New Bosnia Coalition to Prioritise Constitutional Changes

Leaders of the six ruling parties in the new state government met in Mostar and agreed to focus on constitutional changes and on the EU ‘Road Map’.Leaders of Bosnia’s six main parties met in Mostar on November 20 to hammer out an agreed agenda on urgently needed constitutional changes.

Pressure is growing on Bosnia to change its constitution following the 2009 Sejdic and Finci ruling by the European Court For Human Rights.

This told Bosnia to change its constitution in order to allow ethnic minorities to run for top governing posts that are currently reserved for the three largest ethnic groups, Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats.

The ruling is one of the biggest obstacles blocking Bosnia’s EU integration agenda and thus was a priority at the first meeting of the new coalition on Tuesday.

Parties leaders did not agree concrete steps to resolve the issue but said their goal would be to find a mechanism to elect members of the State Presidency that will harmonise the interests of the three constituent peoples with those of others.

The leader of the main Croatian party, the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZBiH, Dragan Covic, said the key principle of a deal over the Presidency should be that representatives of one ethnic group cannot elect another group’s Presidency member.

He was referring to the widespread belief that the Croatian member of the State Presidency, Zeljko Komsic, was elected mainly by Bosniak votes.

Milorad Dodik, leader of the largest Serbian party, the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, said the method of changing elections to the State Presidency still has to be agreed.

“Our stand is that they should [still] be elected directly,” Dodik said. “Concerning the Federation entity… whatever they decide… should not oblige us to do the same in Republika Srpska,” he added, referring to the country’s two autonomous entities.

He referred also to various ideas about how to elect State Presidency members, ranging from indirect election by parliament to direct elections for all three members on the whole territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Dodik’s condition has so far been that besides electing the Presidency directly, the rule should remain that the Republika Srpska exclusively chooses one member while the Federation chooses the two others.

The six leaders also discussed the EU “Road Map” agreed in July in Brussels. This set a list of dates and deadlines for the country to fulfill before it can submit a credible EU membership application.

“The Road Map is completely implementable and we will do all it takes as soon as possible to open up paths towards access to the EU,” Covic declared.

His colleague, Zlatko Lagumdzija, head of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, said he hoped all institutions would get involved in speeding up the process of EU integration.

All the other ruling parties supported the SDP’s recent deal with Dodik and the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, he maintained.

“We want that agreement to be institutionalized,” Lagumdzija added. “We will send all concrete solutions stemming from the agreement, which pass the Council of Ministers, to parliament,” he noted.

The newcomer to the ruling coalition, the Alliance for a Better Future, SBB, led by Fahrudin Radoncic, who is about to become Bosnia’s Security Minister, said his party would undertake all the existing obligations of the ruling coalition.

“But we will have some new ideas and it is important that there is a completely new spirit in the ruling six… that citizens then see through economic results,” Radoncic said.

The change to the ruling coalition came after the SDP expelled its former coalition partner, the Party of Democratic Action, SDA, from the government, with the support of the Croatian and Serbian parties.

The SDP-SDA coalition broke up in May over the question of the budget, and the Social Democrats have since succeeded in dismissing the two SDA ministers and a deputy minister. They now plan to replace them with SBB candidates.

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