Political bickering frustrated hopes that Bosnia would be able to move forward on its EU path. Bosnia remains dysfunctional yet constitutional reform isn’t forthcoming.
In 2012, the EU struggled to influence political disputes in the two Bosnian entities. The conflicting parties failed to meet the August deadline set by the EU to implement the Sejdić–Finci decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), end discrimination of individuals not belonging to any of the three “constitutive peoples”, and move closer to candidacy. In June, the governing coalition in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), the predominantly Bosniak and Croat-populated entity, collapsed because of squabbles between the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) and Zlatko Lagumdžija’s Social Democrats over the budget. The leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Milorad Dodik, said BiH was falling apart but also suffered considerable losses to the opposition Serbian Democrat Party at the October local elections in Republika Srpska.
The instability in both entities rules out all efforts at upgrading and making more functional the central level of governance, a key demand set by Brussels. What followed was a deal between Lagumdžija and Dodik resulting in SDA marginalisation. Croatian parties approved the agreement seeing an opportunity to use it as a stepping-stone for changing the rules for electing a Croat member of the tripartite state presidency in their favour. Critics have condemned the deal as unprincipled power-grabbing undermining democratic standards, in light of certain changes to electoral laws that ensued.
The EU had little leverage. In June, the European Commission issued a roadmap to prompt all parties to implement Sejdić–Finci, agree on a coordination mechanism to pass EU legislation, and ultimately launch a membership application at the end the year. But the roadmap was undercut by internal bickering. Part of the problem is EU member states’ continued division over the closure of the Office of the High Representative (OHR): Germany, France, and others insist on a speedy transition to a EU Special Representative (EUSR) and the UK opposes it (together with the US and Turkey). Still, 2012 saw the end of the international supervision in the special district of Brčko, a precedent for the OHR.