BiH Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted on 10 April in Sarajevo a Second meeting of the European Union and Council of Europe joint Programme “Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey” to review the progress achieved to date under this Programme.

The three-year Horizontal Facility (May 2016 – May 2019) aims to assist authorities in South-East Europe to achieve greater compliance with European standards in three key areas: ensuring justice, fighting corruption, economic crime and organised crime, as well as combating discrimination and the protection of the rights of vulnerable groups. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, EUR 2.7 million are allocated for four projects: Enhancing human rights protection for detained and sentenced persons; Strengthening the Human Rights Ombudsman to fight discrimination; Quality Education in multi-ethnic societies and Strengthening the protection of national minorities.

Today’s meeting was attended by officials from the Ministries of Justice at state and entities level, the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees, Ministry of Civil Affairs, the Centers for Education of Judges and Prosecutors, as well as representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Directorate of European Integration, the Delegation of the European Union and the Council of Europe.

Almir Sahovic, Assistant Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, pointed to the importance of this collaboration between the European Union, Council of Europe and the national authorities in bringing the country closer to European standards, especially in the context of the application of Bosnia and Herzegovina for the European Union membership.

Pilar Morales, Head of Programming Department of the Office of Directorate General of Programmes of the Council of Europe, stressed the added value of the Horizontal Facility, as programmatic instrument addressing recommendations of the Council of Europe monitoring bodies, aiming at fulfilling the BiH’s commitments taken upon accession to the CoE, the BiH’s reform agenda and the EU accession process.

Melvin Asin, Head of Cooperation of the European Union Delegation to BiH, highlighted some of the results achieved so far and underlined the continued support of the EU together with the Council of Europe in assisting BiH authorities towards EU accession in the areas of justice, law enforcement, human and minority or social rights. “In practical terms, EU/CoE through this Programme assisted the Ombudsperson Institution to better combat hate crime and hate speech. Moreover, the regional cooperation and knowledge exchange on EU anti-discrimination standards, prevention and protection mechanisms was further strengthened. To further enhance the protection of human rights of sentenced and detained persons, following extensive training to staff from prisons and enforcement agencies, a team of law enforcement trainers was established which is accredited to deliver human-rights based training programmes. Last, but not least, the new Handbook on prisoner management (the first document of its kind, produced and delivered in BiH) will allow for consistent handling of prisoners according to European standards,” said Asin.

The Horizontal Facility has a budget of EUR 25 million, of which EUR 20 million  has been provided by the European Union and EUR 5 million by the Council of Europe. Through the Horizontal Facility, the European Union and the Council of Europe will assist beneficiaries in South-East Europe and Turkey to comply with Council of Europe standards and the European Union acquis, through a complementary two-fold approach of technical co-operation and the provision of expertise.