New Bosnian government approved 3 months after elections

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Bosnia’s parliament on Wednesday approved a new government led by the small Balkan country’s first female prime minister, which will be tasked with approving sweeping reforms to further Bosnia’s European Union accession bid.

The government was supported by lawmakers from 10 political parties that overcame their ideological differences to form a coalition after the ethnically divided country’s October election.

The coalition, as mandated by the Bosnian Constitution, includes representatives of the country’s three main ethnic groups – Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs.

The nine ministers were proposed by Prime Minister Borjana Kristo, an ethnic Croat.

The EU decided in December last year to add Bosnia to the list of official candidates to join the 27-nation bloc despite continuing criticism of the way the country is run. But Kristo’s government will have to adopt and implement a raft of political, social and economic reforms as part of the accession process.

For the first time in over a decade, the governing majority excludes the main Bosniak nationalist party, SDA. It still includes the long-entrenched Croat and Serb nationalist parties, Kristo’s HDZ and the SNSD, which is led by staunchly pro-Russian Serb politician Milorad Dodik.

However, as part of the coalition agreement, the HDZ and SNSD pledged to focus on bread-and-butter issues rather than stoking the ethnic tensions that have never been far from the surface since the end of Bosnia’s brutal 1992-95 interethnic war.

EU expansion had stalled in recent years. But since Russia attacked Ukraine in late February, EU officials have emphasized that stepping up the bloc’s engagement with Western Balkan nations was more crucial than ever to maintaining Europe’s security.