EU must pressure to stop Foreign Agent Law in Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Globally, democracy is backsliding—and has been for over a decade. Today, 71 percent of the world’s population live in autocracies, in comparison to 48 percent ten years ago, according to Democracy Report 2024 from the V-Dem Institute at Gothenburg University.[1]

A crucial component of a functioning democracy is allowing critical voices and a vivid civil society. So, in parallel, the space for civil society keeps shrinking—not least for women’s rights and queer rights activists as shown in the Kvinna till Kvinna report The State of Women Human Rights Defenders 2023.[2]

The path towards authoritarian regimes and a silent civil society happens not only in the Americas and Asia, but also in Europe and within the EU. Georgia, who has recently been granted EU candidate status even though democracy is declining, has received attention for its “foreign agent law” which has mobilised massive protests in the country and international criticism.[3] Bosnia and Herzegovina is an EU candidate country since 2022 and was recently allowed to start accession talks with the EU Commission. Meanwhile, the Republika Srpska, one of the country’s two entities, is pushing through a Russian-like legislation that would severely limit the possibilities for civil society organisations to work.[4]

The Draft Law on the Special Registry and Publicity of the Work of Non-Profit Organisations (the “Foreign Agents Law”) was adopted in a first stage in September 2023. The proposal has since been forwarded to the National Assembly, where the final steps of voting will take place. When this will happen is not clear, there has been a lot of hush-hush around the process in order to limit attention. If adopted, the law would enter into force from January 2025.[5] Particularly worrying is the prohibition of “political activity” for organisations that receive foreign funding, which would severely limit civil society organisations possibility to engage in any advocacy on legislative or policy changes. For women’s rights organisations it means less rights and protection for survivors and gender equality in general.

The proposed legislation has not come out of a vacuum but follows years of civil society organisations and independent journalists being portrayed by authorities as anti-patriotic and “foreign mercenaries”. This has led to self-censoring among civil society, many organisations are reducing visibility in order to avoid attention.

This is truly worrying developments which question the governments’ ambition to align with EU requirements for accession. The EU and its member states must stand firm and insist on the withdrawal of the laws which would have severe impact on the work of civil society and the possibility of having a pluralistic society, as well as on freedom of assembly and expression. If adopted Bosnia and Herzegovina’s prospect of becoming an EU member should be put into question.




[4] OSCE co-organizes conference on “Civil Society and the Media: Critical Voices Under Pressure” | OSCE

[5] Republika Srpska Moves Ahead With Proposed ‘Foreign Agents’ Law (

—The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation