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news 28 Jan 13

US Embassy Pushes Reform of Bosnia's Federation

The US ambassador has set up a group of lawyers and legal experts to work on a proposal to reconstruct the Federation entity - but expectations of success are not high.

Elvira M. Jukic

The US ambassador to Bosnia, Patrick Moon, has set up a group of experts and lawyers to work on making a more functional and less bureaucratic system in the Federation entity.

Moon said last week that the idea was well supported - but responsibility for success would like on local authorities, legal experts, civil society leaders, and citizens.

“Some have said only a 'top down' approach from the international community will make change possible,” Moon wrote, adding he thinks the opposite and a "bottom up" approach is needed.

The expert group "will carefully consider all options to improve the functionality, efficiency, and cost effectiveness of the Federation,” Moon wrote.

“They will act independently and will talk with and meet with individuals and groups, including appropriate government officials.”

The expert group is to present their findings to a conference in summer.  

Moon emphasized that there will be no specific US proposal on the matter but the group of experts will do the job of consulting politicians, citizens and the civil sector.

Analysts say reforming the Federation will be a long process.

Slavo Kukic, a professor from Mostar, told Balkan Insight that although the expert group is competent, it is hard to imagine the political elites agreeing on any solutions. “There is no real readiness to address problems in general,” Kukic said.

“The dominant attitude of politicians... is that we should not make changes... Because changes like that would mean a shorter period of government for them.”

“As long as there's instability and fear, the ruling political elites use them as a cover for crime and corruption,” Kukic added.

Another professor, Kenan Esref Rasidagic, from Sarajevo, agreed that the political parties lack the will to deal with the current problems in a serious way.

“We've had many similar initiatives to make changes and now the political parties will just probably sit and wait to see what the expert group does, or what the Americans suggest,” Rasidagic said.

Rasidagic added that the ruling politicians agree with the existing system of a large and cumbersome administration because they can continue to employ "their people" in it.

“The political parties depend on that administration, they don't need any kind of reform,” he noted. “They will never accept the Federation becoming a functional entity.”

Since the reality in Bosnia and Herzegovina is that all three ethnic groups have the right of veto, it is hard to see any structural reforms coming up, he continued.

“Everyone has the right of veto, like nowhere in the world, so someone will always use it and nothing will happen,” Rasidagic concluded.

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