails, don't expect anything to happen [about EU membership] before 2015,” the same official said, elaborating also about the penalties that the EU could use for recalcitrant politicians, such as travel bans or freezing assets.

“The time for political discussion is over,” he concluded.

So far, there have been various attempts to implement the human rights ruling but all have foundered on the opposition of one party or another.

While a consensus on the 2009 ruling eludes Bosnia's state-level parties, Sarajevo Canton recently acted on its own, changing its cantonal constitution to allow “others” to elect an additional deputy to the leadership of the cantonal assembly.

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