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An end to BiHs consequence-free environment – Sarajevo Times

An end to BiHs consequence-free environment – Sarajevo Times

An end to BiHs consequence-free environment – Sarajevo Times

The most rewarding, challenging, and frustrating experience in my professional career was being the UK Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The country’s near constant turmoil and self-interest, as well as the failure to improve its citizens’ quality of life, are the main causes of my frustrations and challenges.

The current crisis in which Milorad Dodik, a BiH President, and the RS National Assembly attempt reversal of the progress of the last 26 year is a dangerous distraction to corruption. It uses hate speech and ignores the legal order of the country. The steps it lays out will destroy the security and prosperity RS and other areas of the BiH and rob people of the brighter tomorrow they deserve.

I have been thinking about how this situation is connected to so many other problems facing citizens, such as deep-rooted corruption and poor public services. These issues go beyond one politician, party or government. I have had many conversations about this topic with people from Trebinje to Bihac to Livno and Brcko as well as those who have already left the country in search of better opportunities elsewhere. What could be done to change the calculations of those who are determined to secure benefits for themselves, their family and others, regardless of the risk or cost?

Although it is not a new conclusion, my conclusion is that BiH has been far too long a consequence-free environment. Individuals have the freedom to steal from public funds, block reforms, praise war criminals and manipulate elections. They can also choose to bribe, denial of justice, threaten, undermine institutions and divide without any negative consequences for themselves. The actual consequences of doing the wrong thing is rare. Why not do the right thing?

This change in calculation is what I believe is the key to creating a new direction in BiH and breaking the cycle. This could be the only way to encourage more of the country’s brightest and best to stay and succeed. It is the least we can do to help those in BiH who work so hard to ensure a decent lifestyle for themselves and their families.

Both internal and external consequences can result. Externally, that could mean the use sanctions or other restrictive actions against the people who have taken these steps. Although it is difficult and legally challenging, the UK is already working on this. We are also reviewing all our assistance programs, just like other friends of the nation, to ensure that UK taxpayer money doesn’t support individuals or institutions trying to undermine the legal system of the country. We want to protect innocent citizens of BiH from the negative effects of these changes. As significant contributors of the World Bank, IMF, or other international financial institution, we must ensure that strict conditions are applied to any further support. We don’t want to support arrangements that indirectly reinforce negative agendas in BiH.

Domestic consequences are equally important. Rule of law simply means that no one is above the law. Those who violate the law should be investigated and prosecuted without prejudice or favor. These processes can be started by the BiH’s own judiciary.

The strongest domestic sanction comes on Election Day, when voters can remove those who fail to act in the best interest of their constituents. While those in power believe that voting doesn’t result in change, they are confident that patronage networks will ensure their votes. This prevents improvements in the rigor of the voting process. It is important to see improvements in the integrity and fairness of the vote, all of which have been described in years of OSCE recommendations. It’s not surprising that those at the top of the current system don’t want to see changes. Citizens can force their politicians to adopt a different vision. We won’t allow anyone to stop the October vote.

In recent months, the UK has repeatedly expressed its support for BiH and its people. We will not allow 26 years worth of hard-won achievements in BiH to be undone. The UK Parliaments Foreign Affairs Committee will soon visit us, looking at ways to support the stability and success in BiH. Also, the International Development Committee will be visiting, looking at global ways to prevent atrocities. I look forward to having the opportunity to discuss with them and the BiHans with whom they interact, how we can end this country’s consequence-free environment.

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