BiH’s New Conflict of Interest Law: the bad and the ugly – nothing good

DPC is sharing threads posted on Twitter/X for readers not on that platform.

1/ On Wednesday, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s state-level coalition reached agreement on a draft law on conflict of interest, which was adopted by the Council of Ministers.

2/ As we point out in a separate thread posted today, the politics of greenlighting accession negotiations are fraught and will play into the hands of incumbent elites in the country.

But beyond that, the law is highly problematic on substance.

3/ It formally replaces the existing conflict of interest commission, composed of a majority of MPs, by an independent body of 7 expert members. However, through a composition mirroring the ethnic power-sharing model of Dayton BiH, …

4/ … with two members coming from each of BiH’s three constituent peoples, and one from the “others” (article 18), combined with their appointment by the BiH parliament by simple majority (article 19), …

5/ … the commission in reality will remain under the total control of the ruling coalition, with the Dodik-Čović tandem controlling a majority that will prevent the commission from taking any decision against their party interests (article 22).

6/ Such a body will certainly do nothing to push against endemic corruption and nepotism unless it is in the service of their narrow party agendas. It encapsulates the mutually assured destruction – and defining deviancy down – at the heart of BiH’s #PeaceCartel.

7/ In addition, the new law opens the possibility for entity and cantonal legislation to annul the ban on state-level officials to simultaneously hold office at lower levels of governance (art. 6 (2)).

8/ Further, unlike the existing law and earlier drafts of the new law, the final version removes the unrestricted obligation of institutions, bodies and legal persons in the entities and cantons to provide financial and property data of a public official …

9/ … when requested by the commission, i.e. it (art. 17 (3)) enables entities and cantons to adopt legislation blocking such an obligation; which history shows they will certainly do to reduce transparency.

10/ Finally, the new law removes a provision in the existing one that entity laws on conflict of interest are not allowed to contravene the state law, meaning that lower-level laws will be able to be even weaker than this already weak state law.

11/ To sum up, the law scheduled for passage today will not fight conflicts of interest, but rather change the law to make such conflicts easier to pursue – and hide.

12/ It also furthers Dodik & Čović’s aim of further weakening state primacy in favor of levels of govt over which they exercise singular control. In giving an EU seal of approval to the law, the EU is helping BiH politicians consolidate feudal dominance in “their” domains.