Study visit for photo competition winners from V4 countries

In the period 14.11.2019. to 17.11.2019. Foreign Policy Initiative BH organized a study visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina for young people from Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary who participated in a photo competition on “SUCCESSFUL INTER-RELIGIOUS CO-OPERATION AND DIALOGUE”. Participants in these three countries had the opportunity to make their own picture based on a video collage, created as a result of shared personal experiences and thinking of young people in BiH, who portrayed equality in their stories through the prism of inter-religious coexistence and dialogue that makes BiH a unique country that can, by way of example, offer young Czechs, Hungarians and Slovaks a reading of history which shows that successful dialogue between members of different religious communities can be (and is, in fact) the rule, not the exception.

During the study visit, the participants had the opportunity to talk with representatives of NGOs in Sarajevo, the Center for Advanced Studies and Humanity in Action (HIA). Center for Advanced Studies – CNS is a non-governmental, non-partisan and non-profit organization dedicated to comprehensive and sustainable development of BiH – a society based on peace, justice, the rule of law and respect for human rights. Humanity in Action Bosnia & Herzegovina is an essential part of a collaborative, international learning community of university students and young professionals in Europe and the United States. They think about the big questions in life and society – like social responsibility, values, universal rights, and empathy for those who we disagree with. They care deeply about history and constantly compare the past to the present to learn for the future.

Also, at the premises of the Inter-Religious Council in BiH, they were introduced to the work of the Inter-religious Council which acts as a domestic, non-governmental organization that is not superstitious but a body through which the goodwill of traditional churches and religious communities is manifested to contribute jointly to building civil society in areas where the influence of churches and religious communities is undeniable..

At the War Childhood Museum, they had a presentation and then a tour of materials related to growing up in the war and got acquainted with the stories of each of the young people who submitted some of the items on display at the museum. The exhibition and the idea of ​​establishing a museum was based on a 328-page illustrated book that brought the story of all ages with a rare opportunity to confront the traumas of their recent past without reinforcing ethnic boundaries, the WCM has expanded its activities to contemporary conflict, post-conflict, and resettlement zones.

The study visit finished with a city tour and a visit to museums and major historical sites and institutions.

These activities were organized as part of a project called “My Neighbor, Success Stories of Inter-faith Dialogue within and beyond the V4 Countries” funded by the International Visegrad Fund.

 

Political analysis: “The new dynamic of Europe! What can BiH hope for?”

On 12 November 2019, Foreign Policy Initiative BH, in cooperation with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung BiH has organized the presentation of political analysis “The new dynamic of Europe! What can BiH hope for?” by Davor Vuletić.

Bosnia and Herzegovina must fundamentally improve its legislative and institutional framework to ensure adherence to 14 priorities in the Commission’s Opinion. It should be the only political agenda for all political parties in BiH in the coming decade. The EU continues to have a strategic interest in the Western Balkans, but it is not a priority; rather, the EU’s priority is to work on its own ‘fitness’, and to give the Western Balkans time to do their homework. Therefore, this new dynamic will only be seen within the EU. BiH can only hope that its political elites will finally move forward.

The aim of this analysis is to provide an overview of the potential changes in the internal and external dynamics of EU politics and policy concerning enlargement towards the Western Balkans, particularly Bosnia and Herzegovina. It will examine the messages sent by the EU, in this context, prior to and following the formation of new EU institutions. Since European integration is a two-way process, this analysis will also try to show the current state of affairs in Bosnia and Herzegovina as it pertains to the requirements and expectations of the EU’s Stabilisation and Association process.

The analysis also aims to familiarise policy experts – those coming from different institutions, civil society organisations, diplomats, the international development community, the media, as well as political party officials and young political leaders – with what could be possible develop-ments in EU policy formulation following the European elections, and the formation of EU institutions over the next five years. It will also bring to their attention the impacts such developments will have on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s European aspirations.

Participants of the panel discission for the presentation of the analysis were its author Davor Vuletić (FPI BH), Dženana Hodžić (Political Advisor to the EUSR in BiH), Osman Topčagić (President of the Paneuropean Union of BiH, and Former Head of BiH Mission to the European Council), Rasim Ibrahimagić (Initiative for Monitoring the European Integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina) and  Darija Ramljak (The Directorate for European Integration -DEI).  The discussion was moderated by Hana Sokolović (Former News Presenter at N1). Elisabet Tomasinec, Head of Political Section(EUSR in BiH) did the introduction speech. In their discussion the panelists have underlined that Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to fundamentally improve its legislative and institutional framework to ensure that it meets the 14 key priorities set out in the Commission’s Opinion.

The presentation was be attended by representatives of the civil society organizations, academia, relevant institutions, embassies in Bosnia and Herzegovina, members of the academia and media.

The new dynamic of Europe! What can BiH hope for?

Bosnia and Herzegovina must fundamentally improve its legislative and institutional framework to ensure adherence to 14 priorities in the Commission’s Opinion. It should be the only political agenda for all political parties in BiH in the coming decade. The EU continues to have a strategic interest in the Western Balkans, but it is not a priority; rather, the EU’s priority is to work on its own ‘fitness’, and to give the Western Balkans time to do their homework. Therefore, this new dynamic will only be seen within the EU. BiH can only hope that its political elites will finally move forward.

The aim of this analysis is to provide an overview of the potential changes in the internal and external dynamics of EU politics and policy concerning enlargement towards the Western Balkans, particularly Bosnia and Herzegovina. It will examine the messages sent by the EU, in this context, prior to and following the formation of new EU institutions. Since European integration is a two-way process, this analysis will also try to show the current state of affairs in Bosnia and Herzegovina as it pertains to the requirements and expectations of the EU’s Stabilisation and Association process.

Political analysis is available here.

Our 14 – wake up call or an excuse for status quo?!

The elections have been completed in October last year, yet BiH Council of Ministers and the Government of the Federation of BiH still have not been formed. Therefore, the Opinion of the European Commission regarding Bosnia and Herzegovina has “crushed” all of the optimism and prognoses of the leaders that this country will receive the candidate status by the end of this year. On the other hand, if we face the reality pertaining to our capacities of integrating in the EU with this kind of state system as well as the system of values that dominates amongst the local political elites, we just might be able to demonstrate by the end of the year that we have heard the wake up call, and have defined the steps to implement “Our 14”. This would mean that BiH is finally ready to “get its house in order” and to respond to everything with concrete actions and results.

The European Union has made its Opinion based on the evaluation of the current institutional functioning system, policies and legislation and the things that remain to be harmonized with the EU policies and the Acquis. Furthermore, on the respect for human rights and the implementation of Decisions of the European Court for Human Rights as well as a mandatory establishment of a contemporary civic parliamentary democracy. However, in its Opinion, the EC did not specify which of the 14 numbered matters BiH needs to complete to get the candidate status.

The only precise thing that can be said at this moment is that BiH is still far away from the candidate status and that now a really difficult period begins, a period of going from words to actions.

Answering several thousand questions from the EC Questionnaire is one thing and it does deserve praise, however, the “Our 14” implies comprehensive guidelines for reforms the country needs to implement in order to obtain the reference for opening the negotiations for joining the EU. What we have right now is a diagnosis of the state of affairs and a sensible, systemic and essential recipe to make things better. Right after this recipe comes a well-known condition for BiH – the elected officials need to have the political will for this process in a country characterised in the EU as a country of social, political and economic chaos.

Along with the Opinion came the analytical report that compares the situation in BiH with the standards applied in EU member countries, including matters such as internal market, public procurements, competition, environment, food safety and consumer protection policies.

With the support of the EU, BiH had been implementing reforms such as reforms in judiciary, police, public administration, education, economy, and some progress was achieved. However many tasks remain. Perhaps that is why it was expected that this alone should be enough for a reference to get a candidate status along with a few praises by the international officials.

However…

Bosnia and Herzegovina still fails to meet the criteria pertaining to the stability of institutions that guarantee democracy, rule of law, human rights, respect and protection of minorities. It has yet to harmonise its constitutional framework with the European standards and secure the functionality of its institutions in order to take over the obligations with regard to the European Union and improve its election framework and functioning of the judiciary. At the same time, further strengthening is necessary for prevention and fight against corruption and organized crime and securing the effective functioning of border, migration and asylum management. The basic steps in the public administration reform need to be fully implemented.

Considering the economic criteria alone, a certain level of macroeconomic stability has been achieved. However, those were just small steps, because even in this field BiH needs to work on crossing numerous obstacles for proper functioning of the market mechanisms such as weak rule of law, large bureaucracy, corruption, long and overly complicated administrative procedures, matters predominantly felt by the citizens and who fail to see any improvement. The citizens do not find the lack of the recommendation for obtaining candidate status too difficult because what they are interested in is to see when will living in BiH become better, and be closer to the EU average. For them, the current state of affairs, and the Opinion are just a confirmation that they live in a country where existing laws and standards are far below those existing in the EU, and are even far behind those existing in the countries in the region.

On the other hand, it is not rare to hear a comparison between Albania and BiH because BiH has received the same opinion as Albania did in 2010. However, many predict that BiH, on its road towards the EU is at least 10 years behind Albania. Both for Albania and for BiH, forty areas were being assessed, only in one area was Bosnia and Herzegovina found to be a bit better off than Albania, and that is the protection of intellectual property.

The decision regarding the Opinion of the EC has definitely been left for the new Assembly of the EC to make. Whether the result will be candidate status, remains to be seen. It depends on political circumstance and the views that the new European Commission will have. EU has great expectations from the local leaders in the region to make a concrete step like Greece and North Macedonia have done, to show determination to solve long-term disputes and continue their road towards the EU. Yet, it seems that even that is sometimes not enough. We shall see what will happen in the time to come…

One thing is for sure, there needs to be a more concrete offer from the EU and the member states. It needs to be something tangible and yet important for the everyday lives of the citizens, e.g. significant increase in financial and technical support.

This is necessary in order to build the preparedness in the Parliaments and Governments within BiH to make agreements regarding priorities set by the EC. The EU must continue to spread its influence if it wishes to make any concrete step in geopolitical sense and with the goal of preserving the idea of a united Europe. On the other hand, Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot afford to lose any more chances. The ball is in our court, and it is time for us to work towards that long-awaited score!

by Anida Šabanović, FPI BH for European Western Balkans (OPINIONS)

Winners of the video collage competition on: “SUCCESSFUL INTER-RELIGIOUS CO-OPERATION AND DIALOGUE IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

Third place 🥉 - Amina Žigić
Story title: My Neighborhood

In her short video, she told us about her happy growing up in a multi-ethnic community that made her a person with a broad views.

Second place 🥈  - Ermil Horozovic (Zavidovici)
Title: Inter-religious Relations of Youth

The video presents the true story of a group of students from different religions (a brief story of the religious coexistence). The video also shows two schools under the same roof shared by a fence, however young people do not pay attention to it. They met early in their academic years, and have been in touch with each other ever since. They have become friends who share everything, help one another, organize get-together meetings, visit one another for their religious holidays and learn the traditional way of cooking for the same. They can be an example of how to “demolish” a fence raised by religious conflicts. The video shows how we can only benefit from situations like these, and how we should spread positive energy rather than create conflicts, and encourage others to share the same thinking and behavior.

📌 First place 🏆   - Ishak Dedić (Bužim)
Story title: "Does it matter?"

The three friends train together. One is Catholic, the other is Orthodox, and the third is Muslim. It is not important to them, as it should be to everyone. They train and joke, and in addition respect each other. They don't mind the insignificant differences, they are friends, that's all that matters.

Video collage available here.


Contest text in local language available here.

Western Balkan PAR Monitor 2017/2018

The PAR Monitor is the result of research undertaken over the past year by the Think for Europe Network, with the goal of providing a systematic civil society monitoring of public administration reforms (PAR) in the Western Balkans. This exercise was motivated by the need to strengthen domestic, bottom-up pressure from the civil society sector in the long run, in
order to ensure that post-EU accession, when the leverage of the EU’s conditionality in the governance area weakens, the reform drive endures. Based on a robust methodological approach, combining quantitative and qualitative techniques, and building on the EU’s Principles of public administration, the PAR Monitor measures the countries’ state of play in PAR, benchmarks them against each other, and provides recommendations for improvement. The PAR Monitor also ensures complementarity with the monitoring carried out by SIGMA/OECD and the European Commission. It therefore provides a citizen and civil society focused perspective on the EU-SIGMA principles.

The PAR Monitor comprises an overall comparative regional report and six country reports, each including findings on the 23 compound indicators designed by the WeBER project team to monitor a selection of 21 EU-SIGMA principles.

Western Balkan PAR Monitor available here.

National PAR Monitor – Bosnia and Herzegovina 2017/2018

Public administration reform (PAR) is today considered a fundamental requirement for the EU aspirants on their accession path. As a complex and all-encompassing reform, PAR in the Western Balkans region is being thoroughly assessed through the lenses of the SIGMA Principles of
Public Administration, developed by the OECD/SIGMA and endorsed by the EU. These Principles define what makes a well-functioning administration in terms of its ability to deliver transparent, efficient and effective services to citizens, and to support socio-economic development.

In the context of a high external pressure for tangible developments in PAR, home-grown demand for better administration becomes even more important, to keep pressuring the government to pursue reforms once the external conditionality dissipates as the result of a completed accession process. Civil society actors, with local knowledge of administration’s
functioning, can lead such domestic advocacy efforts aimed at better administration. Independent PAR monitoring and evidence-based dialogues with the government represent a good approach to achieve this goal.

Based on such a rationale, the WeBER project has completed its first monitoring cycle. Its structured and evidence-based approach to PAR monitoring brings the reform closer to the public, by particularly focusing on PAR aspects with most relevance to the civil society and the public.
WeBER PAR monitoring strongly relies on strengths, skills, and local knowledge of the civil society in the Western Balkans. It builds on the SIGMA’s Principles of Public Administration as a cornerstone of PAR, while assessing them from the standpoint of an independently produced
PAR Monitor methodology. Overall, the methodology is based on the selection of 21 SIGMA Principles within six key areas, monitored and reported through 23 compound indicators that focus on different aspects of PAR.

Report available here.

Proactive transparency and the right of access to information: Two sides of the same coin

Societies which are seen as democratic societies are generally envisioned as an environment in which the government operates for the benefit of its citizens and works together with the citizens. One of the values of a democratic order of a country is the transparency of work of its administrative structures, as well as full respect of the inalienable rights of its citizens. Proactive transparency and free access to information are the
basic methods of communication between a state and its citizens.

When speaking about Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), a country which is, at least declaratively, a democratic state, it is still very far from the ideal when it comes to these two aspects of democracy. Its lack of openness
partly stems from its historic background from the time of communism, when it was not customary to ask the government to justify its actions or working methods. However, now, for this state which is striving towards
EU and Euro-Atlantic integration and membership, it is necessary to change this paradigm of communication between this state and its citizens. In order to build the citizen’s trust in the administration, the administration needs to be transparent, its work needs to be visible and understandable to the citizens, because in that way the possibility of corruption and abuse of power is reduced, and the citizens are enabled to take active participation in decision making processes. However, it is still too early to speak of the existence of a consistent proactive transparency in BiH.

According to the research of the WeBER project, perception of the civil society pertaining to the quality of legislation and the practice of access to information of public importance is low for all Western Balkan
countries, but BiH and Montenegro are at the very bottom. The results of this research for BiH show that less than 30% of the CSOs agree that the public administration authorities record enough information within their
work in order to provide the public with free access to information of public importance. Furthermore, only 20% of the surveyed CSOs consider the exceptions to the presumption of public character of information to
be adequately defined in the legislation and adequately applied in practice. However, some positive views are held towards practical aspects of requesting information: information is provided in requested format, within deadlines, and free of charge. Furthermore, the research has also shown that the information provision on the websites of the institutions lacks a citizen-friendly approach. Publicly available information is only partially complete and updated, and accessible within maximum three clicks from homepages of the institutions.

For more information, read our policy brief here.

PUBLIC SERVICE AND HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Are tasks characteristic for civil service performed outside merit-based based regime? How open, transparent and fair is the recruitment into the civil service? How effective is the protection of senior civil servants’ position from unwanted political interference? Find out in this WeBER infographic.

Download the infographic here.

More about WeBER Project here.

Western Balkan PAR Monitor 2017/2018 here.

BiH National PAR Monitor 2017/2018 available here. (English). Report in local language here

SERVICE DELIVERY

What is the public opinion – is the administration is citizen-oriented or not? Can citizens give feedback on the quality of administrative services and is the feedback is publicly available? What do CSOs think about accessibility of administrative services? Do (and how) service providers publish information about offered services?

Find out in this WeBER infographic. Download the infographic here.

More about WeBER Project here.

Western Balkan PAR Monitor 2017/2018 here.

BiH National PAR Monitor 2017/2018 available here. (English). Report in local language here.