Bosnia lawmakers end power struggle over judges

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 25, 2013 1:07 PM

By Daria Sito-Sucic

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Lawmakers moved to end a near year-long political standoff that has paralyzed government in Bosnia's autonomous Muslim-Croat federation on Thursday, when they finally agreed to appoint judges to a top court.

The decision will allow the Muslim, Serb and Croat judges to meet in the Constitutional Court and reach a long-delayed ruling on the validity of a new coalition government which ministers had hoped to set up last year.

The impasse in the Federation, one of two regions in Bosnia along with the Serb Republic, is symptomatic of the complex and unwieldy system of rule in the Balkan country under the peace accords that ended its 1992-95 war.

The standoff has stalled reforms that were meant to help attract foreign investors and get access to international funding.

The IMF has called on the Federation to play its part in cutting red tape and improving business and banking laws in a country which is already trailing its fellow former Yugoslav republics in the long road to membership of the European Union.

"This is a vitally important step ... The citizens of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina are entitled to a fully functioning Constitutional Court," Bosnia's international peace overseer Valentin Inzko said in a statement.

Problems started in July last year when a new coalition government was formed at the national level and tried to replicate the alliance in the Federation.

It started organizing a reshuffle that would have meant the ejection of ministers from the largest Bosnian Muslim, or Bosniak, party, the SDA.

The SDA blocked a confidence vote on the new regional coalition in February, referring the decision to the Constitutional Court.

The party then blocked the appointment of a proposed Bosniak judge for the court, effectively bringing the whole process to a halt.

A breakthrough came after Federation President Zivko Budimir earlier this month proposed new Bosniak judges who the SDA said were acceptable.

Commentators said it could take as long as the autumn for the judges to reach a decision on the coalition government, giving lawmakers little time to pass laws before campaigning starts again for elections due in October 2014.

The country has lurched from one political crisis to another since the end of the war.

(Editing by Andrew Heavens)