Portal Sarajevo Times made an interview with the new Ambassador of Sweden in Bosnia and Hercegovina (BiH), H.E. Anders Hagelberg, and talked about his first impression of BiH, its people, EU-integration as wells as the potential in the business segment.
Since September 2016, you have been serving as the ambassador of Sweden to BiH, did you get used to life in Sarajevo?
“I find it very exciting to be in Sarajevo, Sarajevo is really very charming city. Of course, I know the history, I know the background, the tragedy that hit its citizens but at the same time what I can see today is the city that in many respects is interesting and welcoming for foreigners,” says Ambassador.
“Sarajevo and Stockholm do not have many similarities, but I hope for Stockholm to have the similarity with Sarajevo in terms of getting visitors feeling welcome. Sarajevo is Sarajevo and it has its own profile and in my opinion it is a very nice city,” explains Hagelberg.
“When I first arrived in Sarajevo I expected a small city, but at the same time I felt that it is a capital. First of all you see the mountains and very beautiful surroundings, but for me, as a visitor, the interaction between different cultures was very interesting. The history has in so many respects contributed to architecture and culture, making a capital where different cultures meet and different parts of the world can be seen in just one walk,” concludes Ambassador.
When speaking about the mountains and cities in BiH that are particularly impressive, Ambassador Hagelberg says that he has travelled much through BiH by car and that he has intention to walk in the mountains. Moreover, he adds that he would like to hike much more frequent and sees this as one of the best things one can do in BiH as a visitors.
“As a diplomat I should not compare cities, but Sarajevo is my favorite. I have travelled much, both in the neighboring countries and in the BiH, but Sarajevo, as a city, has its own charm. As a tourist or a foreigner, my favorite is absolutely Sarajevo. Of course, there are other citizens that one cannot neglect, such as Mostar and Trebinje,” emphasizes Hagelberg.
On the question about the best resource of BiH, Ambassador stresses that people of this country are the best resource, and that he can see some of the Swedish companies seeking for the skilled people from BiH.
But also, there are sectors in BiH that can be much more successful, for instance the forestry area. He is very much sure that forest could be much better resource for the development of BiH. Moreover, Ambassador adds that he noticed success of some of the Swedish companies in the Information Technology (IT) sector, in the software, where they employed very skillful people here and become very competitive with developing of software, not only in the domestic market but in the global arena as well.
When speaking about the tourism in BiH, Hagelberg says the most important thing is that one is feeling safe when coming to BiH and that tourists are met with a very friendly attitude and are not primarily seen as a tourists and immediately “grabbed”.
“In that respect you can feel very calm and relaxed. There are lots of interesting things to see, both in Sarajevo and in the other cities as well,” emphasizes Ambassador.
In addition, Hagelberg says that the access to BiH would be easier to tourists and potential investors if it is enhanced with better roads and more flights.
“A lot has been done in the past years in order to enhance the tourist offer,” adds Hagelberg.
Moreover, he recall the situation couple years ago, when there were a lots of stray dogs in Sarajevo, which was bad for tourists and residents, but adds that the situation is much better today.
Can you tell us more about the Swedish investments in BiH, number of companies and amounts of investments? How can the future economic cooperation between BiH and Sweden be enhanced?
“Government of Sweden gives 15 Million Euros to BiH annually and there are three different areas in which the money is invested, first is environment, encompassing projects such as infrastructure, waste water treatment, second is economic development and economic integration, third is rule of law, where we are collaborating with the justice sector, and trying to contribute in the creating of the society with less corruption.”
“The BH market is quite small and amounts of investments are limited but there are some good examples, especially from the former Diaspora members. During the war in BiH, up to 100 000 people came from this country to Sweden as refugees, many of them are still in Sweden and become the best integrated diaspora of all diaspora groups in Sweden. According to the research, lot of them are successful, and in the same time, many of them have their heart in BiH and are contributing to the relationship but also to the development of BiH.”
When speaking about Swedish companies in BiH, Hagelberg referred to three or four software industry and IT companies, companies in the fruit industry, one company making a prefabricated houses and one producing shoes in Sweden and employing 250 people. At the same time he noticed that at the macroeconomic plan, the figures of foreign investments in BiH are very small, and the business climate should be improved.
On the question about the cooperation between BiH and Sweden in economic terms, Ambassador says that he is sure that they will continue with the financial support in the framework of the economic cooperation, and that they will continue in pushing BiH to the EU integration and EU path.
“Sweden really wants to have the doors opened for this country, but at the same time it is very much up to politicians and citizens. I would really like to see BiH in the European Union in the future,” adds Hagelberg.
“If right decisions are taken, if the rule of law is further developed in the positive direction, despite the quite small size of this market, still I am sure that many companies from Sweden would like to do more here, because there are many comparative advantages of this country,” concludes Ambassador Hagelberg.
Ambassador Anders Hagelberg has worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 1985 and has been Ambassador in Angola and South Africa, been the director of the EU department as well as the Africa department at the Swedish MFA. Earlier, he also worked at the political unit and the unit for European integration at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
Interview by Zejna SY