Complaints filed over BiH's Competition Council not implementing court decisions

NEWS 18.12.2020 21:41
Source: N1

The Council of Competition of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a state institution, is not implementing the decisions of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, N1 has learned.

Precisely for that reason, a criminal complaint was filed with the Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina in early November against members of the BiH Council of Competition, alleging that they, as officials, prevented the execution of the final judgment of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The complaint refers to the fact that the Council of Competition of BiH did not accept the request of Telemach BiH to be recognised as a party in the case concerning the report about the concentration of telecommunication operator Mtel, a company owned by the operator in the neighbouring country, Telekom Srbija, which intended to gain individual control over Blicnet from Banja Luka.

After the request was not accepted, the telecommunications operator Telemach appealed to the Court of BiH, which issued a verdict in July 2020, but the Council of Competition is not implementing the ruling. The Court of BiH also issued a verdict in November which clearly states that the refusal to recognize Telemach BIH as a party in the procedure can lead to market disruptions and cause negative consequences such as higher prices of Mtel services. But that verdict was not implemented either.

That is why the lawyer representing the Telemach company, Vasvija Vidovic, is filing criminal charges against unidentified persons, members of the Competition Council of BiH. As she stated in an interview with N1, the decisions of the Council of Competition not to implement the rulings of the State Court are extremely harmful and unprofessional.

“We have filed a criminal complaint against the members of the Council of Competition who prevented the execution of the rulings of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Of course, since it is a matter of a state body not respecting the rulings of the State Court, we submitted it to the Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Unfortunately, the State Prosecutor's Office had not immediately started working on the complaint although it is a serious one, and despite the fact that, in essence, such actions in the most direct way undermine the state. Such reports should be a priority in the work of the State Prosecutor's Office. Especially since we have recently witnessed that court decisions are not being enforced almost every day, and this is especially dangerous in situations when decisions of the Court of BiH and the Constitutional Court of BiH are not being implemented. At the time we filed the complaint, and we filed it due to the urgency of the matter, we did not have a written record on which members of the Council of Competition voted against the implementation of the ruling of the State Court and which did not, although we asked for it, so we filed a complaint against unknown persons, expecting that the State Prosecutor's Office would deal with it immediately,” Vidovic said.

She added that she considers the decisions of the Council of Competition to be unprofessional and that they harm Telemach, but also United Group as its owner.

“There can be other consequences and those are very serious – because for the first time I see that a state body is not respecting the decision of the State Court. The procedure is such that the decisions of the State Court are binding for those bodies, in this case specifically the Council of Competition. However, it is obviously possible that they are not being implemented, although such a thing should be unthinkable,” Vidovic points out.

However, not only is the Council of Competition of Bosnia and Herzegovina not implementing the decisions of the Court of BiH but the work of one of the members of the Council of Competition from Republika Srpska who, as N1 has learned, is conducting proceedings regarding Telemach's request, is also questionable.

This person is Arijana Regoda Drazic, a member of the Council of Competition from Republika Srpska, whose appointment was the subject of court decisions. Namely, a lawsuit concerning the disputed selection procedure and the appointment of Regoda – Drazic was filed by professor Dr. Dijana Markovic Bajalovic and she has been fighting this legal battle for four years.

With the last decision of the District Court in Banja Luka, her lawsuit regarding the election of Arijana Regoda Drazic was accepted. But the professor's problems did not stop there. Now, they say, she is missing “one piece of paper”.

“I filed a lawsuit with the District Court in Banja Luka – in fact, there were court proceedings twice. The first time immediately after the application process. Then the District Court rejected the lawsuit and I then filed a request for reconsideration of the decision with the Supreme Court, which ordered the District Court in Banja Luka how to act. However, after the District Court acted in accordance with the Supreme Court's ruling, the competent authorities in the Republika Srpska again decided to appoint Regoda-Drazic as a member of the BiH Council of Competition on behalf of Republika Srpska. I filed the lawsuit again and now, in the first instance, the District Court in Banja Luka ruled in my favour and very clearly ordered the competent authorities of the Republika Srpska to act. However, now once again we have a ‘dance’. Namely, a few days ago, I received a conclusion from the Ministry of Trade which was rejecting my application for that position due to the fact that, allegedly, I did not submit my birth certificate in a timely manner. It is very interesting – how, after four years from the publishing of the ad, they came to the conclusion that my application should be rejected. It was probably the only way to eliminate me from the procedure. We can safely say that we have a court decision being disrespected for the second time, disrespect for the requirements for the positions that were defined by the Government of the Republika Srpska, and for which the Court also said that they were not met. Everything I asked for is more a matter of principle because it is about people who may not be legally meeting the requirements being appointed to certain positions, while people who do meet them are simply not even considered as candidates,” law professor Dijana Markovic Bajalovic explained.

She said that she can now file a lawsuit against the Ministry and believes that it will be resolved in her favour, but until that is done, the mandate of her colleague who was elected will expire.

“But for now you have an illegal composition of the Council of Competition and that is reflected in their work. The legality of the work of the Council of Competition is questionable all the time and no one really cares about that. A member who was illegally elected, i.e. whose election was annulled, participated in the work of the Council of Competition. When you have such a situation that a member of the body who was illegally elected participates in the work of the collective body – all decisions made by that body with the participation of that member should actually be annulled,” she pointed out.

And will such decisions be annulled? The position of the Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina on the non-implementation of the decisions of the Court of BiH is pending. Also, international institutions in BiH will have to state their position on this because the politicization of the Council of Competition has already been identified by the European Commission as one of the basic problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina's accession into the European Union and changes to the rules are among the 14 key priorities the European Commission set for BiH.

While the interests of companies from neighbouring countries and individuals in our country are being protected, the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina are on the losing end.

The company Mtel, which is 100% owned by Telekom Srbija, an operator from the neighbouring country, some time ago took over cable operators Telrad Net d.o.o. Bijeljina, Blicnet d.o.o. Banja Luka and Elta Kabel d.o.o. Doboj, and has thus become an undisputed operator covering 95 percent of the telephone, cable television and internet market in Republika Srpska, without any competition.

And when there is no competition, the prices of services rise, which is already visible on the market. The prices of Mtel's telecommunication services in Republika Srpska are significantly higher than the prices of the services of Logosoft, which operates in Sarajevo, and they are part of the same group. Clients in Republika Srpska have complained to the Communications Regulatory Agency seeking protection, but the problem remains. There is no alternative telecommunications operator in that entity, and citizens are forced to agree to any price increase of the only operator that can provide them with services.

Telemach is part of the United Group, the leading provider of telecommunications and media services in Southeast Europe, which also owns United Media, which N1 is a part of.