5th EU-BiH Subcommittee on Justice, Freedom and Security held

17-18 December 2020 – The 5th Subcommittee meeting on Justice, Freedom and Security (JFS) under the European Union (EU) – Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) Stabilisation and Association Agreement took place on 17 and 18 December 2020 via videoconference. The meeting was co-chaired for the EU by Ms Michela Matuella, Head of Unit at the Directorate General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations of the European Commission (Commission), and for BiH by Samir Rizvo, Assistant Minister, Ministry of Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Commission expressed its regret on the limited progress overall in the implementation of the Commission Opinion key priorities and findings of the Expert report on the Rule of Law Issues (“Priebe” report), as well as of the recommendations of the 4th Subcommittee meeting on Justice, Freedom and Security (JFS), and encouraged decisive action.

The Commission stressed that urgent reforms are necessary to regain citizens’ trust in the justice system. This is a clear demand of the citizens, which has been demonstrated over the second public debate on the Rule of Law in BiH “Pravo na Pravduheld on 24 November 2020. As a first step, BiH needs to strengthen the integrity of the judiciary by establishing a system of verification of asset declarations of judges and prosecutors, in line with Commission’s recommendations and the upcoming opinion of the Venice Commission. The Commission stands ready to support the implementation of this system, including its close monitoring by EU experts. The Commission also stressed the need of urgent improvement of the functioning of the judiciary by adopting new legislation on the HJPC and the Courts of BiH. The Commission welcomed the adoption of the revised National War Crime Strategy, noting that its effective implementation is a priority.

The Commission reminded that effective harmonisation of the legal framework and significant effort to establish track record are needed in the fields of fight against corruption, organised crime and terrorism across the country at all levels. In order to demonstrate tangible results in these areas, the Commission reminded BiH authorities that operational cooperation of law enforcement agencies needs to be improved. Cooperation between the governmental and non-governmental actors on prevention and countering violent extremism should be enhanced, as well as addressing all the different forms of violent extremism.

The Commission recalled that migration management, remains a key priority and a serious challenge for Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Commission called for urgent action and stressed that Bosnia and Herzegovina must take full responsibility, and ensure that it can effectively manage migration, borders and strengthen its asylum system. In the face of a seriously degrading humanitarian situation, due to harsh weather conditions, the authorities must urgently take measures to ensure that refugees and migrants are provided with essential assistance, including suitable accommodation.

With regards to the fundamental rights, the Commission stressed that Bosnia and Herzegovina must effectively ensure that all citizens can fully enjoy their rights without discrimination. It has been stressed that that freedom of expression and of assembly, the rights of vulnerable groups, Roma and women should be further strengthened and fully respected, in the particular context of the COVID-19 pandemic.