Latest Episode of Pantomime Reform: BiH and the Conflict of Interest Law

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

1/ Next Tuesday (March 12), the @EU_Commission is scheduled to decide whether to recommend the opening of accession negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina to EU leaders, who meet as the European Council on March 21-22.  

2/ The decision is but the latest episode in downgrading reform conditionality and declaring progress in a long history of EU concessions to BiH’s political class. Advancement in the “membership perspective,” began in 2007, when the SAA was initialled. But it’s Potemkin progress.

3/ When the @EU_Commission recommended candidacy for Ukraine & Moldova in October 2022, it successfully lobbied the @EUCouncil to do the same for BiH without it fulfilling ANY reform conditions, kicking that conditionality to the opening of accession talks.

4/ Following @EUCouncil’s conditional green light in December 2023, EU officials in recent months further eroded the set of more than two dozen reform conditions listed in the 2019 EC Opinion down to a mere 4 laws & decisions, of which 2 were passed in recent weeks.

5/ They then signalled that the Law on the Courts of BiH – one of the two remaining conditions – could be dropped when it became clear that RS leader @MiloradDodik would not give in even on a problematic compromise.

6/ Dodik demanded a law that would not only have weakened instead of strengthened the state judiciary, but removed the possibility of legal prosecution of any future RS secession.

7/ This focus on the remaining Law on conflict of interest in state-level institutions, to the detriment of the Law on the Court, was evident for example in a joint news conference of BiH foreign minister @DinoKonakovic and @ABaerbock on Tuesday.

8/ While Konaković stressed the ruling coalition’s “commitment to the fight against corruption,” Baerbock declared this fight and adoption of the law as “crucial” and “important for us.”

9/ On Wednesday, the state-level coalition reached agreement and the final draft was approved by the Council of Ministers, signaling that the ploy had worked.

10/ A close inspection of the draft text, however, reveals an entirely different story: Not only does it not meet the conditions and standards set by the EU, it even retreats from current standards in the fight against political corruption and nepotism.

11/ We will analyze the highly problematic draft text in a separate thread, to follow.

12/ After enlargement commissioner @OliverVarhelyi immediately praised CoM agreement on the law draft …

13/ … both chambers of the BiH parliament are scheduled to adopt the law today by expedited procedure, an instrument excessively used in all WB countries, criticized by the EU for undermining parliamentary democracy by preventing public debate.

14/ With last holdouts Berlin and The Hague signaling readiness to give in to the @EU_Commission’s script, all seems to be set for the upcoming European summit to declare “success”.

15/ As this latest chapter on the conflict of interest law demonstrates, the surrender of self-declared defenders’ of the EU’s liberal democratic values such as Germany and the Netherlands …

16/ … to the agendas of illiberals and transactionalists in the EU institutions and among member states with regard to BiH and the wider WB region shows the hollowing-out of the enlargement process, and also the EU itself.

17/ It also shows the fragility of a values-free enlargement policy as a geopolitical tool following the Russian aggression on Ukraine. And the intended audience seems to be the EU itself. Citizens of BiH will not be fooled – nor will the Kremlin.

18/ In BiH, giving the green light on accession talks at the European summit will only embolden the corrupt & undemocratic ruling elites, encouraging @MiloradDodik & @Dragan_Covic to continue their ethnically divisive & secessionist agendas as “champions of EU integration.”

19/ It is high time for Berlin and The Hague to bridge the huge gap between announced policy and practical performance – by blocking a positive decision on BiH at the European Council, and subsequently work on a long overdue comprehensive EU strategy towards BiH.