European Western Balkans

EWB Interview: Branislav Borenovic, MP and President of the Committee for European Integration of National Assembly of the Republic of Srpska

EWB continues a series of interviews with representatives of the opposition parties in parliaments of Western Balkans. This time we talk with the Vice President of the Party of Democratic Progress (PDP), Branislav Borenović (@BBorenovic), MP and President of the Committee for European Integration of National Assembly of the Republic of Srpska. Mr Borenović, is an economics graduate from the University of Banja Luka, in 2006 he become a MP, and in the same time he was appointed as a Minister for Family, Youth and Sport of the Republic of Srpska. At that time he was the youngest minister in this entity (32 years old). Before that Borenović has been the Director of the Agency for foreign investments of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

European Western Balkans: Mr Borenović, thank you for accepting the our invitation for the interview. We will start with a question that will be asked by every our reader – What is the importance of European integration for Bosnia and Herzegovina, in particular for the Republic of Srpska?

Branislav Borenović: I think that it is a top priority. Priority around which we all agree, at least formally. All political parties, both from the Republic of Srpska, and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, are for the European integration. Essentially I have a feeling that many political parties and their leaders are afraid of European integration because Europe means order, discipline, principles, criteria, standards, where laws are apply equally to all. I have a feeling that this formal support is not enough grounded in essential support. Considering that, for the Republic of Srpska is it very important to be a part of European integration, because we are one of two equal entities within Bosnia and Herzegovina. We can take advantage of certain opportunities which is provided by European integration process within Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that is why we did all the formal requirements which are necessary for adopting the legislation and for the executive structures in terms of European integration.

EWB: Can you explain what is the role of the Committee for European Integration of the Republic of Srpska in legislative reform?

BB: As I said, the Republic of Srpska is one of two equal entities within Bosnia and Herzegovina, perhaps it is much easier to understand than the Federation in meaning of organization of government. In the Republic of Srpska is much easier to make a decision in decision-making process. In March 2011, we adopted the new Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly, with the consensus of all political parties, where we have given the huge importance to the Committee for European Integration and to the European integration process itself. According to these Rules the Committee for European Integration and Committee on Legislation are almost equal, which means that every act that comes in the form of a draft or proposed law must pass through the Committee for European Integration, i.e. it must get obtain of the consent in order to become a part of legislative procedure.

We prescribed that each bill must obtain the consent that it is in line with the European acquis, must have a comparative view of the articles which are harmonized with the European legislation and must have the opinion of the Government on the degree of compliance with the European legal system. This means that after the changes of the Rules in the previous convocation we held 45 sessions of the Committee for European Integration, we considered more than 450 items on the agenda and we had a very intensive work, as a legislative committee. Before the changes of the Rules of Procedure, we had one or two meetings a year. In drafting the Rules, we used the best experiences from Croatia and Serbia – from Croatian experience we took the principle that committee chairman should be someone from the opposition, which I think is good. I come from the opposition party. The process of European integration implies consensus of majority and opposition that differ in attitudes. The Committee is consisted of nine members, of which seven are MPs and two are experts. From the Serbian experience we have taken that every act has to have a statement of compliance with European legislation. In this way, we have “forced” the executive structure to take much more serious way of dealing with the process of harmonization of our legislation with the European legislation. It is not an easy job, but the practice so far has shown that there are four levels of compliance, we have defined, namely – the act is partially compliant, fully compliant, it is not harmonized as there is no source of legislation in European acquis and that it is not harmonized because there are certain specificities. So, practice has shown that most of the legislation is still unenforceable in terms of compliance with European legislation, but the  part of about 40% is mainly partially harmonized.

EWB: Do you have a joint parliamentary sessions with other committees for European integration within Bosnia and Herzegovina?

BB: When we talk about the cooperation with other parliaments, we made to establish an intensive with other committees three years ago, especially with the Committee for European Integrations of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, i.e. the other entity and with the Joint Commission for European Integration of the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH. We have established the so-called parliamentary forum for European integration that comprises by three committees. This forum is an informal body and the idea is that it has meetings at least once every six months in order to exchange experiences and through which we call Directorate for European Integration to give us reports on the level of progress of Bosnia and Herzegovina on its path towards European Union, but also we invite representatives of EU Delegation to inform us what is their latest stance. The plan is to continue with this practice, primarily because we, from the Republic of Srpska, went much further than our colleagues from the Federation and in this way we to share experiences with our colleagues from the Federation at the level of the common institutions, and we want the institutions which are in direct contact with the EU to give us the best possible information about the process of European integration.

EWB: How important is the acceptance of European standards regardless to the fact that Bosnia and Herzegovina has the status of a potential candidate?

BB: This is just the beginning. I think it is good that at this stage we do as much as it is possible in order to be ready for the next phase. I also think it is important that we begin to learn European norms, European way of thinking and trough all of that to give a chance to everyone, especially to the young people to be more involved in the process of European integration. It is a process that inevitably awaits us. We have no other alternative. Our only path is the path towards the European Union.

Now it is very important that we work as much as possible in order to make the process easier when we start to work on the chapters opening. Also, the Stabilization and Association Agreement is now initialed and we need to work hard in order to use funds from the EU pre-accession funds IPA II. So far we have not sufficiently utilized these funds, whether because we had a bad projects or we have had a political instability or because we have been dealing with some trivial political issues. Bosnia and Herzegovina is the only country that has not yet clearly defined the principles of using funds from IPA II for the next period. We still do not know how many resources we have available in the next five years up to 2020, in contrast to Macedonia, which can already count on some  650 million euro by 2020, which is similar to Albania. If we compare population, Bosnia and Herzegovina, if it is “smart” and if it is mature enough and has a political structure which are ready to talk about the use of IPA funds, can count on around 850 million euro in our assessment. We need to adopt strategic documents and to start using these funds which will help every person not only in Republic of Srpska, but also in the Federation of BiH.

EWB: After the arrival at the position of High Representative, Federica Mogherini immediately began to be interested in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Very quickly SAA has entered into force. What do you think, what is the clearest requirement that Brussels had?

BB: The European Union has made clear – we want to talk to one address. We say – okay, it is our internal issue. We want an address that will be harmonized and therefore we insist that the priority of future work of the Council of Ministers which was recently formed is to define as soon as possible coordination mechanism which does not exist in any other country in the region, but exists only in BiH because we are complex country. That means we are going to define how agreeing that one voice will look through a coordination mechanism, that one arm which extends to Brussels. In that one voice the Republic of Srpska, the Federation of BiH, joint institutions, the cantons, local communities, and everything else would be contained. That is why today the is crucial to define a coordination mechanism as soon as possible, where the attitude of all the institutions would be respected in accordance with the Constitution. Responsibilities of the institutions of the Republic of Srpska are two-thirds of the jurisdiction of a country, while one-third is in hands of the common institutions. Republic of Srpska thus has the largest number of jurisdictions when it comes to issues which are of the greatest interest of citizens and therefore it is the reason why the coordination mechanism is important to us. Firstly, it should be found how we make that common voice, then a great task of the Council of Ministers together with the Directorate for European Integration and other institutions coming from the Entities will be to make a plan of European integration in which will be specified what are the tasks of each level of government and what are the deadlines. After that we will be able to measure what is done by each level of government in given period in accordance with that program of integration in order not to deal with the question who to blame for something that was not done and in order to stop looking for excuses, as we did.

EWB: SAA came into force, Bosnia and Herzegovina is strongly moving towards the European family of nations. What do you expect from the Resolution on the Progress Report which will be presented by Cristian Dan Preda to European Parliament?

BB: I think that after the statement of the Presidency, which was initiated by the Presidency and the European Commission and which is accepted by all political leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is showed that positive signals are set off from Bosnia and Herzegovina. You know that the Presidency, after the October elections, conceptualized a document which clearly states that we are ready for key economic reforms within Bosnia and Herzegovina. This document is supported by all political leaders which is positively evaluated by the European Commission and that was the trigger to get the activation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement.

I think that it is shown that positive signals are coming and we expect Resolution on the Report on progress to be positive. We know that European institutions are quite sensitive on events in Bosnia and Herzegovina and that we often get “easier” requirements because we are more complex than other countries. Now, however, most of the responsibility is on us, on the local political structures, on local political institutions. Europe gave a positive signal, gave the activation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement and said we had to stop to deal with the past and that we should turn to the future, which is a great chance for a new generation of political structures in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We need to turn to something which is the daily life of citizens, especially young people, who in the process of European integration should seek their chance.

We as a committee will sign protocols with universities in the Republic of Srpska, and we will ask other Committees to do the same, to allow as many young people, good senior students of the various faculties, to be involved in our work and to get a sense of what the process of European integration means.

EWB: Mr. Borenović, thank you for your detailed answers and your time. We wish you success in your work, primarily in the field of European integration. For sure, we wish you all the best in your political struggle.

Authors: Nemanja Todorovic Štiplija and Nikola S. Ristic

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