The following op-ed article by UK Foreign Secretary William Hague was published in dailies Dnevni list, Oslobodjenje and Nezavisne novine on 28 May 2014.
Yesterday the EU held the Forum for Prosperity and Jobs in Sarajevo. This is an important moment for Bosnia and Herzegovina and her citizens. The EU wants to help Bosnia and Herzegovina to tackle issues which matter to ordinary citizens and to meet their needs of creating jobs, improving the business environment, and, above all, tackling corruption. The protests, plenums and ordinary citizens across the country have already voiced their desire for change and better lives. So the next step is working together to turn our plan and your aspirations into reality.
The EU Special Representative Peter Sorensen has done a great job in pulling together such an important initiative. But neither we nor he can do it on our own. Our offer is clear; the EU is broadening its agenda in BiH, helping leaders develop reforms to tackle unemployment, supporting social welfare reform, helping create a better environment for business, to attract investment and promoting transparency and the fight against corruption.
When EU Foreign Ministers met to discuss Bosnia and Herzegovina in April we made clear that the EU’s unequivocal commitment to the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a sovereign and united country. But we want to go further than this. We want to work with Bosnian leaders to make sure that Bosnia and Herzegovina is also a prosperous country, where young people can get good jobs and have a good future.
The floods which have devastated Bosnia and Herzegovina make this focus on economic reform more important than ever. My thoughts are with the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina – as with those affected in Serbia and Croatia – with the victims, their families and all those who are suffering as a result of this unprecedented natural disaster. I am pleased that the UK provided immediate help, including a UK flood response team who have been rescuing families in the Bijeljina area. We are continuing to coordinate closely with the major international partners, the UN and EU, to see what further support we can offer Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region.
At such a terrible time I have been struck by the spirit of resilience shown by the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The devastation must be heartbreaking, with thousands of homes, many only rebuilt since the war, destroyed. The impact on businesses and agriculture is also severe, with many farmers seriously affected and businesses suffering damage. There is no doubt that the flood will impact upon Bosnia and Herzegovina economy, particularly in the areas hardest hit. But this could also be a new beginning.
I have been encouraged by the spirit of cooperation and support that has been evident throughout this crisis. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, neighbours have rescued neighbours, villages have fed villages, and communities supported communities. It was heartening to see Doboj being helped by Tesanj, Samac and Orasje being helped by Gradacac.
I also know how difficult this has been for the region, with other countries heavily affected. The way the region has also pulled together to support each other at this difficult time, offering mutual help across borders, has been inspiring, showing the valuable support that people in the region can lend each other as neighbours.
As the region takes forward economic rebuilding and tackles reforms, I hope the Forum for Prosperity and Growth and the actions and assistance agreed will provide a pillar of certainty. Our commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s future will not waver. The EU and UK stand ready to support Bosnia and Herzegovina as the country again starts to look forward.