In the last few weeks, things that once seemed unimaginable – physical distancing, working from home, virtual meetings and decision-making – have become the norm. When the crisis is over, the world isn’t going to go back to business as usual: things will change.
The European Union has adjusted quickly to the new reality. We made arrangements in order to ensure that our Western Balkans partners are allocated urgent assistance to cope with the virus. EU-funded medical supplies are already being delivered, while mid- and long-term economic aid will be rolled out in the coming weeks and months. Solidarity in action!
In the first weeks of the pandemic in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it was encouraging to see longstanding issues and obstacles swept aside in order to get citizens the help they need. How did the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina respond? They did what they always do – all across this country, from every region and every community – they took the initiative and contributed to solutions, showing solidarity and resilience.
Today Bosnia and Herzegovina is taking a part in the EU-WB Summit, at which neighbouring countries are expected to report solid progress and propose credible regional initiatives. The Summit hosted by the Croatian Presidency was originally scheduled to take place in Zagreb, but because of the pandemic it will be convened in a virtual format – another example of how dramatically things can change in a very short period of time.
I believe today’s event can and should mark a new beginning for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
It is now important that old obstacles don’t resurface as the country emerges from the crisis, and that it is able to make faster progress towards joining the European Union. The door to European Union remains open – citizens must be able to walk through it.
Last week the three Members of the BiH Presidency made a renewed commitment to move Bosnia and Herzegovina faster on the EU path by addressing 14 priority areas of engagement. The initiative foresees an inclusive process involving the Council of Ministers, Parliaments and the coordination mechanism. It also envisages the participation of civil society and experts through different fora.
It is high time for the leadership to take steps forward, given that these priorities were laid out nearly a year ago and not much has been achieved since then. Post-electoral and other political disputes have instead made it difficult for the country to proceed promptly with the necessary reforms.
Demonstrating a clear vision on the way forward at this time is of utmost importance. First-hand experience over the last two months shows that BiH political leaders can take quick and constructive action and can deliver on their commitments for the benefit of all citizens. When the stakes are high, and the concerns and goals are shared, unity must be put over division.
The pandemic has proved once again how important it is for the country to have functional institutions.
As the world emerges from this crisis, many things will inevitably have changed – and at the virtual EU-Western Balkans Summit taking place today, Bosnia and Herzegovina can make a fresh start. I hope it will.
The overwhelming majority of citizens throughout the country aspire to join the European Union. The Union has worked with this country to address the pandemic; we will work with it to move forward now towards EU integration at a faster rate than was achieved before the crisis.
Every single citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina craves a fresh start – not twenty years from now, but today.
This process has been relaunched and there is a seat at the table for everyone.
Together, we are stronger!
Together we are EUrope.