EU membership will help resolve Bosnia’s border issues and bring economic prosperity, says Denis Zvizdic.
During an official visit to Qatar, Zvizdic said his country is implementing political and economic reforms, including fighting corruption, in its efforts to speed up its integration process into the EU and NATO.
He sees that as a path for economic prosperity, political stability and security for the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Zvizdic said he brought with him several economic and investment projects to Qatar worth more than $2bn. He said such projects would help Bosnia create more jobs for its citizens and enhance trade and investment opportunities between his country and the Arab world at large.
He also discussed the upcoming general elections and the possibility of running for the presidency.
Al Jazeera: What is the nature of your visit to Qatar and what are you trying to accomplish during this visit?
Zvizdic: Bosnia has excellent relations with Qatar that goes back 25 years. We consider Qatar as a true friend of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The key goal of this visit is to present the economic potential of Bosnia and attract Qatari investments, which would benefit both countries.
While the main foreign policy objective of Bosnia is to join the European Union, this does not mean that we should not reach out to the Middle East and the Arab world for better economic opportunities.
The Arab world is currently investing in the Bosnian economy in areas like manufacturing, construction, transportations and the food sector. Overall, we want to have ties with both the West and the East.
Al Jazeera: Bosnia has submitted an application to join the EU in 2016 and the application was accepted. What does Bosnia and Herzegovina hope to accomplish by joining the EU and NATO and where do things stand today?
Zvizdic: First, Bosnia Herzegovina is a decidedly European country in terms of its outlook, culture, history and geography. In the last three years both EU and NATO integration process has been speeding up. According to the latest surveys, 78 percent of the people of Bosnia are in favour of joining the EU.
By the end of this year, we expect the activation of NATO action plan and achieve a candidate state status with the EU. There is no doubt in our mind that we will for sure become an EU [member]. It is a matter of time.
Al Jazeera: It looks like that you have stacked all of your fortunes on EU membership, what if things went wrong, do you have a plan B?
Zvizdic: There is no plan B, we only have plan A. Our future is fully connected with the EU and the United States. The EU is our strongest trade partners especially Germany. However, there is no reason not to have good relations with other countries like Russia and Turkey.
Al Jazeera: Considering that your foreign policy orientation is tied to the EU and the United States, is Russia meddling in your internal politics in an effort to derail your membership in either the EU or NATO?
Zvizdic: There are certain attempts by Russia to influence policies in the western Balkans. The shifting of the western Balkans toward NATO is actually aggravating Russia.
We want to have good economic ties with Russia. However, we see our future as part of the EU.
Al Jazeera: As a multi-national federation state, would integration and membership in the EU solve Bosnia’s thorniest problems, such as its complex political system that was created along national and ethnic lines in the aftermath of the bloody civil war during the ’90s, and its economic instability?
This, considering that countries like Greece, for example, suffers from deep economic instability despite being an EU member.
Zvizdic: When we become members of the EU, two key issues will be resolved:
One – it will accomplish security and stability by resolving the issues related to the borders in the western Balkans. The EU commission has emphasised that the six countries in the western Balkans, Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia Montenegro and Kosovo must resolve their border disputes before ascending to full EU membership.
When the border issues are resolved, it will halt any ideas or attempts by any party to change it, and thus it will bring political stability and security
Two – the EU and NATO membership will result in economic prosperity. Greece suffers economic problems because it did not implement the recommended EU economic measures that would have helped it out of its economic slump.
But take for example countries like Romania, Bulgaria and Slovenia which are good examples of East European countries that followed the EU measures and standards and that despite the initial painful impact on the population, it ended up better off and more prosperous in the long run.
Al Jazeera: The general elections in Bosnia are slated to take place this October, does that explain the rise of nationalistic rhetoric from the different national groups in the country and are you planning to run for president?
Zvizdic: As for as running for president, I would say maybe, I might run for president, we will see what happens when the time comes.
As for the other part of the question, since its election season, it is not unusual to see the rise of rhetoric from all groups. This has become typical in Bosnian electoral politics. However, once the election is over, the rhetoric subsides and a political balance and a return to reality takes hold.
Al Jazeera: Is there hope for democracy in Bosnia? Other countries in the region have seemingly moved on and became better off, why hasn’t Bosnia?
Zvizdic: I disagree with the assessment that other Balkan countries are better off than Bosnia in that respect. Our region has lived through communism and authoritarian regimes for too long. The transition to democracy takes time and it requires a change in thinking, culture and values.
The principles of democracy and free market economy must be accepted by our region. Gradually, however, we are heading in that direction.
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SOURCE: AL JAZEERA