May 19, 2015 / 12:52 PM / in 3 years

Bosnian Serb lawmakers withdraw 'Putin's bill' as anti-European

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia (Reuters) - Lawmakers in Bosnia’s Serb Republic on Tuesday withdrew a draft law dubbed ‘Putin’s Bill’ that sought to put foreign-funded non-profit groups under government control.

The law takes its nickname from a bill that Russian President Vladimir Putin approved in 2012, obliging foreign-funded groups deemed to be engaging in political activity there to register as “foreign agents” with the Justice Ministry and submit to monitoring and regulation.

The three ruling parties in the Bosnian Serb Republic gave up on the law after a parliamentary committee said it was anti-European.

The aborted legislation referred to members of non-government organizations (NGOs) as “foreign servants”, echoing the Russian law.

“Fortunately, common sense has prevailed in the Committee for European integration and the law has not entered the procedure,” said opposition deputy Dragan Cavic, calling the bill “anti-constitutional, anti-democratic and discriminatory”.

Bosnia is made up of the Serb Republic and the Bosniak-Croat Federation, linked via a weak central government. It aspires to join the European Union but ethnic and political bickering has halted progress for years.

In the latest bid to unblock the process, the European Union has agreed to put in force in June a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Bosnia, a first formal agreement with the 27-member bloc.

The lawmakers have also withdrawn a bill that aimed to introduce stricter terms for public gatherings.

“It’s obvious that strong public pressure, primarily from the civic sector and some in the international community, has influenced some deputies to realize that such a draft bill could not be approved,” said Ivana Korajlic from watchdog Transparency International.

The ruling SNSD party of Serb Republic President Milorad Dodik, who wants to strengthen ties with Moscow, said it would instead propose amendments to the existing law on NGOs.

In February, parliament passed an amended law on public order, introducing fines for social media posts deemed offensive and disruptive, despite warnings from watchdogs and embassies that it would further curb freedom of speech in the region.

Reporting by Gordana Katana, writing by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Zoran Radosavljevic and Ruth PItchford

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