First, when the Sofia Conference was held in September, 1995, Bosnia and Herzegovina was torn apart, approaching the fourth year of the war. Second, like any other former communist country, Bosnia and Herzegovina has no democratic tradition. In order words, all legislation taken over from ex-Yugoslavia lack democratic institutions and transparent procedure, which would, if they were in place, enable broader public participation.
Third, the internal organizational structure of the country is very complex. Bosnia and Herzegovina is envisaged as a very decentralized state. In the period when all aspects of life are particularly sensitive, this can make things even more complicated as there is always the possibility for some issues to be misinterpreted or not implemented. As a consequence of all of these facts, the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina know very little about environmental issues; almost all public participation in environmental issues is on the local level.
However, there have been many positive achievements with the substantial help of the international community. One of these is certainly the establishment and nurturing of all the major state and federal institutions. Even though there are still some substantial problems in certain areas of establishing institutions on the state level (i.e. the Parliamentary Assembly is still not performing its legislative duty, due to an absence of consent between the entities. Some laws had to be put into force by the High Representative, Mr. Vestendorp). Nonetheless, both the Federation and Republika Srpska are beginning to resemble the shape of a constitutional state.
Institutions for enforcing legislation are now functioning more or less normally, except in some areas like Mostar and Brcko, where there is still tension between former warring parties and substantial efforts by international peacekeeping forces to sustain the peace. The judicial system is taking over its responsibilities as well, being closely watched by various international NGOs in order to encourage its independence. The government structure is organized in a way that most modern governments are, including Ministry for Physical Planning and Environment, that is expected to play a significant role once the pending legislation comes into force, that will ensure the legal framework and broaden the competencies of the ministry compared to the pre-war years.
The structure and the provisions of the draft laws are being adjusted to comply with European standards, and providing sufficient funding is a responsibility of the state and international donor community. The level of environment protection might in the next few years catch up with the rest of the CEE countries, especially the neighboring countries (i.e. Croatia, Yugoslavia, and Slovenia) where the basis for future collaboration in environmental protection stems from a half century of common institutions under the umbrella of the then common state.
Still, many things clearly must be done in order to develop a proper institutional framework for public participation. As can be seen from this report, a set of draft laws represents an improvement in comparison to the former legislation. But these drafts also do not address public participation issues in many important respects. New environmental legislation must take this into consideration and be updated accordingly. In order to avoid the gap, harmonization of Bosnia's legislation with European standards should include simultaneous effort of both entities (the Federation and Republika Srpska). Education of government officials should follow the legislation update. An ignorant attitude toward the role of public participation is inherited from the previous system, in which only a minority were privileged to have the opportunity to participate in public affairs.
Public education is also an important issue. Citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina need to understand their role and why they need to participate in environmental issues. The presence of many international organizations and their heavy involvement in supporting economic reconstructing in the country and establishment of its democratic institutions, represent an advantage for development of a more effective institutional framework for public participation.
As far as the situation in Republika Srpska is concerned, research was restricted to indirect information acquired through studying the constitution, without the possibility to do the research on the ground. We hope to remedy this shortcoming in the next report.