A long road lies ahead of B&H. This is the beginning of almost all of the stories on EU integration processes. However, the road to an EU- aligned B&H legislation is not only long, but as is the case today, far too long for the present generations to cross the finish line. There are countless indicators that confirm this pessimistic journey forecast. But, the Republika Srpska has embarked on the trip.
By: Predrag Ćurković
At least 70 percent of the legislation in the Republika Srpska will have to be harmonized with the EU Law. The process began two and a half years ago when the new rules on procedure in the National Assembly of the Republika Srpska were adopted. They define that every act, draft or proposed law must receive approval by the Committee for European Integration and Regional Cooperation, making sure that the law is aligned with the European Law. Since then, every plan or a bill that goes through parliamentary procedure must have a statement confirming its compliance with the EU Law. The decision of the Board is binding.
“The Board has the ability to stop the referral of a law to parliamentary procedure if it does not have the support of the majority of committee members. This implies that the law would be challenged and returned to the proponent for revision”, said Branislav Borenovic, the Chairman of the Committee for European Integration and Regional Cooperation of the National Assembly of Republika Srpska.
If there is a certain degree of alignment, the proposer makes a comparative view of each section of the law that is being aligned with the parallel decree of the acquis communitaire; they specify which source of law is in question. The European Integration Committee of the National Assembly has held 35 meetings and discussed about 300 acts since 2011. The Committee is aware that the EU acquis is a living matter and that the only certainty is the obligation of acquiring the EU acquis communitaire and of being capable of implementing it before becoming an EU member, with the exception of certain parts of the EU acquis for which a transition period can be agreed upon during the membership negotiations.
Still no coordination mechanism
Details on the task of harmonizing the national legislation with the European acquis at the state level are not known. The Director of the Directorate for European Integration, Ms Nevenka Savic, does not know the precise answer to the question of how many B&H laws and regulations have so far been harmonized with the European legislation.
“The answer cannot be provided for at least two reasons. The first is that B&H still does not have a comprehensive planning document (program of integration) that would, among other things, give an overview of the obligations with regard to the harmonization of the legislation and a review of the completed tasks. The second is that each level of government aligns the regulations in their jurisdiction with the legal legacy of the EU, but there is no practice of exchanging information and instruments of harmonization with other levels of government. The Directorate has repeatedly initiated the exchange of instruments of harmonization between the state, entities and Brcko District of B&H respectively, but the implementation of such activities did not occur. The DEI only gives its opinion on the level of alignment with the acquis when this is sought by state-level institutions”, says the Director of the Directorate for European Integration.
A certain degree of coordination exists between the parliamentary bodies of the three Assemblies – the Federation of B&H, the Parliamentary Assembly of B&H and the Parliament of the Republika Srpska.
“Our board has established a system of coordination with other committees of European integration at other levels of the B&H government, in turn we have formed a parliamentary forum consisting of the Joint Committee on European Integration in the Parliamentary Assembly of B&H, the Committee for European Integration of the Republika Srpska and the Committee for European integration of the Federation of B&H. This means that we have developed a good system of cooperation and coordination, which should be the basis of some kind of mechanism and the coordination of parliamentary bodies in B&H”, explained Borenović .
The Directorate for European Integration claims that the creation of the National Program for Integration will mean that every EU regulation in the domestic system will, figuratively speaking, receive an owner. In other words everyone’s involvement will be transparent. An institution or a number of institutions in mutual cooperation will be required to take a part of the acquis and incorporate it into the national legislation.
“It is important to point out the fact that the alignment is a coordinated process, that the acceptance and incorporation of the EU acquis guarantees legal certainty and that equal solutions apply to the same body of laws. The establishment of an effective coordination mechanism is a prerequisite for the development of a program of integration. The program cannot be made by one institution alone, because the fulfillment of tasks in the process of integration is a matter of agreement between multiple institutions, with respect to the jurisdictions and views of all stakeholders in the process”, emphasizes Savic.
Brussels demands a single address. However, this does not imply the need for a single opinion.
“I think that this single address that Brussels seeks may be found in any city in Bosnia and Herzegovina or in the EU. Here, decisions must be made by means of consensus, backed up by the Republika Srpska, Federation of B&H and B&H institutions. The possibility of individuals not accepting the constitutional structure of the country must be excluded, because this structure clearly defines the roles and responsibilities of each of the legislative and executive structures. The Republika Srpska must be consulted and its opinions must be represented in all of the stands of B&H”, said Borenovic.
During the process of accession, B&H must adopt and implement the full package of the EU legislation, which is supposed to contain about 120,000 pages of legal documents. The priorities, however, are not defined, problems are solved ad hoc and B&H is constantly lagging behind its neighbors.
The Stabilization and Association Agreement clearly defines the priorities of the harmonization of laws: the acquis on the internal market and other areas related to trade. The farmers were faced with numerous problems after Croatia became an EU member due to the failure of the authorities of B&H in adopting the integration program and incorporating the standards of the EU.
In addition with the Stabilization and Association Agreement, B&H has undertaken to develop a special program for the adoption of the acquis communitaire, that is, the National Programme for Integration (NPI ). The program of integration has been talked about for years, but the document still does not exist, which means that B&H is far from the EU.
The importance of the integration program is illustrated by the fact that its adoption could end the transfer of authority. The required capacities of B&H and the EU integration issues will be separated from the story on jurisdictions, which is the main stumbling block. For now, the “insurmountable” problem of adopting an integration program is referred to as the defining one when it comes to the coordination mechanism and currently not on the horizon.
“According to Article 70 of the SAA, the initial phase of the harmonization should be focused on internal markets and areas related to trade, and in later stages on the remaining parts of the acquis. The harmonization of the legislation with the acquis is the longest and most complex task in the EU integration process, but, generally speaking, each state going through the process of EU enlargement dictates its individual pace, bearing in mind the fact that it must accept the entire acquis in time for accession. The transition period for the acceptance and implementation of certain parts of the acquis is possible even when the country becomes an EU member”, stated Savic.
The translation of the acquis, a task without an expiry date
The acquis increases in volume every day and this is why they often call it “a target in motion”. The Directorate’s translators translate domestic legislations into English for the purpose of, for example, monitoring the implementation of the Interim Agreement or for other tasks in the process such as answers to the EC questionnaire in the field of public procurement and the environment. The Directorate develops and promotes terminology in the field of European integration and pays special attention to the linguistic, professional and legal editing of the translation, but the hitherto cost of the finished translation is unknown.
The Director of the Directorate points out that in the process of integration even primary technical issues have become a part of the sphere of political decision-making, which is reflected upon the process itself, which is professional and operational, but which also depends on strong political support without which the qualitative advances in the process of accession are not possible. This is exemplified by the experiences of countries that have become EU members.
Until that happens there is information that only five percent of B&H laws are in line with the European legislation. This will cause confusion over the EU integration process among the already skeptic citizens. However, the harmonization of B&H legislation is not the only job that has to be done. This process should be performed in parallel with the expression of the political will of European integration. In the period from 2007 to 2013, the Western Balkan countries received 11.5 billion EUR from IPA, but most of the funds were not utilized because of the lack of a coordination mechanism in B&H. The EU plans to make 14 billion EUR available to the Western Balkan countries in the period from 2014 to 2020. The task of the parliament is to rid itself of prejudice and to allow the executive structures to utilize these sources in the interest of all the citizens of the Western Balkans.
LOST IN TRANSLATION
Ms Jadranka Kosor, Croatia’s former Prime Minister, in April of 2010 ceded Croatian translations of the EU acquis to the then Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Mr Nikola Spiric, which he then handed over to the Directorate for European Integration, which distributed them to the Ministry of Economic Relations and Regional Cooperation of the Republika Srpska, the Office for Legislation of the Federation of B&H and the Brcko District respectively. It turned out that the translations in question were draft copies which could only serve as an aid in the process of the harmonization of B&H legislation with the acquis, but not as official documents.