Bosnia Canton Implements Key Rights Ruling

Author : Sorin Grama | Thursday, January 31, 2013
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Sarajevo Cantonal Assembly has changed its constitution to allow ethnic minorities the same rights as the three major ethnic groups.Lawmakers in the Sarajevo Cantonal Assembly adopted changes to their Constitution on January 30 and gave the same rights to minorities as to constituent peoples thus implementing the Sejdic and Finci ruling.

The 2009 European Court of Human Rights ruling told the country to change its constitution to allow ethnic minorities to run for top governing posts currently reserved for Bosniaks [Muslims], Serbs and Croats.

“In practice that will mean that parliaments members in Sarajevo Canton who declare themselves as ‘the others’ have the right to be elected, form a caucus and delegate one vice-president of the assembly,” Cantonal Prime Minister Suad Zeljkovic said on Wednesday.

“In any case, this is a positive message…it will mean that one of the important conditions on the Road Map will be fulfilled and an obstacle on the way to EU is removed,” Zeljkovic added.

Council of Europe envoy to Bosnia Marry Ann Hennessey said that the Sarajevo Canton made a historic move adding that it showed that Bosnian politicians are able to see more than short-term party differences.

As the Sarajevo Canton makes steps forward in respecting human rights and getting closer to fulfilling EU obligations, state-level political leaders are again being urged to implement the ruling.

Head of EU delegation to Bosnia, Peter Sorensen, during the week consulted political parties which hold power at state-level and announced he will undertake an intensive effort to assist the parties to reach an agreement over amendments in line with the ruling.

“Following the lack of progress by BiH authorities in the second half of 2012, there is serious concern that if BiH does not now deal with this requirement, it will fall well behind the other countries in the region in EU integration,” Andy McGuffie of the EU office to Bosnia told Balkan Insight.

He explained that the process will involve all the political parties which hold seats in the state parliament as well as civil society.

“It is envisaged to hold the first ‘bilateral’ meetings with the representatives next week,” McGuffie said “We would hope to see the essential elements of a solution in place towards the end of February.”

The EU Special Representative and Head of Delegation, Peter Sorensen, within the two mandates has the possibility to propose sanctions to politicians who would obstruct the process and one of those would be travel bans.

“We are still in the territory of urging politicians to take their responsibility – albeit in a stronger tone,” McGuffie noted, “We are still committed to the overall mature and partnership approach but obviously time is running out and they need to perform on this one now.

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