Speech by the Deputy Head of the EU Delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina Dr. Renzo Daviddi at the 10th anniversary ceremony of the establishment of High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of BiH

29 May 2014

President Novković, members of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and its Secretariat, distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen:

It is – also personally – a great pleasure and an honour to congratulate the HJPC on the occasion of its 10th anniversary. We are not here to applaud the fact that this strategically vital institution has worked already so long. Rather it is its many achievements, which we are here to celebrate and which we should not take for granted.

Let me first take a small step back to note where we started. Back in 2003, the EU conditioned the opening of SAA negotiations to the establishment of the single state-wide HJPC.  Why was it so important to us? For two strategic reasons:
First, the EU and the international community was – and remains – convinced that such an institution is needed to further strengthen the democratic principles of an independent, effective, efficient and professional judicial system. Second, such standards are a fundamental requirement for any country aspiring to become a member of the European Union.

Reflecting our conviction about the core importance of a unified state-wide HJPC,  after its establishment, we committed and engaged  in one of the most long term as well as successful institution building exercises in the country – and dare I say – in the Western Balkans region.

Jointly with our partners from Norway, the United Kingdom, the Kingdoms of Sweden and the Netherlands we have provided significant financial support to the justice sector in general and to the HJPC in particular to create a more efficient and professional court and prosecutorial system.

The HJPC had a very positive impact in terms of significantly reforming the judiciary throughout the country.

While the situation has greatly improved since the establishment of the single state-wide HJPC, I believe that we are also all aware that extensive challenges remain. These affect all transition countries – but are even more pronounced in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The complex system means that in BiH there are many conflicting views over the steps necessary to reform the justice sector.

The EU-BiH Structured Dialogue on Justice was created as a long term platform to address all these concerns and possible divergences, while channelling them through a constructive mutual dialogue. This has allowed a careful contextualisation of the judicial reform process in Bosnia and Herzegovina. On one hand the Structured Dialogue has clearly identified standards, best practices and stringent demands when it comes to the EU integration process and the rule of law. On the other hand we have to find ways of transposing and translating them into the particularly complex constitutional, historical and political context of the country.

This marriage of improving standards in Bosnia and Herzegovina on one hand and on the other hand facing the country’s particular context – has led to vital discussions on priority reforms in the key area of independence, effectiveness, efficiency and accountability of the judiciary.

Please allow me to say couple of words on each of this. On the key issue of the judiciary’s independence, the European Union declared, already in December 2012, that the institutional independence of the justice sector and therefore the HJPC is secured and that, while revision and amelioration are welcomed and continuously needed, structural reforms looking at reintroducing a role for the executive and/or the legislative in processes of selection and/or appointment of judicial offices would represent a clear setback to a successful reform.

It must also be recognised that the accountability principle, which is a corollary to independence, requires a higher level of attention than it was the case up until now. The most recent recommendations of the Structured Dialogue particularly stress the need to regulate the issues of conflict of interest in the judiciary, while the institutional position of the disciplinary prosecutor must be thoroughly reviewed in order to build a solid track record of disciplinary cases.

And finally, when it comes to efficiency and effectiveness: while we have seen some key achievements, much remains to be done to, for example, improve the investment environment and stimulate economic growth. This implies more effective adjudication and enforcement of commercial cases, as well as harmonisation of legislation and jurisprudence as to ensure greater equality of citizens before the law.

Similarly, the EU would wish to see a better track record in tackling high profile corruption and organised crime cases – which so far is missing. As well as to see Bosnia and Herzegovina close the painful chapter of the region’s largest war crimes cases backlog.
Ladies and gentlemen, the European future of Bosnia and Herzegovina is a reality. But if we are to look at a successful EU integration for the country, this means that the country and its judicial authorities at all levels will have to greatly speed up current reform processes.

This is a long, complex and time-demanding task – which we are committed to tackle with you. Whether through IPA or the Structured Dialogue, we will put means and processes at your disposal to progress further.  
But ultimately the delivery will continue to rely on all the members of the judiciary to ensure the reforms are fully implemented – and on the government to provide the adequate budgetary support and assurance of the judiciary’s independence.

I would like to conclude my remarks by saying once more there are many reasons to celebrate. The past ten years have been a successful and impressive journey for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s judiciary, also in comparison to the region –and it was great to be your partner in the process.

On that note, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to President Novkovic, who will hand over his position in a few weeks, his Council Colleagues and the highly professional HJPC staff. While a great deal remains to be done, without the HJPC, the judiciary in BiH would be at very different level than it is today.

Thank you very much.