EU and BiH hold 6th PAR Special Group on 6th June 2023

The 6th meeting of the Special Group on Public Administration Reform (PAR) for Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) took place on 6th June 2023. The meeting was co-chaired by Mr, Davor Bunoza, Minister of Justice of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Mr Vassilis Maragos, Head of Unit at the Directorate General on Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations of the European Commission (DG NEAR), with participation of other ministers in charge of public administration at entities and Brcko district level.

The Commission welcomed the participation of the competent Ministers in the first dialogue on PAR since the formation of authorities after the elections of October 2022 and highlighted the need and the window of opportunity for Bosnia and Herzegovina to focus on the EU agenda and deliver on public administration reform by completing the required essential steps to improve the overall functioning of public administration by ensuring a professional and depoliticised civil service and a coordinated country-wide approach to policy making, in line with the 2019 Commission Opinion on EU membership of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the 2022 progress report.

With regard to the overall policy on PAR, the Commission reiterated the need to revise the Action Plan on PAR, while prioritising efforts also on digitalisation of services and establish a political decision-making body to steer reforms, while strengthening PAR Coordinators at entity level. With regard to the financial sustainability of public administration reforms, the Commission called upon Bosnia and Herzegovina to enhance ownership of the Action Plan including by ensuring its credible costing and use of its own administrative resources as much as possible.

As to public finances, the Commission welcomed the adoption of the comprehensive Public Financial Management strategy in 2022 and urged its consistent implementation. It also emphasised the need to launch a PFM dialogue by autumn 2023 in order to ensure transparent and effective use of public funds for better services, as a key element of public policy and ensuring links between policy making and the budgetary process.

As for civil service reform, the Commission stressed the need to address fragmentation and politicisation, which hinder professionalisation of the administration and the delivery of services to the citizens. The Commission also reiterated the importance of providing transparency in human resource management data, by establishing functional registries and building capacities of civil service agencies in monitoring and data collection until December 2023.

With regard to a country wide approach to policy making, Commission welcomed all recent new regulations on policy making and planning system at all levels, as a first step in this reform process, which will also require further engagement at the state level..

The Commission also emphasised that accountability is an essential element of public administration reform.  In this respect it encouraged the regular publication of monitoring reports, reporting to parliament and dialogue with civil society. Accountability also implies more progress when it comes to the implementation of the recommendations of the Ombudsman, and improved pro-active disclosure of information, across all levels, while ensuring a harmonised approach in the regulation and standards on Free Access to Information. Finally, with regard to service delivery, Commission urged to put all enabling conditions in place for digitalising services, by among others adopting the e-signature law and defining political and technical  leadership and developing a comprehensive e–government policy.