Bosnians are tired of the political quarrels, and they want to see governments making difficult decisions timely, without endless discussions, the head of the EU Delegation to Bosnia told the FENA news agency on Tuesday.
It has already been more than a month since the General Election, and the Central Election Commission has announced the official results on November 7. It is clear for every government level how the seats will be distributed, EU Representative Lars-Gunnar Wigermark said.
“This is the legal basis for the formation of the government,” he said, adding that he met with numerous political parties to get familiar with the negotiations over coalitions.
It is up to the parties to decide with whom they want to form coalitions, but they should also take into account the wishes of voters, he said.
“I think that most citizens of this country are tired of quarrels and the inability of many politicians to come to an agreement, that they (citizens) want to see parliaments that can make difficult decisions timely and without endless discussions,” Wigemark said.
The election took place although Bosnia did not adopt necessary changes to the Election Law, which created a legal vacuum since parts of the Law were declared unconstitutional in 2016.
Wigemark said that because of this, the EU and the US had launched talks on how to change the law between political parties a year ago.
The problem concerns the appointment of representatives in the House of Peoples of Bosnia’s Federation (FBiH), the part of the country dominated by Bosniaks and Croats.
But despite more than 40 official meetings and several meetings with senior party officials in FBiH, Wigemark said, politicians never managed to find a compromise.
“Throughout the summer, it became clear that there is not enough support for any of the proposed solutions,” he said.
He added that experts of the Venice Commission, the advisory body to the Council of Europe, have during those negotiations pointed out that there is a legal basis for the Central Election Commission to determine the mandates for the FBiH House of Peoples.
The next four years will be crucial for Bosnia and Herzegovina, he said, adding that some international officials “even say that this is the last chance for Bosnia’s politicians to show that they are worthy of their support.”
Some parties complained that the election process was not fair or transparent, but Wigemark said that the EU is fully aligning its stance of the issue with the assessment of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), and institutions of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
“Many of the ODIHR suggestions on how to improve the election process are repeated after every election,” he said, adding that he thinks these proposals should be part of the European Commission opinion and a condition for Bosnia’s path toward EU membership.
The European Commission will throughout the next year present its opinion on Bosnia’s candidacy status, he said.
EU officials in Brussels and in the Union’s offices in Bosnia have conducted a thorough analysis of the situation in the country regarding all areas that are important for the Union, including political and economic criteria and the country’s ability to take over the responsibility for the obligations that come with EU membership, he said.
Bosnia sent its answers to the European Council Questionnaire in February. The EC sent back a set of follow-up questions in June, asking for clarification on specific issues and is still waiting, Wigemark said.
“Lateness in preparing this last set of answers not only means that the EU is sitting and waiting,” he said. “It also carries a worrying signal regarding the level of engagement of Bosnia’s government in this process.”
“It is worrying that, while other countries in the Western Balkans have accelerated their path toward the EU as they were waiting for the Opinion, Bosnia has slowed down,” he said, adding the election could be part of the reason for it but that Bosnia “should now complete its assignment without further delay.”
The Opinion should provide answers to two key questions, he said.
The first one is to what extent Bosnia is ready to become a member of the EU and what it needs to do to prepare for it. That includes “comprehensive legal compliance with all EU standards, as well as in constitutional issues,” he said.
The second question is what Bosnia needs to do to meet the EU candidacy criteria and the strengthening of the rule of law on all government levels, he said.
EU accession represents an “existential issue and a strategic goal” in Bosnia, he said, adding that those elected on all government levels need to thoroughly consider how to integrate the suggestions in the Opinion into their political programs during their upcoming four-year mandates.
EU accession is a time-consuming process, but it is also a transformation process, he said.
“Many of the changes that will improve the quality of life and the rule of law for citizens of this country must take place before membership, so that Bosnia can show that it is able to ensure results,” he said.