EU seeks Bosnia reform on minorities

Nov. 29, 2012 at 12:04 AM
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SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Nov. 29 (UPI) -- Bosnia-Herzegovina needs to implement a court ruling banning political discrimination against Jews and Roma before it can join Europe, an EU official says.

EU Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fule said in Sarajevo Tuesday that while he's "encouraged by the progress we have made" on many aspects of Bosnia-Herzegovina's EU accession efforts, the official exclusion of Jewish and Roma minority groups from high political office needed to end.

A 2009 European Court of Human Rights decision upheld the complaints of Dervo Sejdic, a Bosnian Roma, and Jakob Finci, a Bosnian Jew, who protested a law holding that only ethnic Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats could serve as president or in the upper house of Parliament.

Bosnia-Herzegovina was obliged under the European Convention on Human Rights to abide by the court's ruling by November 2011 but missed the deadline while its multiethnic parties battled for nearly two years to form a government following elections in 2010.

Fule asserted Tuesday at the second round of high-level EU "road map" accession talks that "Bosnia and Herzegovina have not been able to honor the main commitments they have taken on themselves at our first dialogue meeting in June in Brussels."

Among the commitments was a promise to implement the reforms called for in the "Sejdic/Finci" ruling.

"Let me recall that the implementation of the Sejdic/Finci ruling is necessary to eliminate the discrimination against minorities," Fule said. "A credible application for EU membership cannot be submitted before this is done."

Parliament first moved in late 2011 to amend the constitution allowing members of minority groups to run for high public office for the first time since the 1995 constitution was implemented.

After the missing the deadline, the European Commission in June granted Bosnia a reprieve until Nov. 30 to amend the constitution.

A breakthrough was achieved last week when a new coalition was formed between the major Serbian, Croatian and Muslim (Bosniak) parties committed to following through on the EU requirements, the Romanian news service Agerpres reported.

The reshuffle comes after the October withdrawal of the ruling coalition's main Muslim ally, the Bosnian Muslim Party of Democratic Action, and its replacement by another Bosniak party, the Union for a Better Future, or SBB.

SBB leader Fahrudin Radoncic, owner of Bosnia's biggest newspaper, was named the new security minister.

Bosnia-Herzegovina Prime Minister Vjekoslav Bevanda said after his meeting with Fule he was encouraged that the European Union's main concerns had been confined to the Sejdic/Finci ruling and a demand that local and regional governments become more coordinated.

"We are pleased to say that we must have made great progress," he told the official news agency Fena. "All the obstacles that were present in the first round have been reduced to two, as it were. I sincerely hope that in the coming days we can resolve the two dilemmas.

"All the political parties who participated in the Fule expressed their willingness to further work on the tasks of the road map," Bevanda added.

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