EU: Referendum crisis mustn't escalate, Bosnia has to continue with reforms

The political crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina because of an announced referendum in the Bosnian Serb entity must not escalate in the common interest of Bosnia and Herzegovina and of the entire European Union (EU) and all levels of government in the country have to remain concentrated on implementing reforms, EU representatives and Bosnian state and entity officials said in Sarajevo on Monday.

After meeting with Bosnian Council of Ministers Chairman Denis Zvizdic and the prime ministers of the two Federation and Republika Srpska entities, Fadil Novalic and Zeljka Cvijanovic respectively, the Head of the European Union Delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, said that in the current situation it was important to avoid excessive reactions and that it was necessary to defuse tension.

A solution has to be found through dialogue, he underscored.

The EU's stance is clear. The referendum is unnecessary, but it is important now not to overreact and to remain focused on real challenges, the Swedish diplomat said, commenting on announcements that, despite a Constitutional Court ruling banning the referendum, it would nevertheless be held in Republika Srpska on September 25.

It is important to remain calm and not exaggerate in assessing the current situation, including speculation that the referendum could lead to open conflicts in the country, he said.

The EU will not allow that, Wigemark said after a meeting with government officials which was also attended by Director for the Western Balkans at the Directorate-General for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations of the European Commission Genoveva Ruiz Calavera.

The two European officials underscored that they had spoken with Bosnian officials primarily about the implementation of a reform plan adopted in 2015 which is aimed at bringing Bosnia closer to EU membership.

Elections and other political topics should not turn attention away from implementing reforms, Ruiz Calavera said. Bosnia is achieving good results in implementing long term reforms which should improve the social and economic situation in the country, she underscored.

Zvizdic confirmed that he is travelling to Brussels on Tuesday to attend an EU General Affairs Council. Previously it was believed that the Council would formally approve considering Bosnia's application for EU membership candidate status but, due to the referendum crisis, that is now questionable.

Zvizdic is convinced that what the country had done to date is sufficient for it to be given the "green light" for opening the procedure for being granted candidate status.

He confirmed that 40% of reform measures planned for a period of four years has been implemented.

Regardless of possible dissatisfaction within the country, reforms will continue with the aim of further economic development and a better business environment, with a special objective of reducing unemployment, he said.

Cvijanovic reiterated that the Republika Srpska referendum would be held on September 25 regardless of the ban by the Constitutional Court.

This referendum is not directed against anyone, she said. It is not true that authorities in Republika Srpska are quashing the rule of law, just the opposite, we support it, she said, adding that the rule of law has to exist without political influence, which is the case now.

Regardless of political disputes, Republika Srpska authorities intend to implement reform measures with the aim of drawing closer to EU membership.

Last update: Mon, 19/09/2016 - 17:11

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