SARAJEVO, July 5 (FENA) – Democratic and fair elections are extremely important for any democratic society and in that context, it is important to have a state budget which provides funds for holding local elections this year in Bosnia and Herzegovina, said in an interview with FENA, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to BiH and EU Special Representative to BiH, Ambassador Johann Sattler.
Members of the House of Representatives of the BiH Parliamentary Assembly should consider this important financial document at the session scheduled for July 7, recalls Sattler, who expressed hope that the budget would receive support in the parliament so that this year’s elections could be held in October or November.
When it comes to the date of the elections, given that the date has been moved by a month from the original date, is a matter for the judiciary, says Sattler, which will ultimately decide on it, but it does not matter what month the election is, it is important that they are held this year and that they are held across the country.
Ambassador Sattler also referred to the recently signed agreement that will enable the holding of local elections in Mostar, a city where there have been no elections since 2008, emphasizing that this is definitely a step forward and a particularly big step forward for the city of Mostar, but also it is important as a potential relaxation of the political situation throughout BiH.
“This means that for the first time in 12 years, the citizens of Mostar can go to the polls again, but that means yet another thing. Resolving the issue of elections in Mostar was one of the most difficult problems and it gives us hope for the future, gives us confidence that we are able to solve problems currently present which include constitutional matters as well,” said Sattler.
He reminded that there are numerous judgments of the Constitutional Court, but also of the European Court of Human Rights, for active and passive civic rights for all BiH citizens, but the solution to the issue for Mostar gives us hope that BiH can cope with the problems it currently faces.
Speaking about the coronavirus pandemic that has affected the whole world, Sattler underlined that this crisis has shown who the best friends of this country are, as happened during the 2014 floods, and this time the EU reacted the fastest and was the most generous in providing 300 million euros in assistance.
“A lot of money has been invested in the health sector, but also in businesses. We help your companies that are on the forefront, also the tourism sector, transport, etc. We will also help the budget. It will be microfinance assistance, loans under very good conditions, given that this will be a very difficult year when it comes to the BiH budget because there will be fewer tax revenues,” he said.
On the other hand, Sattler points out, we have opened programs for BiH, such as the program regarding the flow of goods, which also includes the joint procurement of medical equipment necessary during the crisis.
“BiH also participates in the health committee of the European Union, thus it is treated almost as if it is a member, although its status is far from EU membership. We may not be the loudest when it comes to public relations, but you can be sure that we are the most loyal partner of BiH,” Sattler underlined.
Ambassador Sattler also spoke about BiH’s progress towards the European Union, saying that the issue has been at a standstill since May last year when the European Commission’s Opinion was published all until April 2020, because the government had been formed and there were various blockades, which is a situation that has repeated often in the last 20 years.
But, progress has been made in the last four months, Sattler says, such as the BiH presidency’s initiative to address 14 key priorities and the fact that the issue of local elections in Mostar has been resolved, but Sattler warns that there are many other things remaining to be done.
“At the moment we are in contact with many parliamentarians to resolve some issues. We are currently working on the Public Procurement Act, which is very important, as we saw during the pandemic because there were recorded misuses of public procurement procedures,” says Sattler.
He reminded that the amendments to that act were presented a year ago, but no one has initiated a discussion so far. But now the conversation on that issue has started, which is why the ambassador expressed hope that the law would be adopted very soon.
“It is very difficult to explain the process of European integration because it is a very dull process, but it is very important to make progress in these areas as it prevents corruption and improves the living standards of BiH citizens,” Sattler explained.
He also referred to the issue of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC), and in that context, emphasized the importance of the rule of law, which is a zero priority when it comes to EU integration, and in that regard, we must see real progress in BiH.
He expressed dissatisfaction with the current situation, saying that the HJPC was established with good intentions, but did not develop in the direction expected in many aspects, and assessed that there is a need to make progress in that regard.
He believes that in this sense there are two things that can be resolved, the first of which is the introduction of an integrity office within the HJPC, and the second is the verification of the integrity of judges and prosecutors of the HJPC, which is yet another issue being discussed with parliamentarians.
At the end of the interview with FENA, Sattler deemed as unacceptable the fact that almost two years after the general elections held in October 2018, a new FBiH Government has not been formed, which calls into question the whole concept of elections because, why have elections if the results are not implemented.
“We still have the same composition of the FBiH Government, which was elected six years ago and that is a problem. This is a problem for democracy, and above all, it is a problem for your citizens. I hear that on many occasions during my travels around BiH,” Sattler points out.
Sattler, therefore, called on political leaders to use the momentum to tackle these very difficult issues, including the implementation of the election results for the Federation of BiH, which is something we have been waiting for the past two years.