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EU chief urges Bosnia to abolish political discrimination

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(SARAJEVO) - EU president Herman Van Rompuy urged Bosnian leaders on Sunday to undertake reforms needed for the country's approach to the bloc, notably those abolishing political discrimination of Romas and Jews.

"I urge again the political representatives of Bosnia-Hercegovina to overcome their differences and build a shared vision for a stable, prosperous and democratic future for their country," Rompuy told journalists after meeting with members of Bosnia's tripartite presidency.

"It is my hope that Bosnia-Hercegovina will strive for progress in implementing all the necessary requirements, in particular the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights on the Sejdic-Finci case," he added.

The Strasbourg-based tribunal in 2008 condemned Bosnia for barring Jews and Romas from running for high elected office. The court ruled that the Balkan country was violating provisions of the convention prohibiting discrimination and upheld the right to free elections.

The court's ruling came from a lawsuit filed in 2006 by two prominent Bosnian public figures, Dervo Sejdic of Roma origin and Jakob Finci, a Jew, who claimed discrimination and a breach of their human rights.

Bosnia's constitution makes a distinction between two categories of citizens: "constituent peoples" -- Bosniaks (Muslims), Croats and Serbs -- and "others" -- Jews, Roma and other minorities.

Posts in the Bosnian parliament and its tripartite presidency are reserved for the three so-called constituent nations under the rules which were intended to prevent ethnic strife in the aftermath of Bosnia's 1992-1995 war.

A reform of the constitution is one of the main conditions for Bosnia to obtain European Union candidacy status.

In June, Brussels gave the former Yugoslav republic a new deadline to resolve the issue and amend its constitution by the end of November.

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