It is a great pleasure for me to be again in Sarajevo and meet the Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bakir Izetbegović.
I welcome this opportunity to exchange views with the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina before participating in a conference of the Sant’Egidio Community to promote inter-religious and inter-cultural understanding.
Sarajevo has been a point of encounter between nations, ethnicities and religions during centuries.
While walking with President Izetbegović along the beautiful streets of the Old Town, I was yet again reminded of the rich cultural heritage of this city, which would have not been possible without its diversity. At the same time, it convinces me further how much dialogue, compromise and tolerance are needed to achieve a functional multicultural society and that its benefits can be abundant.
When meeting President Izetbegović in Brussels earlier this year, I was encouraged by the positive political developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which opened the possibility for significant progress towards the European Union. I then expressed the hope that Bosnia and Herzegovina would follow in the footsteps of Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia and others in the region and move resolutely towards a credible EU membership application by the end of the year. This would require strong political will in Bosnia and Herzegovina to overcome the remaining obstacles and realise its European potential.
However, we are yet to achieve what we were aiming for. This is why I take this opportunity to urge again the political representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina to overcome their differences and build a shared vision for a stable, prosperous and democratic future for their country. Political and economic reforms need to continue, not only because they will speed up the way to the European Union, but because they will benefit the lives of all citizens in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
It is my hope that Bosnia and Herzegovina will strive for progress in implementing all the necessary requirements, in particular the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights on the Sejdic-Finci case, in a reinforced spirit of compromise and shared responsibility among the entities and institutions.
The political leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina have already committed themselves to implementing the required reforms. There is no viable alternative to future EU membership. There will be no better time than now.
I would like to assure all Bosnian people that the EU remains committed to the European perspective of the whole Western Balkans, including Bosnia and Herzegovina.
We will continue to provide the best of the EU’s capacities and resources to help and support. But ultimately, it is up to the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina and their leaders to move the EU integration agenda forward.
To conclude, I would like to thank President Izetbegović for his kind hospitality, and express my strong desire to continue our dialogue in the future.