The second “Right to Justice!” public debate dedicated to the rule of law in Bosnia and Herzegovina was held today in Sarajevo and online, organised by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations and the EU in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The debate gathered over 350 representatives of civil society, authorities, judiciary and citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as representatives of the EU and the international community, amassing over 6,700 views online and reaching more than 30,000 citizens on social media.
Today’s public debate discussed concrete solutions in response to citizens’ overwhelming demand for integrity in the justice system and public offices, and for decisive progress in the fight against corruption. The grievances of the BiH citizens were also made clear by the results of an opinion poll carried out ahead of the event, which revealed BiH citizens’ view that corruption is the greatest obstacle on the BiH’s path to the EU and that integrity and corruption problems are present in all instances of the justice system.
In a video message to participants, Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi underlined that the entire country, and in particular its political leaders need to lead by example on integrity and fight against corruption.
The debate was joined via video-link by the Austrian Minister of Justice Alma Zadić, Member of the European Parliament and Rapporteur for BiH Paulo Rangel, President of the European Association of Judges/Vice President of the International Association of Judges José Igreja Matos, Executive Secretary of GRECO Gianluca Esposito, and numerous other renowned experts from Europe and BiH, who shared their experiences in the areas of fighting corruption and safeguarding judicial integrity.
Ambassador Johann Sattler, Head of the EU Delegation and EU Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, delivered the opening speech of the debate and Genoveva Ruiz Calavera, Director for the Western Balkans at European Commission’s DG NEAR, concluded the debate by recalling the European Commission’s recommendations to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Today’s public debate was a continuation of the first “Right to Justice!” public debate held in November 2019, which launched a platform for active dialogue with citizens on the need to enhance the culture of rule of law with the aim to strengthen the monitoring of the rule of law in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in follow-up to the European Commission’s 2019 Opinion on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s application for EU membership and the Expert Report on Rule of Law issues from December 2019 (‘Priebe Report’).
The EU stands ready to support the implementation of the above recommendations. We underline in particular the importance of the swift establishment of a system of integrity checks for the judicial office holders and members of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council, as well as its monitoring by EU experts.
On 29 May 2019, the Commission adopted its Opinion (Avis) on the EU membership application of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which identifies 14 key priorities for the country to fulfil in order to be recommended for opening of EU accession negotiations. The key priorities cover the areas of democracy/functionality; rule of law; fundamental rights; and public administration reform – the fundamentals of the EU accession process. The EU Council endorsed the Opinion key priorities in December 2019 and the European Commission reported on their implementation for the first time in its 2020 enlargement package and report on Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Expert Report on Rule of Law issues in Bosnia and Herzegovina was published in December 2019, as the outcome of the “EU initiative to enhance the monitoring of the Rule of Law in BiH” led by Mr Reinhard Priebe, which focused on the root causes of rule of law deficiencies in BiH, within the framework of the Commission’s Opinion on BiH’s EU membership application. The EU welcomed the Expert Report, the findings of which point to a series of deeply concerning rule of law deficiencies in BiH. The EU has continued to urge all BiH political leaders, competent authorities, judicial institutions and all judicial office holders to start addressing immediately the findings of the Expert Report and the corresponding key priorities identified in the Commission’s Opinion.
Link to the Expert Report: http://europa.ba/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/ExpertReportonRuleofLawissuesinBosniaandHerzegovina.pdf
2020 Country Report:
For more information, see:
EU Commission and Rule of Law
On 3 April 2019, the Commission published a Communication on “Further Strengthening the Rule of Law within the Union”, which set out the three pillars for future action – promotion, prevention and response – and invited all stakeholders to contribute to a reflection on the next steps.