20 December 2019 — Senada Šelo Šabić, Valery Perry and Kurt Bassuener
The long-awaited “Experts’ Report on Rule of Law issues in Bosnia and Herzegovina” – in short, the so-called Priebe Report on BiH – dropped on December 5. In light of continued human suffering in Syria; impeachment news from the US; the ongoing self-inflicted wound of Brexit politics; migrants freezing in Bihac and being relocated to Sarajevo’s outskirts; and the not-unexpected yet still disgraceful breakdown of civic (and civil) politics in Sarajevo canton, it was easy to miss.
From 2010 – 2011, Belgium earned a record by having the longest period of time in which a developed country was without an elected government – 589 days - after being unable to form a government following elections held in June 2010.
So it should perhaps be no surprise that shortly following an agreement on the appointment of a Prime Minister - following a 13-month deadlock in which the leadership of Bosnia and Herzegovina was unable to being to implement the results of the autumn 2018 general elections – an event was held in Sarajevo on how BiH can learn lessons in good governance from Belgium.
A few days ago, on November 20, we were each sitting in the large main assembly hall in the Parliament building in Sarajevo. The EU had convened a meeting to discuss the rule of law and the judiciary in BiH. However, an observer who hadn’t seen the agenda would have been excused for thinking the topic of the event was corruption, as that was the topic on the minds of the participants for the bulk of the 5-hour event.
The nomination of László Trócsányi, a former Hungarian justice minister, as the European Union’s next enlargement commissioner proved to be incendiary news in the Western Balkans. Regional media and civic figures believe that the nomination of the man who was in charge of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s dismantling of Hungary’s justice system demonstrates how low enlargement and the region rate in the EU’s worldview. In addition, it was interpreted as proof that democratic development and adherence to fundamental rights are not a priority in the EU’s relationship with Western Balkan governments and societies.
It is difficult to understate the importance of what is happening in Hong Kong right now.
Protests began in response to an extradition bill, and were successful in securing its full withdrawal from Hong Kong’s Chinese-backed Chief Executive Carrie Lam. The protests - which consist of pro-democracy, localist, pro-independence, student-based groups and the Civil Human Rights Front - have expanded to include a total of five demands, and are notable both for their duration and breadth of civilian participation, with estimates as high as 2 million on a single day.