Building environmental governance in potential candidate countries. Environmental impact assessment processes in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Adam Fagan


This chapter analyses the role of European Union (EU) in the process of building environmental governance in Bosnia, a potential candidate country, which suffers from weak stateness, both in terms of consolidated sovereignty and infrastructural capacities. The central research question posed here is whether EU conditionality regarding environmental management and regulation is generating compliance within the context of the much-criticized Dayton constitutional framework and contested state power, or is Bosnia proving a step too far for the transformative power of Europe? Although, as a potential candidate rather than candidate country, Bosnia’s progress is not judged directly according to compliance with the various chapters of the acquis, the annual progress reports provide detailed commentary on convergence with EU environmental procedures and norms. The empirical focus is the impact of EU norms designed to stimulate the participation of non-governmental actors in the process of environmental governance and regulation.

The commitment of foreign donors, in particular the EU, to supporting environmental NGOs and to developing new environmental policy frameworks across the post-socialist region dates from the early 1990s, and has led to rather high expectations regarding the prospects for ‘new modes’ of environmental governance (Carmin and Vandeveer 2004). At a superficial level at least, assistance from a host of bilateral and multilateral donors has served to institutionalize ‘green’ civil society networks via the emphasis placed by donors on building the capacity of recipients to participate in, for example, environmental impact assessment (EIA) processes. Such intervention may well have generated multi-level environmental governance in the Central and East European states that entered the EU in 2004. However, this chapter reveals that donor assistance has fostered only a degree of superficial professionalism and formal compliance without necessarily building or laying the foundations of environmental governance in Bosnia-Herzegovina.1

The recently established and still rather embryonic EIA process in Bosnia- Herzegovina (BiH) is used as a lens through which to assess both the degree of compliance with EU procedures, and to examine the roles and capacities of state and non-state actors in the process of building environmental governance. Scholars of EIA processes in post-socialist states have documented the extent to which EIA norms are often poorly implemented or translated into practice, resulting in local NGO networks playing rather ephemeral roles vis-a-vis investors or more powerful interests (Almer and Koontz 2004; Branis and Christopoulos 2005; Fagan 2001). The capacity of Bosnian environmental NGOs (ENGOs) has similarly progressed only slowly, and it is in fact lower than the quantitative summary data suggests. Yet the lack of progress can only partly be explained in terms of the capacity-building of non-governmental actors. The case of Bosnia shows that the extent to which state structures can enforce compliance, orchestrate cooperation between various actors, and cast a ‘shadow of hierarchy’ are critical determinants of the emergence of new modes of governance (Borzel and Risse 2005; Scharpf 1978).

By combining a quantitative analysis of the data gathered by the Regional Environmental Centre (REC) on environmental NGOs in BiH, plus qualitative semi-structured interview data with leading organizations, this chapter examines the extent to which ENGOs have the capacity to engage in policy deliberation, to become involved in EIAs as technical experts, as well as to mobilize communities as part of EIA processes. What is revealed is a discrepancy between the REC survey data on ENGOs operating in BiH, and the actual activity of the main organizations: the more prominent ENGOs, created as a consequence of the availability of donor funding, are small and rarely get involved in policy networks or in EIA processes. The ‘capacity’ of such organizations is project management capacity, and even that is restricted to an extremely narrow spectrum of predominantly urban organizations involved mainly in managing short-term grants and providing ‘green’ services, such as recycling and environmental education. Such organizations are less likely than small community-based ENGOs to become involved in EIAs, or to develop scientific or technical expertise. Whilst the increased managerial capacity of a handful of ENGOs is a positive development, it cannot and should not be equated with the emergence of environmental governance, nor with the institutionalization of non-state actors within policy networks more generally.

The chapter begins by briefly defining the concept of environmental governance. This is then followed by a discussion of the EIA process and its value as a portal for gauging the dynamics of power between state and non-state actors in the realm of environmental governance. An overview of the EIA process in BiH follows in order to establish the extent to which an EU compliant framework is in place. The remainder of the chapter consists of an exposition of the quantitative and qualitative data on which the argument is based.

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