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Parliaments work together in Bosnia and Herzegovina to ensure better utilization of Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) Funds

“The problems are not of technical or expert nature. The problems are political. We are talking about major funds and major opportunities. What happened lately with the floods in Bosnia shows that we urgently need to resolve relief issues and my question is whether the impact of the flooding would have been less severe if we had been able to efficiently and more effectively use the available IPA funds”. - Mr. Halid Genjac, Chairperson of the Joint Committee on European Integration of the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH.

On June 13th, a public debate took place in the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina, co-chaired by the Chairperson of the Joint Committee on European Integration of the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH, Mr.Halid Genjac, the Chairperson of the Committee on European Integration of the House of Representatives of the Federation of BiH, Mr. Safet Softic, and the Chairperson of the Committee on European Integration of the National Assembly of Republic of Srpska, Mr. Branislav Borenovic.

The broad-based event was the first joint public discussion following the decision of the European Union in October 2013 to suspend more than €42 million of IPA funds due to the inability of the government institutions to establish an effective mechanism for coordination as well as the failure to implement the Sejdic-Finci court decision1.

The hearing was organized with the support of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, Western Balkans programme. The programme supports the Network of Parliamentary Committees of Finance, Economy and European Integration of the Western Balkans (NPC). The Network tries to promote transparent oversight of IPA funds by parliaments in the region through effective public hearings.

Attending the hearing, the head of the delegation of European Union in BiH, Peter Sorensen, stated that more than €40 million of withdrawn IPA funds will again be made available as flood relief assistance under shortened funding procedures.

 

However, Sorensen also emphasised that:

In order for IPA 2 funds to be made available, a condition still remains for Bosnia and Herzegovina to develop an effective method for coordination on the question of European integration and adopt national strategies on agriculture and environment. Without fulfilling these conditions, IPA 2 funds will not be available“. 

Sorensen also stated that the lack of projects and weak coordination on distribution of financial assistance remains a problem in BiH. 

More than 70 participants took part in the public hearing, including representatives of government agencies from federal and entity levels in charge of European integrations, the council of Ministers of BiH, the Directorate for European integration of BiH, the government of the Brcko district, representatives of embassies, representatives of cantonal and municipal levels of government, MPs and non-governmental organizations.

Branislav Borenovic from the National Assembly of Republic of Srpska stated:

“Bosnia has so far used the IPA 1 funds the least, the level of absorption of current funds is less than 30%, which is not a good indicator. Honestly, we as political structures need to voice readiness that we can do this job together in Bosnia no matter what our internal political turbulences are. IPA 2 offers large funding and with proper coordination and good projects, BiH should draw a good portion of those funds”

Mr. Safet Softic from the House of Representatives of the Federation of BiH stated: “There needs to be a decision to find new modalities for political cooperation in BiH because that is our responsibility in politics”. It was understood that unresolved political issues burden the process of programming and implementation of IPA projects.

 

At the end of the hearing, the recommendation adopted by the parliamentary forum on EU integration from the three parliaments included:

  1. The urgent need for the Council of Ministers, the Presidency of BiH and the Parliamentary Assembly to ratify the amendments to the financial agreement between BiH and the European Commission in order to release the unused €42.4 million from 2013 and an additional €15 million (from 2014) for flood relief. An initial estimate by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in late May had put the damage at around €1.3 billion, equivalent to 15 percent of Bosnia's 2013 gross domestic product.
  2. The urgent need to promptly establish effective coordination mechanism in the country;
  3. The importance of developing and adopting a state-wide sector strategies in the country to apply to IPA 2 funding;
  4. The need for a continued joint dialogue and oversight of IPA by the three parliaments under the auspices of a parliamentary forum for European Integration.

 

The Parliaments were grateful for the support from WFD in the organisation of this hearing at this crucial time. The event received a lot of media coverage and it was widely reported in TV, printed and electronic media in BiH.

 

The hearing was the culmination of efforts by WFD and the NPC to share best practices in the region on IPA funding. These included a conference in Macedonia in 2013 on IPA2, bilateral exchanges between Macedonia and BiH, staff training on an IPA parliamentary toolkit and consulting support to members and staff of the three parliaments to prepare for the hearing. BiH is the second country in the region after Macedonia to hold an effective IPA hearing.

 


1 The Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina provides that only ethnic BosniaksSerbs and Croats can be elected members of Presidency and House of Peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The applicants, being a Roma and a Jew, successfully contested these provisions at the European Court of Human Rights in 2009.

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