Bosnia and Herzegovina

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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Bosnia and Herzegovina

According to the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), governance over the environment is split between entities (Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina - FBiH and Republika Srpska - RS), the district of Brčko (BD), and at the cantonal/municipal level. The Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations (MoFTER) is the only institution at the state level empowered to exercise jurisdiction in environmental issues. While all environmental legislation operates at entity and BD levels, it is international agreements and projects which are coordinated by the MoFTER.

Article 3, Section 2 of the Constitution states that: “The Entities shall provide a safe and secure environment for all persons in their respective jurisdictions, by maintaining civilian law enforcement agencies operating in accordance with internationally recognized standards and with respect for the internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms”

Featured Legislation

The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina features a legal framework for Environmental Protection: The Laws on Environmental Protection, which contains legislation on:

  • Air protection
  • Waste management
  • The Protection of Nature
  • Environmental funds

1985: The Law on the Protection and Use of Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage of SR Bosnia and Herzegovina was brought into force.

2002: The Law on Forests was signed, identifying forests in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina as the property of the Federation.

2003: The Law on Environmental Protection of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (OG FBiH, No. 33/03, 38/09) was enacted.

2003: The Law on Nature Protection (OG FBiH, No. 33/03, 38/09, 66/13) was signed.

2003: The Law on Air Protection (OG FBiH, No. 4) in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina was signed and amended in 2010.

2003: The Law on Waste Management (OG FBiH, No. 33/03, 72/09) was passed, enforcing a legal framework for waste management operators to better regulate the specific waste streams and to establish a waste information system to be run by the Environmental Protection Fund of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

2008: The Law on National Park “Una" (OG FBiH, No. 44/08) was created to ensure biodiversity protection and the sustainable use of natural resources.

2008: The Environmental protection Strategy of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (2008-2018) was tabled. This Environmental protection Strategy of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina for the period from 2008 until 2018 prescribes general strategic issues regarding the environmental protection including nature, water, soil, air and waste management sectors and related objectives, action plans and designated aims. The components of the Federal Environmental Protection Strategy are: Federal nature protection strategy; Federal air protection strategy; Federal Waste Management Strategy; Federal strategy for water protection, i.e. water management, which is being developed in a separate document. Necessary measures that the state should take with the aim of development of environmental policy and faster progress towards full membership in the EU are as follows: establish adequate capacities at the state level (especially with a view to implementation of international environmental treaties) and enact the necessary laws at the state level; access the Kyoto Protocol, as this would allow foreign investment in the increase energy efficiency, the use of renewable energy; strengthen environmental capacities in entity ministries, especially inspection ministries services; carry out general implementation of environmental standards and criteria based on the strategy “Voluntary semi-membership", which would be the optimal basis for institutional development relations, not only in the environmental sector; carry out preliminary legal and economic analysis in order to accede to the conventions and protocols that BiH has not acceded to, and regulate their implementation on relations between state entities/cantons; work on the formation of an environmentally responsible market in BiH (sending signals to actors in economy that they need to behave environmentally friendly, the introduction of state programmes and environmental and economic incentives).

2009: The Law on Genetically Modified Organisms (OG BiH, No. 23) was introduced to ensure GMOs are subject to extensive, case-by-case, science-based food evaluation.

2012: The Red List of Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (OG RS, No. 124/12) was approved.

2012: The State of the Environment Report (SOER) of BiH was established, serving as one of the founding documents on environmental protection in BiH. The SOER provided a comprehensive overview of the state of the environment and trends, pressures and their effect on the environment in the following areas:

  • Forest resources
  • Land and Soil Resources
  • Surface and Groundwater Resources
  • Biological and Landscape Diversity
  • Air Pollution and Ozone Depletion
  • Climate change

2014: The Law on oil derivatives in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina was brought into force. This Law stipulates the official strategy for the development of the oil sector of the territory of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, including: the oil sector policy development, strategic development plan for the oil sector, the action plan, harmonization of plans, balance of petroleum products, energy activities in the oil sector the economy, the conditions and manner of performing energy activities, the import of petroleum products, the submission of data, the regulation of the oil sector, responsibilities and obligations of the Energy Regulatory Commission in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, work permits, content and manner of issuing licenses, register of licenses, secure supply of petroleum products markets, the price of petroleum products, the fees for the establishment of reserves of petroleum products, the quality of petroleum products, labeling of pumping machines, quality control, marketing of LPG in bottles, operating supplies, required reserves, reserves of petroleum products, and administrative and inspection rules.

2014: The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina approved the Red List of Endangered Wild Species and Subspecies of Plants, Animals and Fungi (OG FBiH, No. 7/14).

2017: The Environmental approximation Strategy of Bosnia and Herzegovina was implemented. The main objective of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Environmental approximation Strategy (or EAS) is to ensure strategic planning of the approximation process implementation of which would provide conditions for improving environmental protection with the aim of sustainable development. The environmental approximation process in fact consists of the transposition of environmental legislation of the European Union (EU) into the legislation in BiH and implementation of such environmental legislation in BiH. Implementation will require the development of sub-strategies and plans that identify what resources are needed and how they can be mobilized to complete the implementation of the acquis. Coordination of activities of different administrative authorities in BiH competent for the alignment of environmental legislation in BiH with the EU environmental acquis and its gradual implementation in accordance with the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) is a vital dimension of such commitment. Environmental approximation Strategy of Bosnia and Herzegovina can be seen as a strategic framework planning document, which should provide necessary conditions for fulfilling of international obligations accepted by BiH country-wide, in all constitutional parts of BiH, where competence for environmental issues is shared between its political units, i.e. Federation of BiH, Republic of Srpska and Brcko District of BiH. At a more technical level, this mean that Environmental approximation Strategy of Bosnia and Herzegovina shall also provide a reliable basic framework for development and adoption of the strategic documents of two entities (FBiH, RS) and Brcko District of BiH aimed at full transposition of the EU environmental acquis into their respective political systems. Implementation and enforcement of the FBiH, RS and BD of BiH legislation fully harmonized with the EU environmental legislation (acquis) are permanent activities of environmental authorities. Sub-sectors of this Strategy are as follows: Horizontal (cross-cutting) issues; Water Management; Waste Management; Air Quality and Climate Change; Industrial Pollution; Chemicals; Nature Protection; and Environmental Noise. The EU Marine Strategy, as well as the issues regarding ionizing and non-ionizing radiation are left out of the scope of this Strategy and they are not elaborated here. This implies a need for the BiH institutions to deal with these issues in separate strategic documents, or to include them into the first revision of EAS.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • State authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina have an obligation to collect and publish the data on pollution due to a 2003 directive; however, citizens face tremendous barriers to accessing information on which companies are responsible for air pollution. Air in Bosnia and Herzegovina is among the dirtiest in Europe and in 2020: The nation was ranked 10th in the PM2.5 pollution worldwide. Non-governmental organization Eko forum Zenica published a scathing report on the largest polluters for 2018: In an attempt to urge the governments to do the same. Data transparency is a major issue in Bosnia and Herzegovina and annual emission reports are now being made available online for users, but there are still concerns that websites are not user friendly. Access to this information is of paramount importance because in the European Union, coal power plants usually report up to 15 pollutants in their daily operations, while Bosnian coal power plant, Gecko, only published data on 3-5 chemicals in 2020. The release of certain heavy metals poses serious threats to human health and citizens have a right to know which chemicals are released into the air they breathe.
  • In its efforts to become a climate-resilient nation, Bosnia and Herzegovina is embarking on a journey to “green” the city of Zenica with the support of the UN Development Programme. This comes as a response to the chronic ​​flooding the country has faced due to climate change. UNDP funded projects include river-bed cleaning; ending the use of coal for municipal heating; and the UNDP’s Go Green Initiative via tree-planting.

References and Further Reading


Ministry of Environment and Tourism: