The President of the Republic of Srpska Željka Cvijanović addressed the Deputies at the National Assembly of the Republic of Srpska special session:

Mr Speaker of the Republic of Srpska National Assembly,

Honourable deputies,

Prime Minister and Ministers,

Dear citizens of the Republic of Srpska,

The National Assembly of the Republic of Srpska, at its 12th special session held on 28 March 2020, passed a Decision Declaring the State of Emergency in the Territory of the Republic of Srpska due to the Epidemiological Situation Caused by the Coronavirus.

This decision was published in the “Official Gazette of the Republic of Srpska” Nr. 31 of 2 April 2020 and entered into effect on the day following its publication, namely on 3 April 2020.

The declaration of the state of emergency was preceded by the Decision of the Republic of Srpska Government Declaring the State of Emergency in the Territory of the Republic of Srpska, passed on 16 March 2020.

The declaration of a state of emergency in the territory of the Republic of Srpska enabled the institutions, in conditions of a pandemic, to solve health, social welfare, economic and humanitarian problems more efficiently, in circumstances when the National Assembly is unable to convene regularly due to restrictions on movement and the ban on gatherings.

And, as you know, under a state of emergency, and if the National Assembly is unable to convene, Article 81 of the Constitution of the Republic of Srpska provides that the President of the Republic of Srpska is authorised to pass decree-laws on issues within the competence of the National Assembly, and to appoint and dismiss officials who, in normal circumstances, are appointed and dismissed by the National Assembly.

As provided for by the Constitution, the President of the Republic of Srpska shall issue decree-laws on his/her own initiative or at the proposal of the Republic of Srpska Government, and upon obtaining the opinion of the Speaker of the Republic of Srpska National Assembly.

In accordance with the constitutional powers of the President of the Republic and the prescribed procedure, in the course of the state of emergency, 19 decree-laws were passed that way, in order to regulate various matters in the immediate interest of the economic sector and the citizens of the Republic of Srpska.  Depending on the matters regulated by them, the application of some of the decree-laws is exhausted in circumstances of the state of emergency declared in the Republic of Srpska, some will be applied during the emergency situation, while some involve amendments to existing legal arrangements, thus their application will be of a more permanent nature.

It is important to stress that all decree-laws were passed exclusively at the proposal of the Republic of Srpska Government and, of course, by previously obtaining the opinion of the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Srpska.  Thus, despite the option provided for by the Constitution, no decree-law was passed on the President’s own initiative.

It should also be noted that the adoption of such decree-laws was always preceded by consultations at which the Prime Minister and the competent ministers explained the purpose, content and scope of the decrees.  Furthermore, those consultations, apart from by the Republic of Srpska President, were attended by the Speaker of the National Assembly, who is also the Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Matters, as well as by the Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Legislative Matters.

Taking into account that, under emergency circumstances, the decree-laws needed to enter into effect as soon as possible, pursuant to paragraph 1 of Article 109 of the Constitution of the Republic of Srpska, together with every decree-law that was passed, we also enacted a decision establishing the outstanding and justified reason for its early entry into effect, namely, on the day following its publication in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Srpska.

As we said, under the said procedure, as provided for by the Constitution, in the course of the state of emergency in the Republic of Srpska, 19 such Decrees were passed, those being:

1. Decree–Law Prohibiting the Causing of Panic and Disorder for the Duration of the State of Emergency,

Prepared by the MoI, the proponent being the Republic of Srpska Government, this Decree-Law was passed and published in the “Official Gazette of the Republic of Srpska” Nr. 32/20 as of 6 April 2020, and entered into effect on 7 April 2020.

The objective of its adoption, as explained by the proponent, was to prevent the spread of misinformation with the objective of manipulating the situation and causing panic in the population, which would consequently hinder the work of institutions in fighting the epidemic and reduce the ability of citizens to obtain accurate information, crucial in such a crisis.  We must say that similar legal provisions were introduced or were already in place in the legal provisions of all countries in the region, but also of certain EU members.

2. Decree–Law on the Cessation of the Decree-Law Prohibiting the Causing of Panic and Disorder for the Duration of the State of Emergency,

This Decree-Law was passed at the proposal of the Government of the Republic of Srpska on 16 April 2020, and published in the “Official Gazette of the Republic of Srpska” Nr. 38/20 as of the same date.  It entered into effect on the following day.  It was adopted on basis of the assessment that the measures prescribed for suppressing the spread of the epidemic were being largely respected, and that the possibility of manipulating information, as well as disturbing the law and order and causing riots under the epidemic or state of emergency was reduced.

3. Decree–Law on Time Limits and Court Proceedings in the Course of the State of Emergency,

Prepared by the Ministry of Justice and proposed by the Government of the Republic of Srpska, this Decree-Law was enacted as of 6 April 2020 and published in the “Official Gazette of the Republic of Srpska”, Nr. 32/20 as of the same date.  It entered into effect on 7 April 2020.

Its purpose was to regulate the deadlines and the conduct of legal proceedings during the state of emergency, in order to protect the health and rights of citizens in court proceedings that had already initiated, especially in the context of suspension of prescribed deadlines for procedural and material actions, except for urgent proceedings, which are defined by the Decree.

4. Decree–Law on Tax Measures Aimed at Mitigating the Economic Impact of the COVID-19 Epidemic Caused by the Coronavirus,

At the proposal of the Ministry of Finances, i.e., the Republic of Srpska Government, it was enacted on 10 April 2020 and published in the “Official Gazette of the Republic of Srpska” Nr. 35/20 as of the same date.  It entered into effect on 11 April 2020.

It prescribes a set of tax measures in the course of the state of emergency, in order to mitigate the economic consequences and reduce the lack of liquidity of taxpayers caused by the epidemic.  These measures refer to the extension of the deadline for filing annual tax returns, extension of the deadline for settling tax liabilities, postponement of revocation of decisions deferring payment of tax liabilities, etc., and their beneficiaries are entities that had to cease business activities or are facing serious problems in conducting their business, either because of the effects of the pandemic or because of the effects of measures enacted earlier.  In addition to extending the deadline for payment of taxes, a particularly important measure of support to the economy is the provision of funding to enterprises for the payment of salaries, contributions and taxes for March and April 2020 from the Solidarity Fund for the Reconstruction of the Republic of Srpska.

5. Decree–Law on Statutory Limitations and Proceedings in Administrative and other Procedures Regulated by Special Material Regulations,

As proposed by the Ministry of Administration and Local Self-Government and endorsed by the Republic of Srpska Government, this Decree-Law was enacted on 10 April 2020 and published in the “Official Gazette of the Republic of Srpska” Nr. 35/20 as of the same date.  It entered into effect on 11 April 2020.

In order to protect the health of citizens, but also their rights within administrative procedures and procedures regulated by special material regulations during a state of emergency, it regulates a series of matters related to deadlines, and procedural and material actions taken in the course of administrative and procedures regulated by special material regulations.

6. Decree–Law Amending the Law on Primary Education,

Passed at the proposal of the Ministry of Education and Culture of the Republic of Srpska Government on 10 April 2020 and published in the “Official Gazette of the Republic of Srpska” Nr. 35/20 as of the same date.  It entered into effect on the following day.

It provides for the legal framework for continuing the teaching process in emergency circumstances, and the successful completion of the school year in primary schools, and regulates such other issues as changes to the school calendar or the enrolment of students in the first or higher grades the following school year.  It was especially important to introduce the institute of distance learning, through various means of electronic communication, and to define the method of evaluation of students in order to successfully end the school year.

7. Decree–Law Amending the Law on Secondary Education,

It was also passed on 10 April 2020 and published in the “Official Gazette of the Republic of Srpska” Nr. 35/20 as of the same date.  It entered into effect on 11 April 2020.

It intervened in the field of secondary education in order to enable the continuation of the teaching process through distance learning and the ending of the current school year.  It also resolved some other matters, from determining the modalities of student assessment and entering grades, to the possibility of changing the school calendar or the enrolment of students in the first or higher grades of secondary schools the following school year.

8. Decree–Law on the Exemption from Payment of Fees for Organising Games of Chance,

It was passed at the proposal of the Ministry of Finances of the Republic of Srpska Government on 10 April 2020 and published in the “Official Gazette of the Republic of Srpska” Nr. 35/20 as of the same date.  It entered into effect on the following day.

It was passed with the objective of exempting organisers of games of chance, who are prohibited from conducting business activities due to the pandemic from the obligation to pay the minimum prescribed amounts of fees provided for by the Law on Games of Chance, in proportion to the duration of the ban in a particular month.  The exemption is applicable to those organisers of games of chance who are unable to conduct their business activities due to the prescribed measures and for which no violation of the prohibition in question has been established.

9. Decree–Law Amending the Law on Higher Education,

Prepared by the Ministry of Scientific and Technological Development, Higher Education and Information Society and proposed by the Government of the Republic of Srpska, this Decree-Law was enacted on 24 April 2020 and published in the “Official Gazette of the Republic of Srpska” Nr. 40/20 as of the same date.  It entered into effect the following day.

It intervened in the field of higher education in order to enable the continuation of the teaching process in the current academic year through distance learning and to determine the modalities of solving other matters, such as examination terms, so to allow students to successfully complete the current academic year and carry out their obligations.

10. Decree–Law on the Solidarity Fund for the Reconstruction of the Republic of Srpska,

The Decree was prepared by the Ministry of Finances, and proposed by the Republic of Srpska Government.  It was enacted on 15 April 2020, and published in the “Republic of Srpska Official Gazette” Nr. 37/20 as of the same date.  It entered into effect on 16 April 2020.

It regulates the issue of reconstruction of the Republic of Srpska and compensation for the damages caused by the pandemic and measures taken to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, and defines the status, administrative bodies, mode of action, rights and obligations, sources of funding, supervision, and other relevant issues related to the Solidarity Fund, which, with its expanded powers and capacities, in accordance with the requirements of the current situation caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, replaced the Solidarity Fund established in 2014 after the floods.

11. Decree–Law on Amendments to the Law on the Protection of the Population from Infectious Diseases,

Enacted at the proposal of the Ministry Health and Social Welfare and the Republic of Srpska Government on 30 April 2020, and published in the “Official Gazette of the Republic of Srpska” Nr. 42/20 as of the same date.  It entered into effect on 1 May 2020.

It regulates a series of matters related to the implementation of epidemiological surveillance, the disease caused by the Coronavirus – COVID-19 being included in the category of infectious diseases, the Decree prescribes the authority to adopt general and special measures to control and prevent the spread of this contagious disease, regulates rights and obligations of supervision, and those to whom the measures in question shall apply, and provides for punishment for violation of the prescribed protective measures.

12. Decree–Law on Amendments to the Law on Social Welfare,

Prepared by the Ministry Health and Social Welfare and proposed by the Republic of Srpska Government, it was enacted on 30 April 2020 and published in the “Official Gazette of the Republic of Srpska” Nr. 42/20 as of the same date.  It entered into effect on 1 May 2020.

It was adopted with the aim of enabling persons under the age of 18, in the course of the state of emergency or emergency situation, to be determined the bodily injury in accordance with regulations governing medical expertise in pension and disability insurance, and the right to personal disability benefits arising from the amount of body injury determined according to these amendments by a temporary decision which shall remain in effect until, so to say, a regular procedure can be carried out in accordance with Article 25, paragraph 2 of the Law on Social Welfare.

13. Decree–Law on Acceptance of the Republic of Srpska’s Debt against the World Bank – International Bank for Reconstruction and Development for Financing the “COVID-19 Emergency Project for BiH”,

Prepared by the Ministry of Finances and proposed by the Republic of Srpska Government, it was enacted on 30 April 2020 and published in the “Official Gazette of the Republic of Srpska” Nr. 42/20 as of the same date.  It entered into effect on 1 May 2020.

It provides for the acceptance of the indebtedness of the Republic of Srpska with the World Bank and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development for financing the “COVID-19 Emergency Project for BiH”, in the amount of 13,240,100 euro, which represents 40% of the total value of the Project for BiH of 33,100,000 euro, and states the terms of the loan: repayment period of 32 years, with a 7 years grace period, which is included in the repayment period.  The interest rate is the reference rate plus a fixed margin, and the one-off access fee is 0.25% of the Project value; the commission fee is of 0.25% p.a. on the approved but not drawn funds; principal and interests shall be repaid semi-annually on February 15 and August 15; the payment currency is the euro.

14. Decree–Law on Amendments to the Law on the Special Expropriation Procedure for the Construction of the Motorway – Corridor Vc through the Republic of Srpska and the Construction of the “January 9” Banja Luka–Doboj Motorway Section,

The Draft Decree was prepared by the Administration of Geodetic, Property and Legal Affairs of the Republic of Srpska and proposed by the Government of the Republic of Srpska.  It was enacted on 30 April 2020 and published in the “Official Gazette of the Republic of Srpska” Nr. 42/20 as of 30 April 2020.  It entered into effect on 1 May 2020.

It expands the subject matter of the Law to financing the execution of geodetic and technical works for the special expropriation procedure, regulates in detail all aspects of the special expropriation procedure, rights and obligations of entities taking part in the procedure, including the temporary representative, as a new institute in the procedure, and the expert, and provides that the proceedings initiated under the provisions of the Law on Special Expropriation Procedure for the Construction of the Corridor Vc Motorway through the Republic of Srpska and the Construction of the Motorway Section “9. January” Banja Luka – Doboj, which were in effect at the time of initiating the special expropriation procedure, shall be finished in accordance with these provisions.

15. Decree–Law on Amendments to the Law on the Special Expropriation Procedure for the Construction of the Motorway and of the Gas Pipeline Section Vukosavlje – Brčko and Brčko – Rača,

Prepared by the Republic of Srpska Administration of Geodetic, Property and Legal Affairs and proposed by the Government of the Republic of Srpska.  It was enacted on 30 April 2020 and published in the “Official Gazette of the Republic of Srpska” Nr. 42/20 as of the same date.  It entered into effect on 1 May 2020.

It provides that in the case when a special expropriation procedure was initiated, when an emergency situation or state of emergency is declared in which participates as a party a person whose right of movement is restricted and who is unable to respond to an official’s summons to take part in such procedure, be held at a time determined in pursuant with the measures and recommendations of the competent authorities.  Furthermore, it introduces the institute of temporary representative, and regulates in detail all aspects of the special expropriation procedure, rights and obligations of entities taking part in the procedure, including the temporary representative and expert. It also provides that procedures initiated under the provisions of the Law on Special Expropriation Procedure for the Construction of the Motorway and the Gas Pipeline Sections Vukosavlje – Brčko and Brčko – Rača that were in effect at the time when the special expropriation procedure was initiated, should be completed in accordance with these provisions.

16. Decree-Law on Amendments to the Law on the Guarantee Fund of the Republic of Srpska,

Prepared by the Ministry of Finances and proposed by the Republic of Srpska Government.  It was enacted on 8 May 2020 and published in the “Official Gazette of the Republic of Srpska” Nr. 44/20 as of the same date.  It entered into effect on 9 May 2020.

It provides for appropriate financial support instruments and amends the Law on the Guarantee Fund of the Republic of Srpska, introducing four new articles (7a, 7b, 7c and 7d) which expand the Fund’s functions, introduce a new category of guarantee programmes for a wider economic interest, facilitate access to financing and mitigate the consequences of special circumstances on the economy of Srpska, and provides in detail for the rights and obligations of the Fund in all aspects of the process of managing guarantee programmes, and other relevant matters.

17. Decree-Law on Amendments to the Law on Health Insurance,

Prepared by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and proposed by the Republic of Srpska Government.  It was enacted on 8 May 2020 and published in the “Official Gazette of the Republic of Srpska” Nr. 44/20 as of the same date.  It entered into effect the following day.

Taking into account the epidemiological situation in the Republic of Srpska, this Decree-Law amends the Health Insurance Law by introducing a new Article 53a, which provides that the financing of health care for Republic of Srpska citizens who are not insured under the in compulsory health insurance shall be borne by the Health Insurance Fund of the Republic of Srpska during an emergency or state of emergency in the territory of the Republic of Srpska, and the funding for this purpose shall be provided from the Republic of Srpska budget.

Furthermore, it also introduces Article 85c, which provides that financing of health care for citizens of the Republic of Srpska who are not insured under the ompulsory health insurance by the day this regulation enters into effect shall be provided by the Health Insurance Fund as of the day when the state of emergency was declared in the Republic of Srpska due to the Coronavirus pandemic.   Since this new Article 85c represents a classic case of retroactive application of legislation, when the Decree-Law and the Decision on its early entry into effect were passed, a Decision on the Existence of a Wider Social Interest in Introducing the Retroactive Effect of Article 85c of the Health Insurance Law was also passed and published in the same edition of the Official Gazette of the Republic of Srpska.

18. Decree-Law on the Compensation Fund of the Republic of Srpska,

Adopted at the proposal of the Ministry of Finances and the Government of the Republic of Srpska.  It was enacted on 14 May 2020 and published in the “Official Gazette of the Republic of Srpska” Nr. 46/20 as of 14 May 2020.  It entered into effect the following day.

It introduces the Compensation Fund of the Republic of Srpska, which takes over the rights and obligations of the Solidarity Fund for the Reconstruction of the Republic of Srpska in the part related to mending consequences and the damage caused by the spread of the infection caused by the Coronavirus, in accordance with the need to adapt to international standards and foreign donors, lenders or creditors.

The Decree-Law defines the functions and competencies of the Compensation Fund, its status, activity, organisation, sources of funding, management and disposal with earmarked funds, as well as the publicity of work, reporting and supervision over the collection, allocation or distribution of the funding.

The beneficiaries of the Compensation Fund are entrepreneurs and business entities that suffered damages due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Employment Agency of the Republic of Srpska in terms of subsidies for unemployment contributions in times of the Coronavirus pandemic, the health sector of the Republic of Srpska for the financing of increased costs caused by the pandemic, and employees in the public sector who carried on with their duties even under particularly difficult conditions of the pandemic.

The Republic of Srpska Government exercises the rights and responsibilities of the founder of the Compensation Fund, which has the status of a legal entity with public authorities, and the body directly managing the Compensation Fund is the Board of Directors that consists of seven members appointed by the Government of the Republic of Srpska.

Sources of financing of the Compensation Fund are budget funds of the Republic of Srpska, domestic and foreign loans and credits, domestic or foreign donations and other funds in accordance with special regulations.  Monthly reports on collected and allocated funds from the Compensation Fund account are published on the website of the Republic of Srpska Government.  Conditions, beneficiaries, scope, criteria and other relevant matters are prescribed by the Government in its acts, at the proposal of the Fund’s Board of Directors, while supervision over the collection and allocation of funding of the Compensation Fund is carried out by a working body chaired by a representative nominated by the largest opposition party in the Republic of Srpska National Assembly and the Chief Auditor of the Republic of Srpska Public Sector.  Excepted are funds deriving from foreign loans or credits, which are supervised in accordance with the rules and procedures regulating foreign debt, lenders and creditors.

19. Decree–Law on Amendments to the Decree–Law on Tax Measures Aimed at Mitigating the Economic Impact of the COVID-19 Epidemic Caused by the Coronavirus,

The draft Decree–Law was prepared by the Ministry of Finances and proposed by the Republic of Srpska Government.  It was enacted on 14 May 2020, and published in the “Official Gazette of the Republic of Srpska” Nr. 46/20 the same day.  It entered into effect on 15 May 2020.

It intervenes in Article 12 of the previously adopted Decree–Law on Tax Measures Aimed at Mitigating the Economic Impact of the COVID-19 Epidemic Caused by the Coronavirus, published on 10 April 2020, by introducing paragraph 2, extending into May 2020 the obligation of providing funding from the Solidarity Fund of the Republic of Srpska for the payment of salaries, taxes and contributions on behalf of business entities which are prohibited from carrying out business activities by decision of the Emergency Situation Headquarters.

And finally, we wish to make a few additional remarks.

Apart from the fact that these decrees were published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Srpska, the public was regularly informed about their adoption and content in the media.

Furthermore, when it comes to their remaining in effect, it should be noted that three of the nineteen decrees will automatically cease on the date of entry into effect of the Decision Lifting the State of Emergency in the Republic of Srpska.  Those three are the Decree–Law on Time Limits and Court Proceedings Conditions in the Course of the State of Emergency, the Decree–Law on Statutory Limitations and Proceedings in Administrative and other Procedures Regulated by Special Material Regulations, and the Decree–Law on the Exemption from Payment of Fees for Organising Games of Chance.

The Decree–Law Prohibiting the Causing of Panic and Disorder for the Duration of the State of Emergency ceased on 17 April 2020, and the other decrees will remain in effect for the period of duration of the Government’s measures provided for by decrees or up until the time that certain provisions from those regulations are taken over, or incorporated into the wording of laws that regulate subject areas such as the Laws on Primary, Secondary and Higher Education, the Law on Social Welfare, the Law on Health Insurance, the Law on the Protection of the Population from Infectious Diseases, etc.

Moreover, at the time when these decrees were adopted, careful considerations were taken to ensure that they regulate only such matters which are directly relevant to the state of emergency.

Therefore, in pursuant to paragraph 2 of Article 81 of the Constitution of the Republic of Srpska, which provides that decree-laws and decisions on appointment and dismissal of officials promulgated by the Republic of Srpska President in the course of a state of emergency, must be submitted to the Republic of Srpska National Assembly for confirmation as soon as this body is able to convene, a request was submitted to convoke this session of the National Assembly so that it can debate and discuss, and possibly proceed to approve the decree-laws that were adopted in the course of the state of emergency in the Republic of Srpska.

Thank you for your attention.

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