Collective consumer protection as the subject of judicial training

Mirsad Ćeman (VP Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina) presenting his book on the reasons given for court decisions
Mirsad Ćeman (VP Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina) presenting his book on the reasons given for court decisions
Bosnia and Herzegovina

On 26 February 2019, an event on “Collective legal protection in the legislation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in light of EU Law (consumer protection and non-discrimination)” was held in partnership with the IRZ at the Centre for Education of Judges and Prosecutors of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The main speaker at the event was Professor Dr. Zlatan Meskic, who completed his legal training at the University of Vienna, where he wrote his thesis on “European Consumer Legislation, with a particular Focus on the 2007 Green Paper”.

This allowed him to compare European regulations with national legislation, as well with the jurisdiction of national courts and of the Competition Council, which is responsible for various complaints from associations. The lively discussions, which followed on from the introductory presentations on various sub-topics, focussed on protection against unreasonable general contract terms and collective legal protection in consumer rights. The latter should have been improved by the 2015 reform to the code of civil procedure, involving the introduction of a “claim to protect collective interests (article 453 a to h) to the code of civil procedure for the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In practice, however, there are still various shortcomings in the implementation of these reforms. These range from a lack of knowledge amongst judges of the consumer protection legislation to insufficient legal provisions and a lack of organisational prerequisites, such as a register for consumer complaints.

At the start of the event, the former President and current Vice-President of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mirsad Ćeman, also presented his book on an “Introduction to the Reasons given for Court Decisions”. According to the author, this is one of the few works in the region, which is devoted to this important, but often neglected, topic. With this book, Mirsad Ćeman wants to contribute towards improving the quality of reasons given for court decisions in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and beyond.

Graduates of the supplementary course in German law are ambassadors for the good relations between Germany and Bosnia and Herzegovina

Graduates and professors of the supplementary course with Christian Sedat (2nd from right) from the German Embassy
Graduates and professors of the supplementary course with Christian Sedat (2nd from right) from the German Embassy

On 29 January 2019, an award ceremony was held at the Faculty of Law in Sarajevo for the third generation of graduates from the German-language supplementary course in German law. The setting for the presentation was an event on the influence of German law on the law of Bosnia and Herzegovina and on issues concerning the translation of the law from German into Bosnian and vice-versa.

The event was opened by the Vice Dean for International Cooperation, Prof. Dr. Zinka Grbo, who also presented an overview of the various activities that have taken place throughout the almost 20-year partnership between the Faculty and the IRZ. Afterwards, Christian Sedat, representing the German Ambassador Christine Hohmann, gave a welcome speech on the significance and sustainability of support for the training of future law professionals. He also said that the graduates of the supplementary course are special ambassadors for the cooperation between Germany and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The specialist tutor for the supplementary course, Professor Dr. Meliha Povlakic, then gave a lecture on the influence of German law on the law of Bosnia and Herzegovina. She started by pointing out that previous graduates of the programme have reported on the considerable advantages it has given them when applying for jobs. With regard to the influence of German law on that of Bosnia and Herzegovina, she stressed that this was subject to economic fluctuations. She also expressed her regret that reform measures, which were clearly oriented towards German law, had subsequently been reversed. She talked about a “circulation of legal models” in this context.

In the subsequent lecture on “Selected problems with translation in the field of law”, Dr. Stefan Pürner, IRZ Head of Section for Bosnia and Herzegovina and other countries, pointed out that German source language texts should be prioritised over English for the translation of EU legal texts into the Bosnian language. The reason for this, he said, is that Germany and Bosnia and Herzegovina are more compatible in terms of both the legal system and the language, compared with the English language and Common Law. As such, it is an advantage for aspiring law professionals from Bosnia and Herzegovina to learn the German language.

The main focus of the event was on the progress report given by Kanita Purscanovic, a graduate of the supplementary course, who now works as an assistant in a criminal law department. She presented the study course, the additional knowledge gained as a result and the joint events with students from other succession states of former Yugoslavia.

At the event, the considerable practical advantages of the “IRZ German law library at the Faculty of Law in Sarajevo”, which was set up thanks to a generous financial contribution from the German Insurance Association (Gesamtverband der Deutschen Versicherungswirtschaft or GDV), were highlighted once again.

The curriculum for this additional course was inspired by expert knowledge gained from the supplementary course on Eastern European Law at the University of Regensburg, which was developed by Prof. Dr. Dres. h.c. Friedrich-Christian Schroeder. Professor Schroeder is the Scientific Director at the Munich Institute for Eastern European Law based in Regensburg (IOR), with which the IRZ has a close working relationship.

Bosnia and Herzegovina: 10 year old anti-discrimination legislation put to the test

Vaša Prava Director Emir Prcanović at his opening remarks
Vaša Prava Director Emir Prcanović at his opening remarks
Bosnia and Herzegovina

On 12 December 2018, the IRZ organised another conference in Sarajevo together with the non-governmental organisation Vaša Prava. Vaša Prava operates a cross-entity network of legal advice bureaus for victims and people in need. The conference, which was financed by funds from the German Federal Foreign Office allocated to Germany’s contribution to the Stability Pact for South-East Europe, focussed on the practical application of the “law prohibiting discrimination” in the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was held on the tenth anniversary of the law coming into effect.

Following on from the opening of the event by Vaša Prava Director Emir Prcanović, there were two speeches to establish the theoretical foundations. These speeches referred to numerous practical cases. The speakers were Professor Dr. Zlatan Meskić, Zenica, who studied and obtained his doctorate in Vienna, and the German lawyer, Holger Hembach, who has gained a great deal of experience in the region as a former employee of the OSCE in Macedonia and Serbia.

These opening lectures were followed by speeches on the application of the anti-discrimination law in Bosnia and Herzegovina. These speeches were made by Ahmet Salčin and Adnan Kadribašić. They not only provided information on jurisdiction in practice, but also gave specific advice on the appropriate formulation of claims.

Following on from these lectures, lively discussions took place, during which the participants were also able to talk about their own experiences as advisers and representatives of the citizens concerned. The discussions led to the identification of various problem areas, which need to be dealt with in future. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, there have been some cases of discrimination, which have attracted interest nationwide. Overall, however, the number of these kinds of legal disputes is much lower than might have been expected, given the social relations in the country. One of the reasons for this may be that there is still a lack of awareness amongst the general population that it is possible to successfully bring a court case against discrimination. Another cause, however, may be inconsistent jurisdiction, which is often even contradictory within the same court. Some of the people participating in the discussions believed that this was caused by the fact that, due to the specific nature of the state structure in Bosnia and Herzegovina, there is no Supreme Court for the country as a whole.

The sustainability of the event was supported by providing all the participants with two comprehensive books, published in their own language, on the relevant case law of the ECtHR and of the ECJ, which were produced by the IRZ for previous projects.