British Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Matthew Field dedicated his new blogpost to the City of Mostar, and the failure to hold elections in Mostar for more than a decade.

The British Embassy recently moved its whole operation down to Mostar for a day. In addition to many other activities across the city, we set up a ‘pop-up’ reception in front of the ‘Mepas’ Mall. This gave the chance for different teams to explain our work to people as they stopped by. Just as importantly, it gave us the chance to ask the citizens of Mostar about their priorities for themselves and the city, the kinds of things that they would like to see change”, wrote Field.

The British Ambassador underlined that “the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina are the best judges of how to improve life here, and create opportunities so that no one feels they have to leave to fulfil their and their families’ dreams”.

The messages we received in Mostar were largely consistent with what we have heard elsewhere - better education, improved healthcare, roads and other services, less corruption, employment and fairer access to jobs, and better prospects for their children to keep people in the country - with one unique addition: Elections”, noted Field.

According to Ambassador, Mostar is perhaps the only place in Europe where it has not been possible to hold local elections for more than a decade.

The people of Mostar have not had the opportunity to elect their representatives, to reward those who have delivered for them or bring in a replacement who they believe will, since 2008”, wrote Field. “And without elections even taking place, there is zero accountability. When there is no oversight by a city assembly eventually something will go wrong, leading to problems like the uncollected rubbish”, he explained.

The European Court of Human Rights agrees. This week they gave their verdict in a case brought by one Mostar resident, who argued that she was unable either to vote or stand in local elections. The Court ruled that this was indeed discriminatory, and Bosnia and Herzegovina was responsible for addressing the situation within six months. Although not a surprise, this decision was further confirmation that this failure is not normal or acceptable, especially in a country working to further integrate international and European standards”, wrote Field.

The British Ambassador reminded that this was not the first decision from Strasbourg against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

We are approaching the tenth anniversary of the famous ‘Sejdic-Finci’ ruling, but there have been several others, all requiring fairer treatment of all citizens, regardless of their identity and where they live. And none of these rulings has been implemented, through changes to the way elections are run here”, he reminded.

What does this mean for the people of Mostar?” wondered Field, and offered an answer. “It is another sign that they have not been forgotten, and that they cannot be allowed to remain trapped in this democratic version of Groundhog Day, where nothing changes. It is a message to political leaders and institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, that they must work quickly, together and for the greater good, to fix these longstanding and glaring problems in the way elections are run. And it is a reminder to all of us who consider ourselves friends of the people of Mostar, not to lose sight of the crucial and important goal of holding elections in Mostar next year”, concluded Field.

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