Ambassadors Cormack, Wigemark: BiH leaders are running out of time, they do not take seriously risk of political crisis

Photo: Facebook/US Embassy in BiH

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US Ambassador to BiH Maureen Cormack and Head of the EU Delegation to BiH Lars-Gunnar Wigemark issued a joint statement, which was originally published on the blog of the US Embassy to BiH. The ambassadors warned there were only several weeks before general elections in BiH are announced, and that BiH leaders were running out of time.

“There is agreement that reforms are needed.  What is missing is the political will to negotiate a compromise.  As citizens of a democratic country, the people of BiH have the right to expect that elections are held and the results implemented”, they stressed, expressing concern that BiH’s leaders have abdicated their responsibility and that they do not take seriously the risk of political crisis. The ambassadors stressed this was unacceptable, warning also that establishing of authorities will be seriously hindered if the results of the general elections cannot be implemented. “BiH’s leaders have both the responsibility and the ability to forge a compromise.   We have confidence that one day, BiH will take its rightful place in the EU and NATO. Therefore, challenges must be met with local solutions, not imposed ones”, they emphasized.

Cormack and Wigemark further said that they stood ready to continue supporting meetings between the parties, and to share their legal practices. “A solution can be achieved. The key is political will, and that must be provided by each and every leader in BiH”, they underlined. They continued explaining how political leaders must reach agreement on the minimum changes necessary to hold and implement the results of the October elections, to resolve the issue of how the FBiH House of People is formed, taking into account the decision of BiH Constitutional Court in ‘Ljubic’ case and the existing legal framework. “It is up to the political parties to find a lasting solution, in line with the Ljubic ruling’s call for more proportional representation, which would enable formation of the FBiH HoP.  This will require amendments that strike a balance between proportional representation, given the FBiH HoP’s role in protecting the rights of each constituent people, and broad geographic representation, because the FBiH HoP, like the FBiH House of Representatives, has full legislative authority.  The parties have discussed a number of viable options but have thus far refused to compromise”, the ambassadors said.

They also emphasized there were other changes that should be made now to ensure that institutions function democratically, for example the Serb Caucus in the FBiH HoP, which has 13 instead of 17 members, then the electoral impasse in Mostar, where elections have not been held since 2018. “This is completely unacceptable in a country moving along the European path.  Finally, political parties should take the opportunity to make changes to improve the credibility and transparency of the election process based on recommendations from the OSCE’s Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) following the 2010 and 2014 general elections”, they stressed.

At the end, Cormack and Wigemark noted that the ECHR made several determinations that BiH’s leaders have ignored for too long; one addresses election to BiH Presidency and the other requires changes to BiH House of People. “But parties must focus first on urgent priorities, including the FBiH HoP and Mostar, and wait until after the election to address other issues, including the Presidency, in line with relevant ECHR and Constitutional Court rulings”, the ambassadors underlined. They concluded by saying that the electoral reform is an important issue, one that directly affects how citizens are represented and who gets to lead the country. “Now is the time for leaders to lead, through compromise.  Failure to resolve these issues will have serious negative consequences and undermine BiH’s efforts to move forward”, they underlined.