BH Dani – Interview: Saša Gavrić: BiH is behind in all areas!

dfad5-Sasa-Gavric2Source: BH Dani, No.894, 01.08.2014.

The Initiative for Monitoring European Integrations in Bosnia and Herzegovina published the second Alternative Report on the progress of BiH in the process of European Integrations. The results of this Report are as was expected: in 2013 and 2014 BiH did not make significant progress. Saša Gavrić, the executive director of Sarajevo Open Centre, talked to Dani about the report and the political situation in BiH.

The Initiative for Monitoring European Integrations in Bosnia and Herzegovina published the second Alternative Report on the progress of BiH in the process of European Integrations. The Report, which was coordinated by the Sarajevo Open Centre as a coordinating member of the Initiative represents joint effort by dozens of persons and organizations to show the current state of affairs in the country and in that way offer an alternative to the official Progress Report published by the European Union in October of each year.

The focus of the report is on areas of human rights, functioning of the state, the justice system and corruption, and transitional justice – the political criteria of EU integrations. At the recent presentation of the Report, which was held in Sarajevo, the speakers Saša Gavrić (Sarajevo Open Centre), Fedra Idžaković (Rights for All), Tijana Cvjetićanin (Why not?) and the moderator Damir Banović (Centre for Political Studies) concluded that no significant progress was achieved in 2013 and 2014 – Sejdic-Finci judgment still has not been implemented, the work of the institutions is marred by instability, lack of transparency and efficiency, the constitutional courts’ decisions are still not being implemented and the structured dialogue on the Justice Sector between BiH and EU is not showing any progress, and the Justice Sector reform has come to a halt.  The minority and vulnerable groups still suffer discrimination and violence and the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination did not result in its intended outcomes. We spoke to Saša Gavrić from Sarajevo Open Centre.

DANI: Why did you make the Alternative Report on the Progress of BiH in the process of European Integrations?

Gavrić: Working on questions of human rights and the rule of law we’ve been seeing form year to year that the official Progress Report by the European Commission isn’t depicting the real picture. Because of the terrible situation that BiH has been in for years the EU calls even the most minor, cosmetic changes progress, or on the other hand, they don’t reflect on certain issues. To influence the official Progress Report we decided to publish the Alternative Progress Report three months earlier. Our intention is very simple – the civil society has to strengthen its position and needs to be the third factor, a check in the negotiation process between the EU and the State.

DANI: What is included in the report?

Gavrić: The report sends a simple message: in the last 12 months there was no significant progress. The government was focused on illegal ministerial changes, all the while their work performance was appalling. However the Report does not focus just on the work of institutions and the functioning of the state, but it also covers the questions of the rule of law, human rights and the protection of the rights of minorities, as well as transitional justice.

DANI: Why do you think that the EU institutions aren’t harsher towards the BiH authorities?

Gavrić: The European Union is a part of the BiH political system. The European Union and its central member states have co-created this reality through Dayton, but also the post-Dayton structure. They had aggressively built the state up and imposed solutions until 2006, and then they suddenly withdrew and handed the responsibility over to politicians who were not ready – the so-called local ownership. We were able to see the consequences of those actions for the past few years. The EU is aware that it cannot leave this story just like that. And that is why they are willing to compromise with BiH leaders.

DANI: In what areas is BiH behind in what the EU is asking of them?

Gavrić: The Initiative for Monitoring EU Integrations in BiH focuses in its work on the so-called political criteria of integration. When we look at those we can conclude that BiH is behind in all areas. And while the neighboring states get candidate status and open up the so-called the chapters of the acquis, our country is completely paralyzed. The most disconcerting fact is that the BiH leaders are not concerned what the EU or anyone else thinks of them.

The two key issues: stopping ethnic discrimination within the political system and the coordination of different levels of government are the preconditions of all conditions. Only when those issues are resolved and if we get the candidate status in several years can we expect the EU to focus more on the specific issues from areas of the rule of law and human rights, since those are the key questions in the process of negotiation itself.

DANI: Do you think that the situation in those fields will improve after the election in October?

Gavrić: This year, 2014, is a wasted year because the election campaigns have already started. It is alarming that no meaningful decisions can be made six months before or after the elections. I personally don’t believe that the election will bring about any significant changes. Even after the elections the political scene will be very fragmented with a large number of actors, especially if we’re talking about the government at the FBiH and State level. Without a very clear agreement and the formation of program and not mathematical coalitions we will not have a more stable government. And stable and determined government is the pre-condition for strengthening the rule of law and human rights.

DANI: BiH sanaders are frequently mentioned in BiH media. Why do legal processes in which the main actors are some of the politicians who were, or still are in key positions, rarely end successfully? There are plenty of examples. There almost isn’t a single BiH political leader who was not either suspected or indicted, but there are no convictions. Does that mean that the justice sector is still under political control?

Gavrić: The processing of key cases depends on the political climate, readiness and the pressure from outside. Clearly in BiH that still does not exist. Perhaps that shows how unprincipled the EU is in BiH.

DANI: Why is BiH losing the battle against corruption?

Gavrić: The question of corruption is one of the key issues when we talk about the rule of law in BiH. We covered that area in the Alternative Progress Report. It is necessary to identify large and complex corruption cases, especially in the area of public procurement, privatization and large infrastructural works, which should be prioritized for processing by the legal bodies, which was similarly done in Serbia, where 24 privatization cases were identified.

Such approach would enable the justice sector institutions to deal with cases without the risk of politization of the process of selection of cases to be processed, which is a frequent and widespread practice in BiH, and the civil society organizations should be allowed to monitor the processing of the corruption cases. BiH urgently needs successful cases which will restore the citizens’ trust in justice, institutions and the political parties themselves.