Bosnia adopts two key EU-sought laws
(SARAJEVO) - Bosnia's parliament on Friday passed two laws regarded as vital for the country's efforts to join the European Union.
Adoption of the laws -- on a census and on the distribution of state aid -- by both houses of parliament in the Balkan state were among conditions that Bosnia has to meet in order to apply for EU membership candidate status.
Bosnia also has to prove that it has launched a credible process to amend its constitution, which has been labelled discriminatory against Jews and Romas by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
The laws were adopted following a deal reached by leaders of Bosnia's Croats, Muslims and Serbs in December that ended an almost 15-month political deadlock and led to the formation of a new government.
The EU delegation in Bosnia welcomed the laws, saying they were "crucial for the next steps of the country on its EU integration path," but also called on authorities to make progress in implementing the ECHR ruling.
The Strasbourg-based court in 2009 condemned Bosnia for having forbidden Jews and Roma to stand for key elected posts, including in parliament and the presidency.
Bosnia's constitution makes a distinction between two categories of citizen: "constituent peoples" -- Bosniacs (Muslims), Croats and Serbs -- and "others" including Jews, Roma and other minorities.
Only members of the "constituent peoples" can be elected to the presidency and parliament, under rules which were intended to prevent ethnic strife in the wake of the 1992-1995 war.
According to the newly-adopted law, Bosnia is to hold a census in April 2013, two years after all other countries in the region.
The last census, conducted in 1991 when Bosnia was still a part of Yugoslavia, found that it had 4.4 million inhabitants, of whom 43.7 percent were Muslims, 31.4 percent Serbs and 17.3 Croats.
But the 1992-1995 war led to significant demographic change. It cost some 100,000 lives, while 2.2 million people were forced to flee their homes, moving mostly to regions within the country controlled by their own ethnic group.
The war left Bosnia split into two semi-independent entities -- the Serbs' Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation -- each having its own government.
Population data are needed notably so that Bosnia can receive aid provided by the EU to its future members.
Of the six former Yugoslav republics, Slovenia has been an EU member since 2004, while Croatia is set to join the 27-nation bloc next year.
Text and Picture Copyright 2012 AFP. All other Copyright 2012 EUbusiness Ltd. All rights reserved. This material is intended solely for personal use. Any other reproduction, publication or redistribution of this material without the written agreement of the copyright owner is strictly forbidden and any breach of copyright will be considered actionable.