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Bosnia's Main Parties Agree To Change Constitution

The EU wants Bosnia to strengthen its central state before joining.
SARAJEVO (Reuters) -- Leaders of Bosnia's biggest Muslim, Croat, and Serb parties have called for parliament to begin revising the constitution, a key condition for joining the European Union.

Efforts to change the constitution enshrined in the Dayton peace treaty that ended the Bosnia's 1992-95 civil war have been in the works for two years.

But, interethnic squabbling has hampered progress to reform the charter to take away power from Bosnia's two autonomous entities, the Serb Republic and Muslim-Croat Federation, which have coexisted in an uneasy alliance since the end of the war.

"We have decided to ask the central parliament to start the procedure for constitutional reform," said Sulejman Tihic, the head of the main Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) after meeting with his Serb and Croat counterparts.

Tihic said the reform should allow for "more functional central institutions and the territorial organization of the central and lower levels of government." He did not elaborate.

Officials say revising the constitution is likely to be a lengthy process.

Lawmakers must first debate and accept the request by SDA, Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik's Alliance of Independent Social Democrats and the Croatian Democratic Union -- before a constitutional commission can be formed to draft a new charter.

The EU wants the Balkan country to strengthen its central state before it can join the 27-member bloc. A key EU accession condition, the reform of the state police, cannot be fully implemented until constitutional changes have been agreed.

Bosnia's main political parties reached a compromise deal last April to reform the separate police forces that have been run by the two regions since the war ended.

However, state control over the police agencies will enter into force only one year after Bosnia agrees to change the constitution.

Bosnia signed a pact with the EU in June that was the first step towards eventual membership of the bloc, nearly 13 years after the end of the war.