n March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared a Coronavirus pandemic due to an ongoing global outbreak of Coronavirus disease, called COVID-19 (which represent an abbreviation of Coronavirus Disease 2019). In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the first case of COVID 19 was recorded on March 5, 2020. To date, more than 660 cases have been confirmed in the territory of Bosnia and Hercegovina.
The Decision on the Declaration of a State of Emergency due to the current epidemiological situation entered into force on April 3 in the territory of the Republic of Srpska and the same was adopted on March 28 by the National Assembly of the Republic of Srpska. Prior to that Decision, on March 16, 2020, the RS Government issued a Decision declaring an emergency situation. More detailed information on the consequences of a declaration of a state of emergency can be found at the following link:
Authorities have undertaken a number of measures and activities to prevent the spreading of disease caused by Coronavirus. All timely and accurate information about the Coronavirus can be obtained on the official website of the Government of the Republic of Srpska “Coronavirus in Srpska”, as well as on the portal of the FBIH Government.
A brief review of the measures taken as of April 6, 2020, can be obtained below.
Health care measures and restrictions on freedom of movement and gatherings
Bosna i Hercegovina:
Entering Bosnia and Herzegovina is prohibited to all foreign nationals, with the exception of some categories of people (health workers, persons in need of medical treatment, cross-border workers, civil protection services and teams, members of NATO forces and other PfP countries as well as NATO HQ in BiH, persons residing in BiH, persons in transit through BiH, and persons licensed by the Council of Ministers);
At borders, inspectors are issuing to all BiH citizens entering the country a Decision on placing in isolation for 14 days.
A tent quarantines have been set up at several border crossings in BiH: Gradiška, Kozarska Dubica, Brod, Šamac, Bijeljina, Višegrad, intended for persons entering BiH from abroad.
Control of persons subject to house isolation is ensured and persons who do not comply with determined measure of home isolation will be quarantined. The personal name and place of residence of the person found not to comply with the imposed isolation or quarantine measures shall be made public.
All public gatherings in BiH are banned, and all sporting events are cancelled.
Brčko District of Bosnia and Herzegovina:
All citizens have to stay indoors during the curfew hours from 9:00 pm to 5:00 am.
Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina:
All persons 65 years of age or older have to stay indoors, except for the period from 6-10 April between 08:00 and 12:00, and persons under the age of 18 are allowed to be transported in the vehicle.
Prohibition of movement of all citizens in public areas during the curfew hours from 8:00 pm to 5:00 am.
Prohibition of movement and respecting distance which cannot be less than 1.5 meters.
Ban on transportation of more than one person in taxi service cars.
Suspension of visits and exits of all migrants in all refugee-reception centres, temporary centres and asylum centres, as well as all residents in social protection institutions and prisons.
Republic of Srpska:
Prohibition of movement of all citizens during the curfew hours in the period from 08:00 pm to 05:00 am.
Prohibition of movement of all citizens from their place of residence on weekends from Saturday at 12: 00h to Sunday at 18: 00.
Police escorts all persons entering the Republic of Srpska on the border crossings is obligatory starting from April 1 at 12:00.
Employers will issue certificates to their employees confirming the need for movement with the purpose of enabling the smooth performance of the work process on the basis of which they will be allowed to move during the curfew hours. The RS Ministry of Internal Affairs will issue certificates for movement to all persons who do not have employers. The certificate form is published on the website of the RS Government.
On 3 April, the RS Government adopted the Proposal of the Decree with legislative power on offences related to causing panic and disorder during the period of declared emergency situation where the same prohibits the making or transmitting fake news and allegations through the media, social networks and other similar means of communication, which cause panic and disturb public order and peace or interfere with the work of authorities.
Wearing protective masks in public places in RS is recommended and in the absence of masks, they can use a scarf or headscarf for the nose and mouth protection.
Public Health Institution – RS University Clinical Centre can only carry out emergency medical procedures, and all other health services are postponed until further notice.
In RS, the validity of all previously issued conclusions was extended until April 13, 2020/
The City of Banja Luka has established a quarantine at several locations for patients and persons who have been determined isolation. In that regard total of five checkpoints are set up to control the movement of persons. Visits to city entertainment areas (Banj brdo, Park Mladen Stojanovic, open gym and cargo areas and green areas around the new bridge) are forbidden for visits from April 3. The elderly population, sick and helpless persons will be delivered food and medicines to their home address as part of the “You Are Not Alone” campaign. All preventive measures in Banja Luka related to public transport, pre-school education, crafts and other similar services, public gatherings, etc. were extended until 13 April 2020.
Traffic and transport
All border crossings with the Republic of Serbia are closed for passenger traffic – air, road, rail and water, while border crossings Karakaj, Vardiste and Raca are opened for traffic of goods. The border crossing point for transit traffic through BiH with the Republic of Serbia is Raca
The border crossings with Montenegro are closed to all, except for their nationals, foreigners who have a registered residence and truck drivers. The Klobuk border crossing was opened for traffic of goods with Montenegro.
The border crossings with the Republic of Croatia are closed for all, except for their nationals, foreigners who have a registered residence and truck drivers. The Republic of Croatia has temporarily closed all border crossings for cross-border traffic between Croatia and BiH from April 2at 7:00 am. The border crossings for the carriage of goods by road in transit through BiH were defined previously, and according to the Republic of Croatia the following crossings were determined: Bijaca, Stara Gradiska and Slavonski Samac, with the exception of Neum through which regular traffic to Croatia is with no disturbance. Cargo vehicles leaving BiH for goods in the Republic of Croatia (import/export) can cross the state border through other border crossings, provided that they inform the company from the Republic of Croatia about it, and the same is expected to provide them with the necessary permit to cross the border.
Employers based in the RS and FBIH have been ordered by the Republican Committee for Emergency Situations to issue a certificate of engagement of drivers in the international transport.
The decision banning the entry of foreigners in BiH will not apply to drivers and co-drivers of trucks when performing international transport of goods in road transport. Upon arrival to Bosnia and Herzegovina, drivers of vehicles in international transport shall be issued a Decision by the Republic or Federal Inspector on the isolation for the duration of the stay in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which implies a period from entry to Bosnia and Herzegovina until departure to the next destination, i.e. until expiration of the deadline specified in the decision for mandatory isolation.
In the case of international transit of goods by road, the stay of a cargo vehicle crew in BiH is limited to a maximum of 12 hours.
From March 30, 2020 until April 30 all airports will be closed which includes: Sarajevo Airport, Mostar Airport, Tuzla Airport and Banja Luka Airport (with the exception of humanitarian flights, emergency medical transport, search and rescue, and mail and goods transport, as well as technical flights without passengers and forced landings). Sarajevo Airport will serve as an “air bridge” through which medicines and assistance will arrive in BiH. The airline company “Ryanair” has cancelled all flights from Banja Luka until May 1, , while “Air Serbia” cancelled all scheduled flights including flights on the relation Belgrade-Banja Luka. “Turkish Airlines” has announced that the last flight to Sarajevo should be March 27, 2020.The airline company “Wizz Air” suspended all flights from and to Tuzla from March 17 to April 3, 2020.
The Railways of the Republic of Srpska cancelled local passenger traffic for all directions.
In FBiH, the suspension of public regular and non-scheduled passenger transport in road and rail transport, except for taxi services is in force.
BiH Public intercity transport is suspended.
In RS, intercity public transport and regional republic bus lines (up to 50 km) have been suspended.
Catering, trade and crafts
The RS Government has envisaged to provide payment of taxes and contributions for March for about 40,000 workers in the areas most severely affected by the coronavirus crisis (catering, tourism, transport, services, entrepreneurs, etc.), and to their employers should provide net wages for the month of March;
In the Republic of Srpska, until April 13 the work is forbidden to all catering establishments for food and beverages, stores (with the exceptions listed below), fitness centres, swimming pools, wellness and spa centres (separately and within catering establishments), children’s playrooms, private dental clinics, gambling saloons, sports organizations and sports schools (including the organization of training and competitions for athletes of all categories), the provision of service and craft activities that require direct contact (hairdressing and other treatments for beauty, body care and maintenance);
Until April 13, work of the following business entities is limited to work from 07:00 am to 06:00 pm: wholesalers, shopping malls where only grocery / consumer goods stores can work, pharmacies and agricultural pharmacies, home electrical appliances, water and sanitation, construction supplies can operate , auto parts, agricultural machinery parts, electrical materials, ceramics and paints and varnishes, if located in the shopping mall; grocery / consumer goods stores, animal feed stores, bread and pastry businesses, fresh pasta and cakes (solely with respect to the sale of their products), registered food delivery operators, public kitchens (allowed to work over the counter, without service activities), pharmacies and agricultural pharmacies, gas and fuel stations for the part of the pump and the station where the retail outlet is located, without the time limitation of work when it comes to the sale of fuel, petroleum products and gas, which must be organized in accordance with Government measures (maximum number of customers in the facility, rapid flow and distance between customers).
Until April 13, limited hours of work from 07:00 to 15:00 pm relate to stores selling home electrical appliances, water and sanitary equipment, building materials, auto parts, agricultural machinery parts, electrical materials, ceramics, paints and varnishes, wholesale markets, small (markets) and livestock markets.
Caterers operating in a catering establishment may provide accommodation services without restriction, and food and beverage services may only be provided to guests to whom they provide accommodation services.
The quantity of certain products (flour, sugar, salt, oil, etc.) that an individual can buy at retail outlets is limited.
Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina:
The suspension of trade activities is in effect, except the following: grocery stores, hygienic items shops, fish markets, butcher shops, pharmacies, specialized stores of medical, veterinary products and equipment, stores of raw materials, agricultural pharmacies, gas stations, kiosks, bakeries, dry cleaners, specialized stores for sale of orthopaedic and other aids, specialized baby equipment stores, animal feed stores, construction material stores, plumbing and electrical materials stores, logistics and distribution centres of food, beverages and hygiene products, drugstores, bookstores, car parts stores, car repair shops and car wash, home appliances stores, furniture stores. There is a suspension of service in catering establishments of all categories (restaurants, pizzerias, pastry shops, etc.), with the exception of food production and delivery services, the operation of public kitchens as well as the production and serving of food for hotel guests.
It is obligatory to ensure the flow of customers and clients in such a way as to allow a distance of at least 1.5 meters between persons, while respecting other hygienic and epidemiological measures.
The operation of private dental offices and private dental laboratories is prohibited; Termination of services is effective in hairdressing and beauty salons and playrooms, cafes and bistros, clubs, discos, casinos, sports betting, cinemas, museums, theatres, concert halls, art galleries, public swimming pools and spas, sports and recreation centres and the like.
The suspension of the operation of open beverages, market premises and premises around retail outlets is in effect, except for open beverage and market premises with agricultural food products.
The work of state and republic bodies, companies and other business entities
In the Republic of Srpska state bodies, republic administrative bodies, bodies of local self-government units and other entities exercising public authority are obliged to establish their work in the following manner: with a minimum number of on-site executors required, other persons will be sent to work from home, limited number of persons who can enter and stay at the premises at the same time, prevention of the longer stay in the premises and long rows, maintenance of the necessary distance between the citizens indoors, taking measures of disinfection and enhanced hygiene. In the Federation of BiH it has been ordered to work with clients in a way that at least 1.5 meters between persons is enabled.
The court hearings will not be held in judicial institutions except for those of an urgent nature, the number of employees has been reduced, the operating hours have been shortened, the receipt and dispatch of letters is done by post office. On April 3, the RS Government accepted the Proposal of Decree with legal power on time limits and proceedings in state of emergency procedures for the territory of the Republic of Srpska. On April 3, the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina adopted the Initiative for Amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code to enable the conduct of “online trials” in urgent cases where there is a health risk for participants in the proceedings.
The Police Administration Banja Luka announced that the counters for issuing personal documents and vehicle registration would be open from 07:00 am to 15:00 pm.
RS Post Offices, as of March 20, 2020, apply modified operating hours and restrictions on the export and import of international shipments are also introduced. It is provided that registered mail for persons over 65 years of age can be collected by an adult who presents a valid identity document of the consignee. Regional postal operators, Post of Serbia and Post of Montenegro, are not currently able to ship parcels to RS Post Offices.
RS Health Insurance Fund has decided to extend the financing of health services in public health institutions for all citizens (insured and uninsured) until April 30, 2020.
The RS Pension and Disability Insurance Fund have informed beneficiaries, older than 65 years, that there is a possibility of authorizing another person to collect their pension from the bank on the basis of a one-time power of attorney (the form for the same is published on the Fund’s website).
BiH Public Procurement Agency has issued a statement that in a situation of extreme urgency, when it is not possible to apply regular public procurement procedures it may use the negotiated procedure without the publication of procurement notices under the conditions prescribed by law. The contracting authorities have the opportunity to amend the tender documents in such a way as to extend the deadlines for the submission of tenders for a certain period, with a justification based on the situation in BiH caused by the coronavirus pandemic. With respect to the rights of the bidders and other interested parties to attend the opening of tenders, as well as site visits, the Agency notes the need to follow the recommendations regarding the conditions and the number of persons who may be in one place. With regard to the implementation of the negotiated procedure or other procedures involving negotiation between the contracting authority and the candidate/tenderer, the Agency recommends that the contracting authorities conduct the same by telephone. The Agency points out that the contracting authorities have to comply with the provisions regarding the authentication of documents, but that they can amend the tender documents and reduce the requirements related to certified documents, except for those strictly required by the Law, which are prescribed in Articles 45 and 52 of the BIH Law on Public Procurement of BiH. The contracting authority is primarily obliged to comply with all measures, recommendations and prohibitions issued by the competent authorities, in accordance with which the contracting authority provides insight into tenders, with the prohibition of discrimination on any grounds.
Employers are advised to prevent termination of employment contracts, since in that case they will be unable to exercise the right to assistance from the RS Government, which will be defined in the coming period. In addition, it is recommended that the work process should be organized with a minimum number of on-site executors, and that enhanced workplace disinfection measures must be introduced.
Economy, Finance and Banking
On April 3, the Government of the Federation of BiH adopted the Draft Law on Mitigation of Negative Economic Consequences, which envisages 10 measures to recover the economy, as follows: 1) subsidies for mandatory insurance contributions, 2) all levels of government are enabled to relocate their resources, 3) the Law ensures the stability of all payments from the budget, pensions, veterans, social and other benefits, 4) the obligation to pay the advance payment of profit tax is abolished, 5) the entrepreneurs are abolished the obligation to pay income tax, 6 ) the calculation and payment of default interest on public revenues during the period of the state of disaster, and 90 days after the same, shall be suspended. 7) all legal, civil, enforcement and out-of-court proceedings will be suspended during the duration of the state of disaster, 8) the calculation of default interest on all delays in payment of obligations is suspended; 9) the statute of limitations will be stopped in this period and 30 days after the end of the state of disaster, 10) establishment of a Guarantee Fund.
The FBiH Government has previously decided to request from the FBiH Office of Joint Affairs to reduce rents by 50% for the use of the premises it manages and the decision to reduce the health insurance contribution of employees working abroad. The FBiH Government has previously adopted information on the Government’s Program of Activities for stabilizing the economy and remedying the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, namely: setting up a special fund for stabilizing the economy, then establishing a guarantee fund, introducing a moratorium on repayment of loans, and introducing credit lines for the economy, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises.
The Decree on Prescribing Measures for Direct Price Control in the Republic of Srpska entered into force on April 2, and the same stipulates that prices will be established, having regard to March 5, 2020, margin percentage, while the list of products covered by this measure has been expanded. This decree repeals the earlier Decree on Returning Prices on the same level as on March 16.
In the FBiH, certain products may not have a price higher than the one they had on March 5, 2020.
In the Republic of Srpska, the deadline for payment of tax liabilities on profit tax, income tax, as well as all fees arising from the final account has been extended to June 30, 2020. Businesses entities wishing to obtain the aforementioned reliefs may submit to the RS Tax Administration a written statement for delay of payment of tax liabilities.
The RS Government has decided to extend the payment period for obligations on the basis of the loan granted to business entities so April, May and June instalments, according to the RS Investment and Development Bank are extended until June 30, 2020, while the Investment and Development Bank of the Republic of Srpska a.d. Banja Luka has granted beneficiaries of loans and direct placements a three-month moratorium on their repayment, starting on April 1, 2020.
The RS Tax Administration informed taxpayers that the deadline for submission of annual tax returns was extended to April 30, 2020.
The Federation of BiH Tax Administration has extended the deadline for filing tax returns until April 15, 2020.
The BiH Council of Ministers passed a decision establishing an exemption from the calculation and payment of indirect taxes and the refund of indirect taxes already paid on equipment and assets donated by domestic and international entities for the purpose of preventing, combating and eliminating the epidemic.
On April 1, the Council of Ministers of BiH adopted the Information of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations on a common list of vital products established by the CEFTA Secretariat regarding the facilitation of trade. The list of basic products important for the population (meat and meat products, milk and dairy products, vegetables, fruits) will be treated through the so-called a green priority lane for traffic at certain border crossings.
On March 19, the BiH Chamber of Commerce informed interested parties about the possibility of applying for a “force majeure certificate” (Lat. Vis Maior), where for objective reasons (weather, energy reductions, earthquakes, etc.) will be temporarily or permanently abolished contractual obligations and the company will be able to prove to its business partners that it is not possible to comply with the contractual obligations for reasons that could not have been foreseen, eliminated or avoided. The Force Majeure Certificate need not be obtained for contracts that do not have an international element (contracts concluded in BiH and only valid in the territory of BiH).
The RS Chamber of Commerce has submitted to the competent institutions of RS and BiH a proposal for a set of measures to support the economy with the aim of mitigating the effects of the impact of the coronavirus on the economy of the Republic of Srpska. All local businessmen facing difficulties in business caused by the spread of the coronavirus are invited to complete a survey (which can be found on the Chamber of Commerce’s website) and report business problems, on the basis of which business support measures will be created.
The Republic of Srpska Banking Agency issued a Decision on temporary measures by banks to mitigate the negative economic consequences caused by the COVID-19 and the Decision on Interim Measures by Microcredit Organizations to Mitigate the Negative Economic Impacts of COVID-19 Virus Disease. The provisional measures relate to granting relief to bank clients such as: moratorium, introduction of grace period for repayment of the principal of credit liabilities for a maximum period of 6 months, approval of an additional amount of exposure, etc. On April 3, the RS Banking Agency published on its website the answers to questions of banks regarding the Decision on interim measures.
The FBiH Banking Agency has informed the public that a moratorium or other reliefs will be introduced in relation to loan repayments to all citizens who were affected by the declared state of disaster in the Federation of BiH. This temporary measure does not include officials, government employees, employees of public companies, budget users, as well as anyone else who is receives regular salary. The Agency has previously adopted decisions on provisional measures for the treatment of credit obligations of individuals and legal entities, on the basis of which special measures may be granted to clients, such as: moratorium, introduction of a grace period for repayment of the principal, approval of increased amount of exposure, as well as other measures aimed at facilitating the settlement of credit obligations and the maintenance of clients’ business.
A Solidarity Fund has been set up in the Republic of Srpska, to which funds can be paid to remedy effects caused by the coronavirus.
On March 29, the Banja Luka City Committee for Emergency Situation adopted a set of economic and social measures for certain activities whose work is completely prohibited or restricted, and determined subsidies, reliefs or write-offs (e.g. exemption from payment of utility taxes or public areas, rents, etc.), and entrepreneurs and businesses entities will be able to complete an electronic questionnaire on business difficulties by May 5.
Education and culture
All elementary and secondary schools and higher education institutions in BiH are closed, and the educative process is conducted through distance education.
In the Republic of Srpska during the spring school-break in the period from April 13-16 the regular distance learning for elementary and secondary schools will be continued. First grade children enrolment will take place as soon as the conditions are fulfilled.
The April exam for students should be held when the conditions are fulfilled.
All kindergartens have been closed, with the exception of one kindergarten within the RS Centre for Pre-school Education for the accommodation of children for whom there is no alternative to home care. The stay of children in the kindergarten within the Centre will not be paid for the month of April, while the March will be reduced by 50%.
All performances in theatres, as well as other cultural events in BiH, are cancelled for now.
The City of Banja Luka have cancelled all manifestations scheduled for the City’s Day on April 22.
All spring and summer events in organisation of the Public Institution Banja Luka Tourist Organization have been cancelled, and it includes – Cevap fest, July Kozara ethnos and Summer on Vrbas .
Note: The above information is designed to provide an overview of measures and activities taken by the competent authorities. The information does not constitute detailed legal advice on a case-by-case basis.