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Two Steps Forward, One Step Back in Bosnia & Herzegovina: A Buzz Interview with Nikolina Bajic of BDK Advokati

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back in Bosnia & Herzegovina: A Buzz Interview with Nikolina Bajic of BDK Advokati

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Legislative updates across the board in Bosnia & Herzegovina – with talks of criminalizing defamation, introducing electronic money, and overhauling the renewable energy framework – keep lawyers talking, according to Nikolina Bajic, Attorney at Law in cooperation with BDK Advokati.

“A contentious debate is brewing in Republika Srpska that could have far-reaching implications for all Bosnia & Herzegovina, centering on the issue of defamation,” Bajic begins. “In a surprising move in March, the RS government proposed that defamation should once again be treated as a criminal offense, reversing the significant progress made in 2003 when it was decriminalized.” Specifically, Bajic reports that four new criminal offenses including “insult, defamation, disclosure of personal and family information, and public humiliation based on race, religion, or nationality are being discussed. The penalties associated with these offenses are notably steep.”

Bajic adds that these proposed amendments are an alarming blow to the freedom of expression in RS, “especially considering the already substantial pressure exerted by the government on the media. Lawyers, media professionals, and politicians are engaged in heated debates, recognizing the threat this poses to the fundamental right of free speech,” she says, noting the EU has expressed its strong disapproval of these developments.

“The Minister of Justice has promised to take some suggestions from the public debates into account, although it remains unclear which suggestions will be considered and to what extent they will influence the final decision,” Bajic continues. “If the intention is truly to take a legislative step back, it is crucial that it be done thoughtfully and not through heavy-handed measures. Especially so with citizens being increasingly prepared to voice their concerns and objections, buoyed by recent regional events that have inspired a heightened sense of activism.”

Another interesting legislative development in Republika Srpska, according to Bajic, is that “in a move to keep pace with the rapid growth of modern financial services, the government is set to pass a law on electronic money, a concept yet to be embraced in Bosnia & Herzegovina.” Although still in the draft stage, this legislation aims to establish a framework for the issuance of electronic money for banks and microcredit organizations throughout the country. “The draft also introduced specialized companies that will be authorized to issue electronic money,” Bajic notes.

However, as this groundbreaking legislation approaches implementation, questions arose regarding the country's “preparedness for such a significant shift. Bosnia & Herzegovina is still grappling with e-document and e-signature challenges, making the introduction of electronic money an additional hurdle to overcome,” Bajic opines. “The operational capacity necessary to support this new financial landscape remains a concern, and devising a functional framework for its seamless operation could be a daunting task.”

Finally, Bajic reports that, after a while, the “Federation has formed a new government. One of the first items on its agenda is an update of the renewable energy framework.” This change comes after the adoption of a progressive law on renewable energy by RS in 2022, which left the “Federation reliant on an outdated 2014 law. The proposal includes a fresh framework and improved technical infrastructure designed to support the development of renewable energy sources as well as an overhauled incentive system ensuring the equitable allocation of incentives for both small and large producers,” Bajic explains. “With the potential to reduce carbon emissions, enhance energy efficiency, and contribute to a greener future, the pending renewable energy law holds considerable importance in the Federation's transition towards a more sustainable energy system,” she concludes.

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