Since 2016, you have been serving as the ambassador of Germany to BiH, did you get used to life in Sarajevo? Have you visited some mountains, cities and important sites in BiH?
People in BIH and in Sarajevo in particular are very warm and welcoming; this makes it very easy to get used to live in here. And the city has a lot to offer for inhabitants and visitors alike: from the farmers’ market to the Sarajevo Film Festival.
As ambassador I have the privilege to travel a lot: From Bihac to Stolac and from Tuzla to Neum – Bosnia and Herzegovina is a beautiful country, the scenery is often spectacular. I can’t tell what I like most: The rugged mountains, the gentle valleys, the crystal-clear lakes or the meandering rivers – here in BiH everything can be reached within a few hours.
This almost pristine nature is one of the biggest assets for developing tourism further. However, this not only includes improving tourism infrastructure but first and foremost the protection of this fragile environment. Heavy smog in cities and the ever present litter in rivers and along roads are not promoting tourism.
Can you tell us more about the German investments in BiH, number of companies and amounts of investments? How can the future economic cooperation between BiH and Germany be enhanced?
Germany is ranked sixth among foreign investors – and with a trading volume of 1.7 billion Euro my country is the most important trading partner of BIH. There are some 250 enterprises with German capital in BiH; as of December 2015 the overall amount of German investment in BIH since 1994 was 613.9 million BAM.
BIH has a substantial potential for further German direct investment, but: Businesses and investors prefer politically stable countries where state institutions perform their tasks and carry out necessary reforms. The biggest obstacles to investment are political crises, rampant corruption, lacking rule of law as well as overwhelming bureaucracy.
How does the German government look at some actors who declaratively promote EU values but in practice are the bearers of apartheid projects in education, and are fighters against BiH as a civil state?
Germany stands for a future EU-membership of democratic state BIH based on European values and standards. We strongly support socio-economic reforms, which should focus on improving the business climate for instance by reducing political interference in the economic sector, thus allowing for the creation of jobs and a reliable social security system. This would clearly improve the lives of many BIH citizens.
Big words don’t help people. Political leaders should put more efforts into implementing the socio-economic reforms they all agreed on and which are in the best interest of BIH’s citizens. They should act fast – too many of their constituents are living in poverty, are unemployed, the education and health care systems are in poor condition.
Some EU countries want to show BiH as a country that is a threat to security in the context of terrorism (religious terrorism). How does the German government see BiH in that context?
In the wake of recent terrorist attacks, many countries have further enhanced their security and intelligence services, particularly through more intense cooperation and information sharing.
But even more essential are prevention and addressing the root causes of radicalization. It is well known that poverty and lack of a clear future offer fertile breeding grounds for extremism. High youth unemployment is a problem in BIH that needs to be tackled. Furthermore, inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue and engagement by and with the Islamic communities have shown positive results in fighting extremism.
Last but most importantly: Fighting terrorism requires rule of law: Prosecution not only has to result in reasonable criminal convictions or plea bargains, but also in adequate sentences, which have to be served. Enhanced vigilance has to be dedicated to financial flows. For instance, BIH has to resolutely fulfil Countering Terrorist Financing and Anti-Money Laundering measures, as recommended by the Financial Action Task Force.
Interview by Zejna SY/ photo avaz