EU and BiH hold 5th PAR Special Group on 25 February 2021

The 5th meeting of the Special Group on Public Administration Reform (PAR) for Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) took place on 25 February 2021, opened by the Chair of the BiH Council of Ministers, Mr Zoran Tegeltija, and Ms Genoveva Calavera, Director of the Western Balkans of the Directorate General on Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations of the European Commission (DG NEAR). The meeting was co-chaired by Mr Josip Grubeša, Minister of Justice of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Ms Michela Matuella, Deputy Director for the Western Balkans and Head of Unit for Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina at DG NEAR.

In line with the 2019 Commission Opinion on the EU membership application of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the meeting focused on BiH authorities plans and progress to improve the overall functioning of the public administration by ensuring a professional and depoliticised civil service and a coordinated countrywide approach to policy making.

The Commission welcomed the higher political profile gained by public administration reform, demonstrated by the presence of the Chair of the Council of Ministers and the competent Ministers. The Commission also commended the recent adoption of the action plan on PAR and the preparation and adoption of strategies on public finance management (PFM) at some of the government levels. The Commission called upon BiH authorities to build on this positive momentum and follow-up with further progress in four areas identified as key for a credible reform process.

With regard to implementation of the action plan on PAR, the Commission reiterated the need to establish more effective coordination arrangements by strengthening PAR Coordinators at entity and cantonal level and reforming the PAR Coordinators Office.

With regard to the financial sustainability of public administration reforms, the Commission called upon Bosnia and Herzegovina to overcome the excessive donor dependency and demonstrate credible political commitment by increasing its own budgetary contributions by 2022, to implement the action plan.

As to public finances, the Commission emphasised the need to establish a countrywide approach on public finances in 2021 in order to ensure transparent and effective use of public funds for better services and unlock the possibility of EU budget support in the future.

As for civil service reform, the Commission stressed the need to address fragmentation and politicisation, which hinder the delivery of services to the citizens. Harmonising the eleven civil service laws and aligning them with merit principles would ensure equal pay for equal qualification and higher professionalisation. The Commission also reiterated the importance of reducing political interference and ending the practice of hiring staff without competitive procedures. Finally, the Commission emphasised that reforms need to be accountable through the regular publishing of monitoring reports, reporting to parliament, and higher transparency of financial and human resources data.