The European Commission often says that it wants BiH institutions to speak with one voice and that it wants to deal with single address on matters concerning the country’s European integration. That recognized single address, the Directorate for European Integration, submitted in May a list of projects for IPA funding totalling €96 million after a process involving the relevant levels of government – including representatives of the Republika Srpska to the Council of Ministers, which approved it. After the submission, Željka Cvijanović, the RS Minister for Economic Affairs and Regional Cooperation, wrote to the EC in protest, claiming not to have been consulted (despite the fact that the Chair of Council is Dodik’s handpicked representative). The EC then asked the RS and BiH Government to come to agreement on the IPA projects. This meant putting the entity in a position to dictate terms to the state after the formal process had been completed at the state level. The RS objected to several projects – on agriculture, justice, labor, and statistics – asserting that the competences in question were with the entity and not state. The whole package was aimed at ensuring that BiH could meet EU requirements, and the projects to which the RS objected were linked to meeting the terms of the Stabilization and Association Agreement. A reduced list of projects (for €88 million) was then sent to Brussels by the Council of Ministers, but this then engendered a Federation Government objection to the circumvention of procedures. It now appears all the dedicated IPA funds for 2011 will be diverted to regional projects.
Not only IPA funding is at stake. At a time when the full spectrum of painstakingly constructed state institutions are being effectively dismantled and circumvented as an avowed goal of RS policy, the EC has actively abetted the bypassing of its main BiH interlocutor in matters of European integration in the vain hope of mollifying Banja Luka. If any had doubts as to what “coordination” among the state and entities means – part of the EU clause in the last Butmir package, they need wonder no longer. It means exporting the “entity veto” from parliamentary procedure into the European integration process. The EC has demonstrated once again its willingness to abandon its principles and conditions for the sake of expediency. This has damaged not just BiH, but it is inconsistent with the goal of developing the competences necessary to meet the EU’s membership criteria. This blunder has also reduced the EU’s credibility here at a very inopportune time.
Kurt Bassuener is a policy analyst and Senior Associate of the Democratization Policy Council, a global initiative for accountability in democracy promotion. He lives in Sarajevo.