Motion for a resolution - B8-0359/2015Motion for a resolution

MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION on the 2014 Progress Report on Bosnia and Herzegovina

22.4.2015 - (2014/2952(RSP))

to wind up the debate on the statements by the Council and the Commission
pursuant to Rule 123(2) of the Rules of Procedure

Cristian Dan Preda on behalf of the Committee on Foreign Affairs

Procedure : 2014/2952(RSP)
Document stages in plenary
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European Parliament resolution on the 2014 Progress Report on Bosnia and Herzegovina


The European Parliament,

–       having regard to the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), of the other part, signed on 16 June 2008 and ratified by all EU Member States and Bosnia and Herzegovina,

–       having regard to the European Council conclusions of 19-20 June 2003 on the Western Balkans and to the annex thereto entitled ‘The Thessaloniki Agenda for the Western Balkans: moving towards European integration’,

–       having regard to the Council conclusions of 20 October, 17-18 November, 15 and 16 December 2014,

–       having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2014-2015’ of 8 October 2014 (COM(2014)0700), accompanied by Commission Staff Working Document SWD(2014)0305 entitled ‘Bosnia and Herzegovina 2014 Progress Report’, and to the Indicative Strategy Paper on Bosnia and Herzegovina (2014-2017), adopted on 15 December 2014,

–       having regard to the Written Commitment to EU Integration adopted by the BiH Presidency on 29 January 2015 and endorsed by the BiH Parliamentary Assembly on 23 February 2015,

–       having regard to the Council decision of 19 January 2015 appointing Lars-Gunnar Wigemark as EU Special Representative and Head of Delegation for Bosnia and Herzegovina,

–       having regard to its previous resolutions on the country,

–       having regard to the work of Cristian Dan Preda as the standing rapporteur on Bosnia and Herzegovina of the Committee on Foreign Affairs,

–       having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.     whereas the EU has repeatedly stated its unequivocal commitment to BiH’s European perspective and to its territorial integrity, sovereignty and unity;

B.     whereas the EU has offered a new opportunity to BiH based on a coordinated approach designed to help the country to resume its reform process, to improve its social and economic situation and to draw closer to the European Union; whereas an equally unequivocal commitment and engagement is now requested from the country’s political elites; whereas EU accession is an inclusive process that belongs to the whole country and all its citizens, and requires a national consensus on the reform agenda;

C.     whereas the overly complex and inefficient institutional architecture, the lack of sufficient cooperation and coordination between the BiH political leaders and all levels of government, the absence of common vision and political will, and ethnocentric attitudes have seriously hampered progress in the country; whereas disagreements along political and ethnic lines have had a major negative effect on the work of the assemblies at state level;

D.     whereas the prolonged political stalemate represents a serious impediment for the country’s stabilisation and development and is depriving citizens of a secure and prosperous future; whereas political inertia, unemployment, the very high levels of corruption and dissatisfaction with political elites have led to civil unrest, which spread from Tuzla throughout the country in February 2014;

E.     whereas the EU has put the rule of law at the core of its enlargement process; whereas strong political support is the key to achieving progress in these areas;

F.     whereas corruption is widespread, public administration is fragmented, the many different legal systems pose a challenge, cooperation mechanisms with civil society remain weak, the media landscape is polarised, and equal rights are not ensured for all constituent peoples and citizens;

G.     whereas over 50 % of BiH state revenues are spent on maintaining the administration at numerous levels; whereas, according to World Bank indicators, BiH is the lowest-rated European country for ease of doing business and one of the lowest-ranked on the Corruption Perception Index; whereas BiH has the highest rate of youth unemployment in Europe (59 % of the active population aged 15-24);

1.      Welcomes the fact that the Council has responded to its call for a rethinking of the EU’s approach towards BiH; urges the new BiH leaders to commit fully to carrying out the necessary institutional, economic and social reforms in order to improve the lives of BiH citizens and enable progress on the path to EU membership; points out that meaningful progress on the implementation of the agenda for reforms, including the Compact for Growth and Jobs, will be necessary for a membership application to be considered; underlines the fact that BiH, like all other (potential) candidate countries, should be judged on its own merits, and that the speed and quality of the necessary reforms should determine the timetable for its accession;

2.      Stresses that the Commission should pay particular attention to the implementation of the Sejdić-Finci ruling when asked by the Council to prepare an opinion on an EU membership application; invites the Commission to be ready to facilitate an agreement on its implementation in order to guarantee equal rights for all citizens and to be instrumental in implementing the objectives of the EU agenda, including a functional system of good governance, democratic development and economic prosperity and respect for human rights;

3.      Strongly supports the European integration of BiH and believes that the EU’s reinforced engagement should focus, inter alia, on socio-economic issues, the business environment, the institutional framework, the rule of law and governance, law enforcement policy, an independent judiciary, the fight against corruption, public administration reform, civil society and youth, while keeping EU conditionality for accession unchanged; calls on the VP/HR, the Commission and the Member States to maintain a coordinated, consistent and coherent EU position and to demonstrate that BiH’s EU integration is a priority of EU foreign policy; stresses that the EU should seek to bring together all financial donors in order to support the efficient implementation of the EU´s renewed approach and the Written Commitment;

4.      Welcomes the Written Commitment to EU Integration, adopted by the BiH Presidency, signed by the leaders of all political parties and endorsed by the BiH Parliament on 23 February 2015, on measures to establish institutional functionality and efficiency, to launch reforms at all governance levels, to accelerate the process of reconciliation and to strengthen administrative capacity; acknowledges that the Commitment paved the way for the agreement in the Council on 16 March 2015 to proceed with the conclusion and entry into force of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA); calls for the full collaboration of all political leaders in the thorough and efficient implementation of the Commitment, especially in strengthening the rule of law and the fight against corruption and organised crime; recalls that political commitment and genuine ownership of the reform process is key; invites the new leaders of BiH to agree with the EU on a concrete roadmap for a broad and inclusive reform agenda to advance the country on its path towards the EU; calls for transparency in the process of planning and implementing reforms and urges that civil society be included in the reform process;

5.      Urges the new political leaders to refrain from divisive nationalistic and secessionist rhetoric that polarises society and to seriously engage in reforms that will improve the lives of BiH citizens, create a democratic, inclusive and functioning state and move the country closer towards the EU;

6.      Calls on the political leaders to give priority to establishing an effective EU coordination mechanism, efficiently linking institutions at all governance levels, in order to ensure alignment with and enforcement of the EU acquis throughout the country in the interest of the overall prosperity of its citizens; stresses that without such a mechanism the EU accession process will remain deadlocked, as the current organisation of the country is too inefficient and dysfunctional; stresses that the establishment of such a mechanism would open the way for BiH to benefit fully from the funding available; stresses the need to take concrete reform steps and provide the country and its citizens with a clear direction;

7.      Stresses that addressing the socio-economic needs of citizens must be the priority; considers it also crucial, however, to continue, in parallel, with political reforms and democratisation of the political system; underlines the fact that economic prosperity is only possible if it is based on a democratic and inclusive society and state; stresses also that BiH will not be a successful candidate for EU membership until appropriate institutional conditions have been established; notes that constitutional reform aimed at consolidating, streamlining and strengthening the institutional framework remains key to transforming BiH into an effective, inclusive and fully functional state; recalls that the future constitutional reform should also take into account the principles of federalism, decentralisation, subsidiarity and legitimate representation to ensure the efficient and smooth integration of BiH into the EU; urges all political leaders to work on introducing the necessary changes;

8.      Welcomes the Commission’s initiatives to accelerate the implementation of projects under the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) and strengthen economic governance; regrets that inaction may have implications for the allocation of EU funds for political and socio-economic development under IPA-II; urges the competent authorities to agree on countrywide sector strategies, particularly in the priority fields of transport, energy, the environment and agriculture, as key requirements to be able to fully benefit from IPA funding;

9.      Commends the orderly conduct of the October 2014 elections; notes, however, that for the second time in a row the electoral process took place without every citizen being able to stand for every office; underlines the crucial importance of establishing all new parliamentary organs and governments at all levels as a matter of urgency; urges the new leaders to observe the principle of universal, equal and direct suffrage, reach out to the people, engage with civil society and provide responsible and immediate answers to their legitimate concerns; calls on the competent authorities to investigate the very serious allegations against the Prime Minister of the Republika Srpska (RS) of being involved in buying the votes of two MPs not belonging to her party in order to gain a majority in the RS National Assembly (RSNA);

10.    Welcomes the overwhelming national and international solidarity, including within the EU Floods Recovery Programme, in response to the 2014 natural disasters; welcomes the fact that the EU took immediate and substantial rescue and relief measures, at the request of BiH, and organised a donors’ conference in July 2014, which was hosted by the Commission and co-organised with France and Slovenia; stresses that the Commission invited BiH to join the EU Civil Protection Mechanism; calls for effective and coordinated preventive measures at all levels to address the consequences of the current disasters and to prevent such disasters in the future; welcomes the many positive examples of very close inter-ethnic cooperation and support following the floods as a sign that reconciliation is possible; believes that regional cooperation and close relations with neighbouring countries are essential factors in responding to such disasters in the future;

11.    Recalls that a professional, effective and merit-based public administration forms the backbone of the integration process of BiH and of any country that aspires to become an EU Member State; is seriously concerned that the public administration, which is supposed to help BiH advance towards EU membership and improve living conditions for its citizens, continues to be fragmented, politicised and dysfunctional; remains preoccupied about its financial sustainability and the fact that the lack of political will to reform the administration may impact on the provision of public services; urges all competent actors to adopt a new public administration reform strategy and action plan beyond 2014 in order to simplify the complex institutional structure, rationalise costs and make the state more functional;

12.    Urges the authorities to make the fight against corruption an absolute priority, given that it has not yet resulted in satisfactory improvements and that corruption affects all sectors, including health and education, exploiting the most vulnerable people, and causing pessimism to grow, and more and more citizens to lose faith in their institutions; calls for effective anti-corruption mechanisms, independent judicial follow-up and inclusive consultations with all stakeholders, which should guarantee timely adoption of a renewed strategic framework for 2015-2019; calls, in general, for the efficient implementation of anti-corruption measures; welcomes the adoption of a set of anti-corruption laws, including on promoting the protection of whistleblowers at state level and the creation of prevention bodies at federation level; condemns attempts to undermine the existing rule of law principles and is concerned that the new law on conflicts of interest weakens the legal framework and represents a setback in the prevention of conflicts of interest in that it increases the risk of political interference and offers no incentive for officials to comply; calls for the strengthening of parliamentary bodies for the prevention of conflicts of interests; urges the competent authorities to improve the track record as regards effective investigation, prosecution and convictions in high-profile corruption cases, especially in the framework of public procurement and privatisation;

13.    Remains seriously concerned about the inefficiency of the judicial system, the risk of political interference in court proceedings, the politicisation of appointment procedures, a fragmented judiciary and prosecution budgeting process and the risk of conflicts of interest in the judiciary; urges the new leaders of the country to undertake structural and institutional reforms addressing inter alia the harmonisation of the four different legal systems; invites them to address the Commission’s recommendations, such as institutional reform of the state-level judiciary, including on the adoption of a law on the courts of BiH; urges the incoming Council of Ministers to adopt the already prepared new Justice Reform Strategy; reiterates its support for the office of the Ombudsman; notes that a moratorium on capital punishment is still in place under the Constitution of the RS and urges the authorities of the RS to abolish the death penalty without further delay;

14.    Is concerned that access to free legal aid is very limited and that the right to the provision thereof is still not entirely legally regulated throughout BiH, thereby restricting the right to justice for the most vulnerable; urges the competent authorities to adopt a law on free legal aid at state level and clearly define the role of civil society in the provision thereof;

15.    Welcomes the broadening of the EU-BiH Structured Dialogue on Justice to include additional rule-of-law matters, especially corruption and discrimination, and the fact that it is delivering some positive results in regional cooperation, the processing of war crimes, and the professionalism and efficiency of the judiciary; welcomes the inclusion of civil society in the process; notes that conditions in several courts in the Entities have improved, including on witness protection;

16.    Is concerned that certain statements have questioned the legitimacy of ICTY convictions, thereby undermining the court in The Hague; calls for steps to be taken to strengthen the protection of victims and improve the work of the BiH Prosecutor’s Office by reviewing the processing of Category II war crimes cases; welcomes the progress made in reducing the backlog in war crimes cases; notes that the prosecution of war crimes cases involving sexual violence has improved and requests that this process continue in the future; stresses the need for the competent authorities to adopt the long‑pending state-level programme to improve the status of victims of such war crimes, including their right to compensation, to ensure their effective access to justice and to bring the provisions of BiH criminal law regarding sexual violence into line with international standards;

17.    Is concerned at the persistently high number of missing persons and the slow progress in this respect; calls on the authorities to embark on intensive cooperation between the two entities, and to step up efforts in the search for missing persons;

18.    Remembers all victims of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide and expresses its deep condolences to the families and survivors; expresses its support for organisations such as the Association of Mothers of Srebrenica and Žepa Enclaves in view of their pivotal role in raising awareness and building a broader basis for reconciliation among all citizens of the country; calls on all citizens of BiH to use the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre as an opportunity to enhance reconciliation and cooperation, which are key prerequisites for all the countries of the region to move forward on their European path;

19.    Notes with concern that there are still 84 500 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 6 853 refugees in BiH; is concerned at the violation of the rights of returnees in the RS; welcomes, however, the new measures adopted by the Federation Parliament allowing returnees from the RS to access pension benefits and healthcare in the Federation, while suggesting that equal access to social welfare benefits for all citizens is important; calls on all levels of government, particularly the RS authorities, to facilitate and accelerate the return of IDPs and refugees by introducing and implementing all the necessary legislative and administrative measures; urges cooperation on this matter and that appropriate conditions be established for their peaceful and sustainable reintegration; calls for the effective implementation of the Revised Strategy regarding Annex VII to the Dayton Peace Agreement; calls for continued good regional cooperation in the framework of the Sarajevo Declaration Process; urges a comprehensive approach to addressing the remaining challenges as regards clearing the country of mines by 2019;

20.    Reaffirms its support for visa liberalisation, which has brought about visible positive effects for BiH’s citizens; reiterates its commitment to safeguarding the right of visa-free travel for the citizens of the Western Balkans; calls, at the same time, for measures at national level, in particular socio-economic measures for more vulnerable groups, for active measures aimed at enhanced cooperation and information exchange to crack down on organised crime networks, for strengthened border controls and for awareness campaigns; calls on the Commission to adopt measures to maintain the integrity of the visa-free scheme and to address potential abuses of the EU asylum system in cooperation with the Member States;

21.    Notes that fighting organised crime and corruption is fundamental to countering attempts at criminal infiltration of the political, legal and economic systems; notes that some progress has been made in the fight against organised crime and terrorism; recalls the importance of meeting GRECO recommendations; is concerned about reports of growing radicalisation among young people in BiH, of whom a relatively high number, compared to other countries in the region, are joining the ISIL terrorist fighters; urges the authorities to amend the Criminal Code in order to strengthen the criminalisation of the financing of terrorism; welcomes the amendment to the Criminal Code seeking to ban and punish membership of foreign paramilitary groups, in order to prevent religious radicalisation; stresses, in addition, the importance of preventing all forms of extremism and violent radicalisation; welcomes also large-scale police operations throughout BiH which have resulted in the arrest of people suspected of organising, supporting and financing terrorist activities, including foreign fighters; calls for the inclusion of a provision on hate crime in the Criminal Code of the Federation of BiH; commends the relevant BiH agencies for the professionalism shown in their efforts and determination to combat growing security threats; invites the Commission to provide the competent authorities with assistance in suppressing all security and terrorist threats;

22.    Notes that BiH remains a country of origin, transit and destination for the trafficking of human beings; recommends that the authorities take effective measures, including legislative measures, to combat trafficking in drugs and human beings and provide protection for the victims of human trafficking;

23.    Considers it essential to enhance the role of civil society by enabling it to articulate citizens’ interests, particularly with regard to young people, as was shown last year during the ‘plenums’; recalls that civil society can complement the development of a socially cohesive and democratic society by delivering vital social services; notes that civil society representatives should play an important role in facilitating the accession process; urges the Commission to continue making European funds accessible to civil society organisations; notes that the institutional mechanisms for cooperation with civil society remain weak and hamper the development of a more participatory, inclusive and responsive democracy throughout the country; calls, therefore, for transparent and inclusive public consultation mechanisms involving all public stakeholders, for the establishment of a framework for public discussion of important legislative decisions and for the adoption of a national strategy for civil society; is concerned about the reported cases of intimidation during last year’s social unrest;

24.    Considers it essential to foster an inclusive and tolerant society in BiH, protecting and promoting minorities and vulnerable groups; recalls that failure to implement the Sejdić-Finci ruling results in open discrimination against BiH citizens; urges that steps be taken to strengthen the Human Rights Ombudsman’s role and to develop, in cooperation with civil society, a state-level strategy against all forms of discrimination; calls on the competent authorities to further harmonise the country’s laws with the acquis, paying particular attention to discrimination on grounds of disability and age, as highlighted in the Structured Dialogue; calls on the BiH Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees to establish a working group on drafting amendments to the BiH Anti-Discrimination Law without further delay; is concerned at the fact that hate speech, hate crimes, threats, harassment and discrimination against LGBTI people continue to be widespread; encourages the authorities to implement awareness-raising actions on the rights of LGBTI people among the judiciary, law enforcement agencies and the general public; is concerned that cases of discrimination on religious grounds continue to be reported;

25.    Deeply deplores the continued marginalisation of and discrimination against Roma; commends the progress made with regard to the housing needs of Roma, encourages, however, further steps to be taken to improve their living conditions by improving access to employment, health and education;

26.    Notes that, while the legal provisions guaranteeing women’s rights and gender equality are in place, only limited progress has been made in implementing such provisions; calls on the competent authorities to pursue proactively their efforts to increase the participation of women in politics and the workforce, to combat maternity-related labour market discrimination, to improve women’s social and economic situation, to promote, protect and strengthen women’s rights and, in general, to raise public awareness and people’s understanding of women’s rights; urges the authorities to adopt a strategy for the implementation of the Council of Europe’s Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence and to establish a harmonised system for the monitoring and collection of data on cases of violence against women;

27.    Urges BiH to incorporate sexual orientation and gender identity into the law on hate crimes as soon as possible and thus make it possible to convict persons who engage in various forms of oppression based on sexual orientation or gender identity;

28.    Notes that legal provisions on freedom of expression are in place; is concerned, however, about political and financial pressure on the media and cases of threats and intimidation against journalists and editors, including during the pre-electoral period; condemns attempts to undermine the existing rules, which could have damaging implications for freedom of expression and media freedom, including on line; stresses that events such as the police raid on the offices of in Sarajevo and the recent adoption by the RSNA of the controversial Law on Public Order and Peace raise serious concerns about freedom of expression and freedom of the media, including in social media; stresses that the ability of the media to operate without fear is essential to a healthy democracy; urges that freedom of expression and media freedom be fully respected and that journalists be allowed to obtain information on matters of public interest; stresses that stable and sustainable financing, editorial independence, broadcasting in all official languages and pluralism are essential to public-service media; calls on the authorities to close all legislative loopholes which systematically hamper the full transparency of media ownership and to prepare a regulation to ensure that no undue political influence is exerted; urges the competent authorities to safeguard the political, institutional and financial independence of public-service broadcasters and to harmonise entity laws on public broadcasting with state-level legislation; urges the merit-based appointment of the Director of the BiH Communication Regulatory Agency Council;

29.    Remains concerned about the continuing segregation of children in public schools on the basis of ethnicity; notes that three different curricula impede a common, inclusive and objective study of common history and recent historical events; urges the authorities to effectively implement inclusive education principles, including with regard to children with disabilities; urges the new leaders of the country to promote an inclusive and non-discriminatory education system without any further delay in both entities and the Brčko District, to eliminate the segregation of different ethnic groups and to advance education reform aimed at improving education standards and the introduction of a common curriculum; calls also for the implementation of the action plan on the educational needs of Roma children and their integration in the education system to be stepped up;

30.    Recalls that the February 2014 protests showed a clear popular demand among BiH citizens for socio-economic reforms in the country; strongly believes that the implementation of measures in the six key reform areas of the Compact for Growth and Jobs will re-stimulate stalled socio-economic reforms, including on growth and employment and public procurement reforms; calls on the new governments at state, entity and cantonal levels to work in close cooperation in order to make economic governance and the Compact a key priority of reforms; stresses the need to further develop and implement an economic reform programme;

31.    Considers that BiH has made little progress towards becoming a functioning market economy; emphasises the importance of coping with competitive pressures and market forces; is concerned that considerable weaknesses in the business environment continue to negatively affect private-sector development and foreign direct investment; urges the competent authorities to address the weak enforcement of the rule of law, the large informal sector and high levels of corruption, which hamper the business environment; urges harmonisation with the Solvency II Directive;

32.    Stresses the need to reform and harmonise the fragmented social protection systems on the basis of citizens’ needs in order to provide equal treatment for all, mitigate poverty and develop a social safety net that is better targeted towards the poor and socially excluded; highlights the fact that economic prosperity and job prospects , especially for young people, are essential to the development of the country; calls on the governments to implement labour market reforms in order to tackle the very high unemployment rate, focusing on young people, women and long-term unemployment; notes that labour and trade union rights are still limited; calls on the authorities to further enhance and harmonise the relevant laws across the country; stresses the need to improve education and training in order to address skills mismatches and increase employability, particularly among young people;

33.    Stresses the importance of harmonising and improving existing trade union rights and rules on working conditions, which at present are not identical across all sectors; notes also that welfare benefits and pensions are not equally distributed;

34.    Notes that there has been little progress in the fields of the environment and climate change and calls on the authorities to enhance environmental protection in line with EU standards; calls on BiH to honour all its contractual obligations under the Energy Community Treaty and the SAA, and to ensure adequate and swift approximation towards the EU environmental acquis, including in preventing excessive air pollution; emphasises the need for BiH to fully implement its obligations regarding the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo, 1991) and the Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment (Kiev, 2003), including with regard to activities in the Neretva and Trebišnjica River Basin; calls on BiH to align with EU environmental standards, in particular regarding pollution from the oil refinery in Bosanski Brod;

35.    Welcomes BiH’s constructive and proactive stance in promoting regional cooperation; commends its frequent joint border patrols with neighbouring countries; stresses the crucial importance of good neighbourly relations; invites the new leaders to continue and enhance efforts to resolve outstanding border and property issues with neighbouring countries; encourages BiH to finalise the demarcation process with Montenegro in good faith, on the basis of the agreement reached in May 2014;

36.    Regrets that BiH foreign policy has remained subject to divergent positions, resulting in a low rate of alignment with EU positions (52 %); recalls the crucial importance of a unified foreign policy for BiH; is concerned about the implications of Russia’s rejection of the Peace Implementation Council’s standard language on BiH’s territorial integrity and its negative narrative on BiH’s EU aspirations; welcomes the continued presence of Operation Althea, as part of a renewed UN mandate, focusing on capacity building and training;

37.    Calls on the newly elected institutions of BiH to use the opportunity of the EU’s renewed approach to conclude the Agreement on the adaptation of the Interim Agreement/SAA, taking into account Croatia’s accession to the EU and the maintenance of traditional trade;

38.    Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the VP/HR, the Council, the Commission, the Presidency of BiH, the Council of Ministers of BiH, the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH and the Governments and Parliaments of the Federation of BiH and the Republika Srpska and the governments of the 10 counties/cantons.