Interview with Ambassador Lars-Gunnar Wigemark for the daily Dnevni avaz

This interview was originally published in the daily Dnevni avaz on 15 October 2015.

Politics is also about leaving aside personal bickering or differences and moving forward • Not so long ago it was questionable if the FBiH Government would even survive

I welcome the new majority in the Federation of BiH with SBB, a party that, seemingly, stands ready to support the work of the FBiH Government. Now there will be a more stable majority in the Parliament. This should facilitate the passing of reforms.

Decisions to be made

In his interview for the Dnevni Avaz Daily, Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, Head of the EU Delegation to BiH and EU Special Representative in BiH, commented on the emerging political momentum in the country, specifically the coalition between SBB and SDA.

“What is important now is whether reforms could ensure the necessary changes, meaning more jobs, more investments. To achieve this goal, it is necessary to continue with this momentum, this speed. Our interest is to have an efficient majority. Can it do what it takes and what is difficult? By all means, there will be difficult decisions to be made, but they are needed. Surely, it must be stressed we have no favourites in the government or outside of it”, Wigemark told Avaz.

How do you assess the significance of the fact that two political leaders of the two strongest parties in the FBiH decided to work together towards the future of the country and for the sake of stabilising the situation, despite their differences in the past?

“Stronger majority and the FBiH Government ready to pass reforms are simply necessary! The essence of any government is to work to deliver as promised to its citizens. And that can only be done with a clear majority in the Parliament. Not so long ago, it was questionable whether the FBiH Government would even survive.
So my answer to your question is that it is good that it happened – two political parties expressed their readiness to reach an agreement. That is very good. But now it needs to be ensured that the momentum is preserved. I would say that it is also politics to leave aside political bickering or differences and move forward in the interests of the country and its citizens. We certainly encourage this! Bear in mind that all political leaders had signed the Written Commitment.

In your assessment, what is the speed in which this vehicle, called BiH, is now moving? Should the driver put it into higher gear?

“The most important thing is to know who is driving the vehicle, and make sure that there are not too many drivers and not too many gears at the same time. So that it does not happen that one driver is changing a gear, and the other is slowing down. That is not good for the vehicle. In general, we are satisfied with the speed so far, especially the FBiH Government. The Council of Ministers is trying to catch up, as is the RS Government.”

A matter of date

If so, can we then expect BiH to be accepted as a candidate for EU membership early next year?

“There are conditions for BiH application for EU membership to be considered credible. The first one is the progress in the implementation of the Reform Agenda. The second is related to the adjustment of the trade part of the SAA with Croatia. Positions are very clear there, but I think there is room to find solutions for certain products. The third is related to the establishment of a coordination mechanism needed for negotiations with the EU.”

But what would be your rough estimate, or at least expectation? When do we get a candidacy status?

“Rather than speculating on whether it is January 31, 2016 or a later date, one should look at the list of things to be done. But, indeed, it can be said that it is possible to have it met rather quickly. Very soon, probably in December, we will have a meeting with the authorities, and representatives of international financial institutions to see where we stand.”

Rule of law

It is noticeable that in recent statements, you were somewhat pushing the issue of the rule of law, and judicial reform. So, economic reforms have been launched. Is it now the time for the judiciary?

You are right. Of course, there is still a considerable number of economic measures to be achieved. But for all that to come to life, you need and efficient judiciary, and improved rule of law. It is, in fact, part of the Reform Agenda. This is what the governments will face in the coming period. For starting a business, we do not need a system of legal uncertainty. There are, of course, other issues such as efficient prosecution of war crimes, and more should be done in this regard.

We were doubting reforms over DF

Earlier this year there was a lot of doubt whether the FBiH Government is at all capable to deliver any reforms. It can be said that we were seriously concerned especially after one coalition partner said it will no longer support the government. They have, of course, the right to such a decision, even though I do not want to speculate about their motives. Anyway, it somehow continued working. It passed the Labour Law, although with a slim majority. It is good that the Government continued to work with greater support in the Parliament – said Wigemark.