The EU Office in Bosnia and Herzegovina condemns recent moves by the leadership of the Republika Srpska (RS), which seriously shrink civic space, harm the interest of the RS and the country, reject fundamental European values, and are steps backwards for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s European path.
These negative developments moreover call into question the RS authorities’ commitment to advancing Bosnia and Herzegovina on its EU accession path. In the past weeks, the political atmosphere has perceptibly worsened in the RS, including unprecedented verbal and physical attacks on civil society activists and journalists.
The adoption in the RSNA of draft amendments to the Criminal Code to criminalise defamation is clearly a step in the wrong direction. These legislative changes would impose unnecessary and disproportionate restrictions on independent media and civil society, resulting in a chilling effect on media freedom and freedom of expression.
The decision of the RS government to adopt the Draft Law on NGOs is equally regrettable, as it further shrinks the environment for civil society, limiting the work of CSOs and thus the exercise of freedom of association and assembly.
We are also concerned about RS President Dodik’s plans to introduce a new law banning LGBT persons from education institutions. This is, discriminatory and therefore unacceptable, in particular for a candidate country.
The EU Office shares the aspiration of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s citizens for an EU future for the country. The ambition of an EU future also however necessitates adopting EU values. We expect the RS authorities to withdraw the proposed legislation and discriminatory initiatives.