Open Letter to New Head of EUD to BiH/EUSR in BiH Lars-Gunnar Wigemark
Dear Ambassador Wigemark,
We would like to warmly welcome you to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). We are convinced you will find it to be a fascinating and engaging place, and hope you come to love the people and traditions of the country as much as we and many others have over the years.
The success of the EU initiative will depend heavily upon your leadership and ability to coordinate the full spectrum of Western governments and institutions behind a coordinated strategy aimed at increasing the transparency, efficiency, and fairness of BiH’s economy and social safety net – both of which are skewed by the country’s perverse political incentive structure. As has already become clear, there is no possibility of sidestepping contentious political realities if the initiative is to achieve real – as opposed to merely declarative – results. DPC has already made a detailed list of suggestions on this score
The good news is that with forthright advocacy of the EU’s avowed values, an alliance can be forged with the country’s citizens to achieve these ends.
We are certain that you will have a busy first “100 days,” and that the commitment to economic development that has been emphasized in the past several months, including the Compact for Growth, will be top on the list. We would like to offer a set of twelve top priorities for your consideration as well, all of which are related to the goals stated by the EU in recent weeks and months. You have a unique opportunity to speak directly to the citizens of the country to gain their support, and to leverage both this bottom-up pressure, together with top down incentives, to induce badly needed reforms. Such an approach would not constitute imposition, but rather forcing the political elites to finally respond to manifest public concerns and pronounced dissatisfaction.
Each of the recommendations below could be achieved within 6-12 months, and do not require constitutional reform.
1.Urge all politicians to freeze new privatization and put an end to related asset stripping until new transparent processes are put in place to ensure the public interest, as well as seeing that the proceeds are devoted to investments that will benefit communities for the long-term.
2.Urge the authorities to adopt legislative reforms to end the political management of public companies, instead ensuring a system in which these positions are mainstreamed into the civil service, with merit – not party affiliation – the top criteria.
3.Work with the authorities to begin a review of legislation and rules of procedure to ensure that a certain level of skills, education and competence is required for key positions in the state, entity and cantonal governments, to reward merit and ensure more quality in public service. Trimming the public service according to merit and qualifications is an equally pressing priority, but will take more than one year to complete. But the groundwork must be laid now.
4.Urge the authorities to adopt a new Labor Law, perhaps working from the draft already prepared by the Foreign Investors’ Council.
5.Following the recent Greek example, press the authorities at all levels to sell off the existing official motor pools for political and administrative staff which both cost citizens dearly for operation and maintenance, and which also create a sense of resentment among many ordinary people who view this privilege as excessive in a struggling economy. In a dire economic situation such as BiH’s, this use of public resources is unconscionable.
6.Urge the authorizes to develop a BiH-wide strategy for agricultural development, reversing the downward trends in this sector and building on solid independent analysis and cost benefits analyses to make the case that this is necessary and will be good for all of the farmers in the country. This should include urging the strengthening of those state-level institutions for which the RS blocked the IPA project support, among them projects which would have enabled farmers in the RS and the Federation to continue export products like milk to Croatia after the country’s EU entry.
7.Lobby the Commission and EU member states to insist on serious first steps toward reversing the dismantling of the BiH judiciary and to return to real judicial reform by urging the entity authorities to: 1. Amend the RS Law on Court according to all of the original 2011 HJPC recommendations, as the current law is illegal, undermines the authority of the HJPC and prevents any real judicial reform; 2. Revoke the FBiH law that sets up organized crime & corruption panels at the FBiH Supreme Court and prosecution, as these structures contradict the Commission principles that guide the Structured Dialogue. Make these initial corrections a condition for the continuation of the Structured Dialogue and BiH’s membership application.
8.Urge the new state-level government to reverse the reform rollback on conflict of interest prevention done by the previous coalition by amending the current BiH conflict of interest law based on EU best practices – not just the lowest common denominator within the EU’s membership.
9.Urge the authorities to commit to improving the Law on Political Party financing to ensure transparency and accountability.
10.Work with the authorities to amend legislation at all levels to make it more difficult to invoke “urgent procedure” to be involved when adopting legislation; this practice closes off public debate, reduces transparency and excludes the voices of citizens in important policy discussions.
11.Work with the authorities to commit to new legislation mandating the use of valuable audit reports from state and entity auditing authorities; regular press events with the directors of these bodies and relevant civil society experts could send a message that audits can help to keep public corruption and malfeasance in check.
12.Within the framework of NATO MAP, and in the wake of the 2014 floods, work with the authorities to develop a statewide civil defense strategy – and coordination with BiH’s neighbors – to ensure better future prevention and response.
You, other members of the international community, and the citizens of BiH can and should jointly hold the government to account on these and other matters. Again, none of these changes requires constitutional reform, and there is no reasons that they could not all be done in well less than a year. We hope that you will agree on these priorities and begin a dialogue directly with the citizens on these matters.
Thank you and good luck. Democratization Policy Council (DPC)