Speech by the Ambassador of Norway to BiH, H.E. Anne Vibeke Lilloe, at the Forum for Prosperity and Jobs follow up seminar in Banja Luka

Mr. Kemal Kozaric, Governor of the Central Bank of BiH,

Mr. Renzo Daviddi, Deputy Head of the EU Delegation in BiH ,

Participants of this seminar – Forum for Prosperity and Jobs,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very happy to be here today – at this important event that is part of the EU initiative “Compact for Growth and Jobs in BiH”. Norway strongly supports this EU initiative – because we believe in discussing and dealing with what is important to people – to the population of this country, irrespective of where they live.   

And – that is economic development, how to get jobs – and not least – how to get an end to the corruption which is a serious problem in this country.

As most of you probably know – Norway has been active in BiH since the war, first with emergency aid and reconstruction following the war – and since 2000 contributing to building a well-functioning democracy, built on the rule of law – and with prosperity for all.  

We support strongly the BiH’s Euro-Atlantic integration processes and urge the authorities to take the steps necessary to get on with the necessary reforms.  

When that is said, the justice sector, the defence – and security sector, support to strengthening civil society – as well as economic development – are our focus areas for cooperation here in BiH.  Anti-corruption is also on our agenda – also in the form of concrete projects.

As regards the floods and landslides that so tragically hit BiH in may – I am  pleased to say that Norway has already contributed, first with around 1,25 million marks to the recovery phase after the flood and landslides – though the UNDP.

We are pleased to be able to contribute with around 8 million marks to the recovery phase. Some funds have already been channelled through UNDP to early recovery needs, some to needs in the justice sector , channelled to the HJPC –  and we have already channelled some funding through NPA to de-mining.

It is very important to help alleviate the damages from the flood and landslides of course.

But it is also vital that bih at the same time – now – also focuses on the fundamental economic reform agenda.  We must not let immediate efforts to deal with the floods overshadow the eminent need to dig deeper – to the root of the problem.

In other words ladies and gentlemen – multi-tasking will be totally necessary.

A lot more work – not least by BiH authorities – is needed to achieve the growth which is necessary to give the inhabitants of this country a better life – to generate improvements that they can see and feel – because that is what we are actually talking about.

The Forum for Prosperity and Jobs that was convened at the end of May – concluded very concretely on six reform measures that are necessary to modernize the BiH economy.  

The measures are intended to undermine the stranglehold that insiders have on opportunity, to help reinvigorate investment in the economy, to spur the creation of jobs and enhance social protection. These points are very much in line with the concerns of the recent protests in the country I would like to add – concerns that EU has listened to when creating their new initiative.

The measures have been endorsed by international financial institutions, the EU, USA, and other concerned nations that work for improvements in BiH.  The existing problems will of course not be solved over night, but it is important to prioritize, to multi-task as I have already said – and to focus and to start somewhere – immediately.

The Compact for Growth and Jobs initiative continues to consult on the reform agenda with the business community and the civil society as well as local and regional experts. The goal is a Compact for Growth and Jobs that will be presented to the public before the end of July.  It will be a kind of guide to the most urgent reform needs – that must be addressed without delay.  

Economic reform is possible, but it must be restarted – and in earnest.  The Compact will be offered to political parties for their support prior to the elections – and for their endorsement in government after election. The international financial institutions are ready to do their part.  The EU – and also other donors on their side – will encourage civil society and the public  to get involved and to push the agenda for reform.  

Let us hope the political parties and their leaders will talk real issues before the elections this time – and not the old tired ones that certainly do not seem to have encouraged economic progress.  

I hope you will encourage and urge the politicians and other stake holders to concentrate on equal opportunity for all, reinvigorating investments and spurring the creation of jobs – and communicate to them the urgency that is involved.

Back to the seminar today – here in Banja Luka.  It is co-hosted by the EU, the Central Bank of BiH and the Norwegian Embassy. It is a follow up of the Forum for Prosperity and Jobs in May.  The intention is to further make the case for re-igniting the reform process.

This seminar will be more technical in nature than the last one. The participants consist of experts from BiH and neighbouring countries and international financial institutions – as well as representatives of the business community, civil society – not least young people – I am happy to see BiH’s future will represented – academia and state and entity institutions.

What shall be focused on – is of course the six point agenda from the first forum- it shall be further addressed in three consecutive panels here today.   

And the content of the six point agenda is:

•    to cut taxes on jobs,
•    to remove other specific barriers to hiring new workers,
•    to slash the administrative barriers to investment,
•    to undertake serious reforms in old enterprises and adopt a plan to improve the corporate structure,
•    to seriously address corruption by removing incentives and making administrative procedures more transparent,
•    and finally – to target social welfare at those most in need of help.

And – that – ladies and gentlemen is no small job. But – it is what is necessary to improve the lives of the population of Bosnia and Herzegovina – who has been through much and which clearly at present gets much less than they deserve.

Ladies and gentlemen – hence,  it is also what the politicians of this country should focus on – both before and after the elections – and with urgency as i have stated many times will be necessary. Multi-tasking will be a good slogan.  

Norway stands ready to contribute to improved economic development.

And with these words – I wish you a good a fruitful seminar – with concrete results.

Thank you.