news 13 Mar 14

Ashton Switches EU Focus on Bosnia to Economy

After months of vainly focusing on trying to solve the Sejdic-Finci rights ruling, the EU foreign policy chief says the focus now will be on the economy and on improving people's lives.

Elvira M. Jukic

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in Sarajevo on March 12 that the focus now should be on economic reforms, welfare and the judiciary - not on constitutional change.

Referring to the ongoing street protests and formation of people's "plenums", after meeting politicians and civic sector representative she said the message of the protesters had been heard loud and clear in EU countries.

“People have been very clear in expressing their ambitions and concerns,” Ashton said. “They want employment opportunities and a growing economy, they want social welfare which works, the rule of law and an efficient justice system.”

But she said the key to achieving this lay in the hands of the political leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina who, she said, have to step beyond their ethnic divisions and start working on satisfying demands for economic reform and the rule of law.

Ashton said meetings regarding these issues are to be held soon and the EU would be looking to see how it could best help the country. “We are ready to consider broader engagement on how to address this issues,” she said.

“The first and biggest responsibility lies in political leadership,” Ashton added. “But, like anywhere else in the world, success begins at home.”

A focus on the economy - instead of an a solution to the 2009 European Court of Human Rights' Sejdic-Finci ruling - was also suggested recently by the EU Enlargement Commissioner, Stefan Fule.

The 2009 rights ruling told Bosnia to change its constitution and allow minorities run for the top governing post currently reserved for representatives of three largest ethnic groups: Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats.

EU-Bosnia talks over the last two years have concentrated heavily on implementation of the rights ruling, but there has been no success in solving the logjam.

Fule, who led the talks, last month said that he was ending his efforts feeling disappointed that the political parties had not found common ground.

He announced that the EU would now look more closely at economic reforms, especially in the light of the protests of citizens, which started at the beginning of February.

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