Analysts say BiH's loss of IPA funds is 'far reaching'

23/12/2013

A prosecutor in BiH is investigating why the 2009 European Court of Human Rights ruling has not been implemented.

By Ana Lovaković for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo -- 23/12/13

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The loss of EU funds will be damaging to BiH citizens, the prosecutor said. [AFP]

With the loss of 45 million euros in EU Pre-Accession Assistance funds, the state prosecutor's office in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) launched an investigation to determine who is at fault.

The funding was pulled after the country again failed to implement the European Court of Human Rights 2009 ruling in the Sejdic-Finci case. The ruling requires the state constitution to be amended to allow for more minority rights.

BiH's constitution divides the country in two entities linked by a central government, and establishes a power-sharing system between the country's three main ethnic groups: Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats. The court ruled that this structure effectively excludes minorities from holding leadership positions.

The court ordered the state to remove the discrimination from its constitution, but Bosnian Croats want a guarantee that they can elect their representative in BiH's three-member presidency. The condition has held up implementation of the court ruling for more than four years.

"Non-implementation of these decisions has led to the suspension of Pre-Accession Assistance funds in the amount of 45 million euros, causing major damage to all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina and therefore caused resentment of the citizens of our country and the international community," the prosecutor's office said on December 11th. The loss of funds has also damaged the country's EU bid, the prosecutor said.

The Special Department for Organised Crime, Economic Crime and Corruption of the prosecutor's office has implemented certain investigative activities and is collecting evidence.

The funds, which were withdrawn earlier this month, were earmarked to assist parliaments, upgrade prison infrastructure, help small- and medium-sized enterprises and invest in transport.

According to Joost Korte, EU deputy director general for enlargement, this is the first time that Brussels was forced to take such measures. And, he said, it could get worse for the country.

"The [continued] lack of co-ordination mechanisms could cost BiH about 80 million euros per year in lost EU funding," Korte said.

Citizens said that because of ruling parties' interests, they are being punished.

"Politicians are obviously not interested in the welfare of the country, and especially not the welfare of the people who will suffer for generations due to their mistakes. But we have to blame ourselves, we elected them and still hold them in positions," Fatima Čaušević, a pensioner from Sarajevo, told SETimes.

Some officials agree.

"This punishment is symbolic because this government has [already] damaged BiH for billions," Dragan Čović, HDZ president and one of the participants in the failed negotiations to implement the ruling, told SETimes.

According to the BiH Council of Ministers, at the end of September debt was about 4 billion euros.

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"Although at first glance that is not a large debt, for BiH it is. In developing countries debt cannot exceed one-third of exports. BiH now has about 3 billion euros in exports. BiH is in debt bondage," Izudin Kešetovic, a professor at the Faculty of Economics in Tuzla, told SETimes.

"The consequences are far-reaching. All the institutions that were supposed to be built with the EU funds were a prerequisite to allow BiH to apply for capital projects in the coming period. Access to the funds means improving and developing the country. Without the funds, BiH can do very little," Srecko Latal, Balkan analyst for the International Crisis Group, told SETimes

Correspondent Mladen Dragojlovic in Banja Luka contributed to this report.

What can be done to ensure the implementation of the Sejdic-Finci ruling? Tell us what you think in the comments.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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