At the ‘EU House’ in Sarajevo
Thank you ladies and gentlemen. With my press conference now I finish my visit yesterday and today in BiH. And in Sarajevo – I came after visiting other two countries of the region, I was in Albania and Serbia and now here. I had a lot of meetings with the colleagues at the Parliament, with the members of the Presidency, with the Prime Minister who chairs the Council of Ministers, with the Foreign Affairs Minister. I am now concluding my visit with some mixed feelings. There is some progress in the country. I was deeply impressed by my meeting with the Chair of the Council of Ministers and with the Foreign Affairs Minister in the morning. I also had a very deep and fruitful exchange with President Izetbegovic yesterday. The country is still in a difficult economic situation. I had a meeting with young students from the University of Sarajevo yesterday and it was, for me, very important to listen to expectation, hope but also the worry of young people in the country.
Youth unemployment, around 60 percent, remains one of the biggest challenges for all of us, not only here in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is a problem in the European Union as a whole. The whole agenda of necessary reform steps, for example the adoption yesterday of the Framework Agreement for the IPA financing instrument in the House of Peoples, is a step forward. Also the commitment of the government to be a part of the European network developments is of the highest importance because infrastructure development is a precondition to attract investors and the country needs foreign investments. But for foreign investments, the country needs internal stability, and internal stability depends on the preparedness of the responsible politicians to cooperate. And so far I had a repetition of an experience I faced four years ago when I was here as a Chairman of the Parliamentary Group in the European Parliament in 2011.
I was here just at the the moment when the Republika Srpska referendum was discussed; and now today I am once more here and exactly just in the time of my visit there is once more a referendum on the agenda, adopted yesterday in Banja Luka. I think President Dodik should take into account that referendums are elements for fundamental decisions. In a parliamentary democracy, in a system of parliamentarism, the role of a parliament is to act on behalf of voters. Voters delegate their vote to parliamentarians for a certain time and these parliamentarians decide on behalf of their voters. But some systems know the element of referendum, exactly at the moment when the question on the table is so fundamental that it is not enough to vote in the parliament. Directly, the voters and citizens should be consulted.
Therefore, I think referendums are then meaningful and useful when it is about the fundamental questions. If they are used for tactical reasons – it is the wrong instrument. My feeling is, also looking at the question which is put to the citizens of Republika Srpska, this is playing with the high risk. My feeling is what the country needs are not debates about that kind of question. What we need are foreign investments, employment, growth, economic reforms, cooperation. Therefore, I was surprised about the fact that once more that referendum question is at stake. I find it counterproductive. Therefore, I conclude with an impression of my visit here that there is a lot of good will.
I think that the European Union must keep the door – for the whole region, not only for Bosnia and Herzegovina, for the whole countries from the region – open. And there is an element which is really surprising, few people I meet knew that your country is chairing for the time being the Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe – that the Foreign Ministry of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the Chair. By the way, at the same moment we have Serbia chairing the OSCE. On the international level BiH is a full fledged member of the international community, but in the country itself we are discussing about questions like those put yesterday in Banja Luka, this is disproportionate.
Therefore, I greet all those people in the country, with the support of the European Parliament, with all our means, those people who want to bring your country on the road to being a modern, full-fledged, full integrated member of the international community. There is a lot of commitment also not only to reform the country, but to bring the country to the European Union.
Mr Schulz, my question is related to the referendum that has been issued, this is hottest right now that you are faced with. Actually, a statement has been issued last night, it’s coming from the US Embassy, but it is stating that what is done Brussels and Washington are discussing measures that will be taken with regard to the decision made by the RS Parliament last night, so I was wondering, what is you assessment at this stage? What kind of measures or sanctions are to be taken by the EU and will the European Parliament be involved in that?
President Schulz: I expressed my personal view, it’s much too early to discuss about measures. It was yesterday night that they adopted the Referendum. I looked carefully at the questions put to the citizens, this is hot stuff, but to speak about measures or sanctions, it is much too early. Thank you very much.