Review of Bosnia and Herzegovina's measures against the economic impact of COVID-19

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Countries around the world are battling the spread of the COVID-19 virus and taking steps to protect their citizens by closing borders and imposing restrictions on travel, gatherings and working hours. An inevitable and, in many cases, immediate impact has been felt in numerous industry sectors, requiring governmental support that will help the affected businesses stay afloat. Some of these measures, implemented in response to challenges faced by the governments of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and its entities the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska, include the following:

COURT SYSTEM

Main hearings in criminal matters are postponed except in cases: 

  • In which custody has been ordered or custody has been requested,
  • In which there is a risk of expiry of the statute of limitations, and
  • In other urgent cases prescribed by the criminal laws in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  

Hearings in misdemeanour matters are postponed, except in cases of acting contrary to the issued resolutions and orders of competent authorities during the period of the declared state of emergency caused by the appearance of the corona virus (COVID-19). The acting judge in the misdemeanour matter can assess whether any another case may be brought forward for reasons of urgency.  

Hearings in civil matters are postponed, except in the case of interim measures. The acting civil judges may individually decide on the urgent need to work on individual cases based on the assessment of the case and its urgency.

In Republika Srpska the statutory deadlines for undertaking court action in civil proceedings and administrative disputes have been suspended (e.g., deadlines for submitting lawsuits, appeals, etc.), except in certain urgent matters; so have statute of limitations deadlines. The durations until the respective deadlines will continue running when the emergency measures have been lifted. Similar measures are expected to be adopted in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina as well.   

EMPLOYER RECOMMENDATIONS

The Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina has issued official recommendations to Employers and Workers. Some of the recommendations are:

  • To implement special protection measures to prevent negative effects on the health of workers by reducing the working hours if the work process allows;
  • Employers who employ a large number of workers should reorganize their working hours if the work process allows, and work that takes place in one shift should be split into two shifts, to avoid the concentration of large number of workers in one place;
  • To instruct workers to work from home if the nature of the work or the work process allows;
  • To allow employees to use annual leave, as well as to use leave in accordance with the law, collective agreement or work rulebook;
  • To allow workers who are parents of children under the age of 10 leave of absence from work for one parent, in case both parents are working;
  • To cancel all business trips, in the country and abroad, and especially business trips for workers diagnosed with chronic diseases. In regard to non-cancellable business trips, workers should be advised of instructions issued by the competent health institutions and institutions in the areas where they travel, and workers should be provided with adequate protective equipment (masks, disinfectants, etc.);
  • Employers are obliged, in accordance with work safety regulations, to ensure regular and intensive implementation of hygiene measures in work and other premises, which include cleaning and disinfection of premises, as well as regular ventilation and airing;
  • To cancel meetings that involve several participants, while meetings which are necessary should be organized in rooms as large as possible, with sufficient space between the participants (one to two meters).

Employers and employees are advised to act in accordance with the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina Ministry of Health instructions regarding the regulation of temporary inability to work due to new circumstances.

Employers and employees are instructed to act in full compliance with the recommendations of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina Ministry of Health given to employers and workers for the area of FBiH.  

BANKING AND FINANCE

When it comes to banking and finance, the Banking Agency of Republika Srpska and the Banking Agency of Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina have proposed several measures that may mitigate the consequences caused by the outbreak; however these measures are at the discretion of the relevant institution. Some of the measures are:

Banking Agency of Republika Srpska:

  • Decision on temporary measures of banks to mitigate the negative economic consequences caused by the virus;
  • Decision on temporary reporting to the Banking Agency of RS;
  • Decisions on temporary measures to microcredit organizations to mitigate the negative economic consequences of “COVID-19”.

Banking Agency of Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina:

  • Decision on temporary measures applied by the bank to mitigate the negative economic consequences of “COVID-19”;
  • Decisions on temporary measures applied by leasing companies and microcredit organizations to mitigate the negative economic consequences of “COVID-19”;
  • Decision on temporary measures related to obligations of banks, microcredit organizations, leasing companies, factoring companies and banks engaged in factoring operations regarding the delivery of reports to the Banking Agency of Federation Bosnia and Herzegovina.

PUBLIC PROCUREMENT

The Public Procurement Authority of Bosnia and Herzegovina issued a decision according to which a negotiated procedure can be carried out under certain conditions, even without publishing the procurement notification.

TAX

The Bosnia and Herzegovina Council of Ministers has adopted a Decision on indirect tax exemptions and tax refunds for indirect taxes that have already been paid on equipment and resources donated by domestic and international entities for the prevention and suppression of COVID-19. This is related to masks, gloves, disinfectants, medical protection suits, ventilators and similar items.

Tax authorities in both the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska have extended deadlines for submission of annual tax returns.

In the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina – the annual tax returns submission deadline is extended to April 30, 2020. The deadline for monthly payroll and social contributions returns for March are extended to April 30, 2020, while the new deadline for April 30, 2020 returns is May 31, 2020.

In Republika Srpska – the annual personal income tax returns submission deadline is prolonged to June 30, 2020. The same is applicable to other taxes that will be due for payment on March 31, 2020. All payments can be made in instalments.

In both the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska, deadlines for submission of other direct tax returns are mostly extended for one month.

In the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, all tax returns and other registration data forms are to be sent by post, e-mail or fax.

INTERNATIONAL TRANSPORT AND TRADE

A Decision on the temporary closure of international border crossings to aircraft transporting passengers into or out of Bosnia and Herzegovina was adopted on 24 March 2020 ordering the borders closed from 30 March 2020 at 6:00 am. Under this Decision, all aircraft engaged in the international transport of passengers are prohibited from landing at and departing from any airports in Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to protect against the introduction and spread of infectious diseases. The exceptions from such prohibition include humanitarian flights, emergency medical transport, search and rescue transport, transport of mail and goods, landing of aircraft in emergencies, state and special purpose flights, calibration of navigational devices, as well as technical flights without disembarking passengers, and forced landings.

At the request of companies, the Foreign Trade Chamber of Bosnia and Herzegovina issues ‘Vis Maior’ (force majeure) confirmations, which enable the respective companies to demonstrate to their business partners that they are unable to fulfil their contractual obligations for objective / unforeseeable reasons.

For the purpose of performing the work of drivers in international transport of goods, employers with their seat in Republika Srpska are required to issue a confirmation/certificate of engagement of the driver during the declared emergency situation. 

Also, all companies experiencing COVID-19 related foreign trade problems should inform the Foreign Trade Chamber of Bosnia and Herzegovina so they can inform the Bosnia and Herzegovina Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations about any delays and problems related to imports and exports.

OTHER NOTABLE MEASURES

The payment of concession fees and rent for use of agricultural land in the ownership of Republika Srpska is suspended for three months from the due date of the contractual obligation.