In a recent measure which appears to bring the country a step closer toward EU integration, Bosnia and Herzegovina has agreed to remove a constitutional provision which prohibited minorities from running for presidential office. This ban has been part of the country’s constitution since the Dayton accords following a bloody civil war in the country which killed over 96,000 people. This war saw conflict involving Serbian forces, and Bosniak and Croat civilians.

Because the Bosnian War was in large part caused over political disagreements among the Bosniaks, Croats and Serbians, the three major ethnic groups in the region, the country’s post-war constitution provided for a three person presidency composed of one member from each group. This requirement thus effectively prevented the candidacy of any individual who did not belong to one of these groups. In 2009, the European Court of Human Rights held that the constitutional provision unfairly discriminated against minority groups living in the country. The EU has continually encouraged, and now appear to have achieved, a repeal of this discriminatory measure.

This repeal may also benefit Bosnia and Herzegovina from an economic standpoint. The three-member presidential panel generally makes governance decisions by majority vote. However, any of the three ethnic groups may block any decision it deems contrary to its interests. This decentralized nature of the presidency has been blamed for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s failure to achieve long-term economic stability and prosperity following the war. Indeed, the US has pressed Bosnian leaders to increase the government’s effectiveness through political consolidation as far back as 1997. As Bosnia moves toward full European integration, this forthcoming constitutional repeal should bring benefits to the country in more ways than one.

« »