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EU Says Progress Achieved At Marathon Bosnia Talks

European Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele addresses a news conference after a meeting with Bosnian leaders in Prague on December 3.
European Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele addresses a news conference after a meeting with Bosnian leaders in Prague on December 3.
PRAGUE -- EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele says "some positive progress" has been achieved at marathon talks with Bosnian leaders to remove a key obstacle to the country's EU integration.

The 16-hour talks in Prague, which ended in the early hours of December 3, were aimed at reaching an agreement on changes to the electoral system of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The changes are necessary for the implementation of a 2009 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in a case filed by Dervo Sejdic, a Romany activist, and Jacob Finci, who is Jewish.

The changes must guarantee the right of all citizens, regardless of ethnicity, to be elected to all electoral positions, including the collective presidency.

Under the Bosnian Constitution, negotiated as part of the Dayton peace accords that ended the 1992-95 war, certain electoral positions can be held only by representatives of the constituent nations of Croats, Bosniak Muslims, and Serbs.

Failure to implement the court's "Sejdic-Finci" ruling has held back Bosnia's efforts to apply for EU membership.

Fuele, at a briefing early on December 3, said the leaders had achieved some progress on the issue of selecting representatives to the House of Peoples, the 15-member chamber of the Parliamentary Assembly equally divided between Croats, Bosniaks, and Serbs, as well as on elections to the tripartite collective presidency.

But he cautioned: "Now, it is necessary that the political leaders remain committed and continue their efforts to find the solution on the last remaining element for the election of the members of the presidency. Only then Bosnia-Herzegovina can start to move again on its European path."

Bakir Izetbegovic, the Bosniak Muslim member of the presidency, appeared confident a final deal would be struck.

"I think we've made a good deal for the election of the House of Peoples and almost entirely for the election of the Bosnian presidency. We could have completed the whole deal," Izetbegovic said.

"However, we were consumed by fatigue. Hence, the negotiations will most probably continue in Sarajevo. In a few days, we'll strike a deal and then we'll go to Brussels to sign it."

Several of the political leaders who participated in the talks did not take part in the news conference.

Milorad Dodik, the president of the Bosnian Serb entity, Republika Srpska, left the talks early, saying the meeting was nothing more than posturing.

The talks are expected to continue at the expert level later this week in Sarajevo.

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