Bosnians bow to pressure to reform

December 2, 2005

With the tenth anniversary of the Dayton Peace Accords imminent, the Bosnian Government has relented to international pressure and set up a task force to draft a higher education law.

The failure of the country's Parliament to pass a framework law streamlining universities and controlling the power of faculties led to the cancellation of World Bank aid in 2004.

The task force, chaired by Adnan Terzic, Prime Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), aims to produce framework legislation consistent with the Bologna Process and other international higher education obligations.

December 9, just a few days before the anniversary of the accords, has been set as a target date to end the deadlock, which has cost the country millions of dollars in World Bank support.

Matthew Rycroft, Britain's ambassador in Sarajevo, is co-chair of the task force. He said: "The chart of progress against the Bologna commitments is frightening - BiH is at the bottom of the pile."

Unlike every other Bologna state, Bosnia was unable to present a positive account of its progress to education ministers in Bergen, Norway, in May.

Martin Ney, Deputy High Representative, said after the task force's first session that the Office of the High Representative was encouraged by the commitment to produce a law, starting with the creation of integrated and autonomous universities.

Before the task force was convened, Douglas Davidson, head of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe mission to BiH, said:

"It is high time that the political leadership began to focus on the solutions to these issues rather than on the obstacles."

Diplomats were angered by the Parliament's failure to pass the law, noting that it had cost Bosnia's universities $12 million (£7 million). They warned of an accelerating brain drain and isolated universities whose diplomas were not widely recognised if the law was not implemented.

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