Once Republika Srpska-based officials return to state institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina and ensure that they function fully, the EU stands ready to facilitate a meaningful and intense dialogue, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said in a letter to Serb member of Bosnian tripartite Presidency Milorad Dodik, warning that if such dialogue fails to take place and actions towards dismantling of state institutions continue, the EU will consider the use of “all other instruments in its toolbox.”
Borrell's letter came as a response to Dodik's note from February 18, following the phone conversation that the two officials held.
He confirmed that the main objective of the EU remains ensuring the country’s irreversible progress to the EU membership, but warned that actions taken by the Bosnia's Serb-majority entity recently run contrary to the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina and are “putting in jeopardy Bosnia and Herzegovina as a single, united and sovereign country, with a future within the EU.”
He stressed that the Republika Srpska leadership has been blocking the state institutions for several months and is “slowly but steadily” rolling back 26 years of reforms since the Dayton Peace Agreement “with the adoption of pieces of legislation setting up parallel institutions such as in the field of medicines and the judiciary.
“The Constitution does not provide for a procedure for reverting the transferred competences to the entities – such a procedure could in any case not exclude the participation of State institutions. Unilateral steps to revert the outcome of transfer agreements are unlawful and challenge the constitutional order of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” the EU official underlined.
Also, he said, withdrawal of Republika Srpska representatives from the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HJPC BiH) would be “incompatible with Bosnia and Herzegovina’s EU integration,” and would “undermine the functioning and role of the HJPC BiH, thereby putting at risk the rule of law and the fundamental rights of all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
“With the rule of law as a cornerstone of EU enlargement, establishing the HJPC BiH was among the conditions set by the European Commission in 2003 to start to negotiate the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, which is the legal basis of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s EU accession process. The HJPC BiH has the key function to guarantee the independence, integrity and accountability of the judiciary throughout the country, by unifying procedures for appointments and accountability of
members of the judiciary, thus guaranteeing the equality of citizens before the law on the entire territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” reads the EU official's letter.
He also reminded Dodik of the European Commission's Opinion on Bosnia's membership application, according to which the country needs to improve the functioning of the judiciary by adopting a new law on the HJPC and a new law of the Courts of BiH in line with European standards.
“Taken all this into consideration, we urge you and the leaders of Republika Srpska to put an end to any legislative and political initiative to return to a so-called ‘original Dayton’, and to respect the BiH Constitution and State competences. EU is not challenging the principle of constituent people nor the structure of Dayton, however as an aspiring EU Member State, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s institutional and decision-making structures need to adapt progressively to take into account the requirements of the EU and to be able to effectively participate in EU decision making and fully implement and enforce the acquis,” said Borrell, urging the RS-based officials to get engaged in dialogue.
If such dialogue fails to take place, he warned, and actions towards the dismantling of the state institutions continue to be concretely implemented, “the EU will have no other choice than to start reflecting on the use of all other instruments in its toolbox.”
“At a moment when Russia is violating international law and peace in Europe by launching an unprecedented military aggression against its peaceful neighbour, we need to ensure stability and unity in the rest of Europe. Russia’s attack against Ukraine has consequences on the security and stability of the entirety of Europe. We need to stand together in defense of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” Borrell concluded.