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During a week of meetings, EU officials urged Bosnian politicians to move forward towards ending electoral discrimination by allowing minorities to run for top positions.
The EU’s delegation to Bosnia stepped up pressure for the implementation of a key human rights ruling that would allow minorities to run for top governing posts that are currently reserved for the three largest ethnic groups, Bosniaks [Muslims], Serbs and Croats.
After one of its meetings, in Bosnia’s Serb-led entity Republika Srpska, Serb parties declared a common stance that they wanted to retain the principle that one of the three members of the tripartite presidency is directly chosen by the electorate in Republika Srpska, but without the current requirement for the entity’s nominee for the post to be a Serb.
“This decision is in the first place focused on the elimination of discrimination in the process of nomination for the presidency and the [parliament], and its implementation should be limited to these fields,” Zeljka Cvijanovic of the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats party, SNSD, said on Friday after the meeting with the EU delegation in Banja Luka.
It is highly unlikely however that Republika Srpska would ever choose a non-Serb as its member of the state-level tripartite presidency.
The talks came after EU officials expressed impatience at Bosnia’s slowness to address the European human rights court ruling which is an obstacle for the country to move forward in the EU integration process.
This 2009 Strasbourg court ruling, brought by a Jew and a Roma, called on Bosnia to change its constitution to allow ethnic minorities, as well as Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats, to compete for high public offices.
Only after the ruling is implemented can a Stabilisation and Association Agreement be put in force for Bosnia, and only after that can the country submit a credible EU membership application.
One of the plaintiffs in the case, Jakob Finci, told a news agency in Sarajevo that the EU seems to have had enough of Bosnian wrangling over the issue.
He added that none of the parties had said it was against the implementation of the ruling, but all of them were interpreting it their own way.
“The court strictly said that we have to change our constitution and allow all citizens to be able to run for the presidency and the [parliament], not demanding that they have to be elected too,” Finci said.
Dervo Sejdic, the other plaintiff in the case, welcomed EU pressure on politicians to implement the ruling despite the fact that it had not delivered results so far.
“It seems that after Stefan Fuele's appearance, all of Europe is more engaged and more interested that this issue is resolved,” Sejdic said.
EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on January 24 that if Bosnia fails to act fast on the Strasbourg court’s ruling, Brussels may not recognise the country’s next elections.
The EU delegation to Bosnia later said that it could impose some sanctions on the country’s politicians, such as a travel ban or the freezing of assets held in EU states.
Friday’s meeting in Banja Luka heard that the issue could be resolved by the end of March, according to a timeline previously given by the ruling parties to finish the work.
Earlier last week, Renzo Daviddi, the deputy head of the EU Delegation, also met officials of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, in Sarajevo.
The SDP’s Sasa Magazinovic said that his party was ready to be a part of the solution but that all other parties with parliamentary seats had to have the will to implement the court verdict.
“It is very important to seek solutions on which we agree and leave all differences aside,” Magazinovic said.
One of the solutions that the SDP earlier suggested was the indirect election of presidency members by parliament.
But the Party of Democratic Action, SDA, which holds a significant number of seats in the parliamentary assembly, is opposed to the idea of asymmetrical solutions in Bosnia's two entities.
The EU office in Bosnia has announced a new round meetings aiming to pressurise Bosnian decision-makers to implement a key human rights ruling.
The Hague Tribunal has been successful in bringing wartime commanders to justice but hasn’t met expectations on reconciliation, chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz told BIRN.