His Excellency Mr. José María Valdemoro Giménez was appointed as ambassador of Spain to Bosnia and Herzegovina at the session of the Council of Ministers held on May 11th, 2018.
Born in Trubia, Asturias, on March 24th, 1951, Mr. Valdemoro Giménez joined the diplomatic service in 1979. His positions included that of Attaché for Culture at the Embassy of Spain in Rome (1986-1991) and the Deputy Head of Mission at the embassies in Wien (2011-2016), Warsaw (1991-1994 and 2000-2004) and Budapest (1996-2000 and 2007-2011). He also was the Deputy Director-General for Eastern Europe 1995-1996 and 2004-2007.
From 2016 till 2018 held positions as Executive Adviser and Counselor at the Cabinet of Secretary of State for International Cooperation and for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Speaking about the first impressions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and favorite places to visit, Mr. Valdemoro Giménez says his impressions were very positive and that for someone who belongs to the generation who watched the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina from their homes in Europe, he must say that your country’s visit is pleasantly surprising.
“Not only because of the beauty of the landscape, which no one can deny, but also because of the friendliness and hospitality of the people here,” Ambassador explains.
The one special thing that got his attention is the similarity between Spaniards and Bosnians.
“Bosnia and Herzegovina is a Mediterranean country, we are similar in nature, we look at things similarly, we think similarly, we open ourselves to people. I often discuss this with some colleagues from the Mediterranean countries,” H.E. continues.
“I have some favorite places in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but if I had to choose, I would mention Trebinje, Mostar and Sarajevo’s Bascarsija. These are special places,” Mr. Valdemoro Giménez concludes.
Sarajevo Times: Spain recognized the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina on 12thMarch 1992 and diplomatic relations were established on 14thDecember 1992. How would you evaluate the relations between BiH and Spain?
H.E. points out that bilateral relations between Spain and Bosnia and Herzegovina are generally good and very fluid. “In addition to the information on trade and consistent support of our country to the European perspective of BiH and the efforts made by its authorities along the way, I would also like to emphasize the civil society and citizens of your country and the relationship we seek to strengthen there,”His Excellency added. Mr. Valdemoro Giménez continues by saying that like Bosnia and Herzegovina, Spain is a very diverse country that brings together different identities within its population. That is why his country in Bosnia and Herzegovina has always wanted to play the role of one who helps to reach consensus by transferring its experience both politically and as a decentralized country, and by establishing a model of coexistence in which it has room for all sentiments and projects that fit within the constitutional framework.
He continues by saying that Spain has gone through a remarkable process of reconciliation in a country that is considered a true example of success. There is no doubt that the historical context for reconciliation policy is different in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Spain. But the reason for its existence is equally important: the need to realize a common project for the future, which in this case, like Spain in the past, should lead to the membership in the European Union. “This bilateral relationship undoubtedly has its roots in the work of our Armed Forces in the peacekeeping missions during the war, and later in Herzegovina, and especially in Mostar, through their sensitivity to the local population. Every time I go to Mostar people remind me of it,” Mr. Valdemoro Giménez adds.
“I will mention interesting information that shows the nature of our relationship with Bosnia and Herzegovina. Spain is the only country specifically mentioned in the three largest cities in the country: Barcelona Square in Sarajevo, Alfonso XIII Street in Banja Luka and Spanish Square in Mostar. I think this is a good example of our presence in the collective memory of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” H.E. concludes.
Can you name the two most important projects that have been carried out during your stay in our country? What are your plans for the rest of the mandate?
Speaking about projects that the Embassy currently undertakes, Ambassador explains there are two major projects encompassing education and translation of Haggadah. “In the first place is the work with the authorities in the field of education, which, like in Spain, is in the decentralized competence of the cantons. Education is the key to the future of one country and the main concern of every parent. This year we saw for the first time the results of the Pisa report for Bosnia and Herzegovina, which were really discouraging,” Ambassador explains. Mr. Valdemoro Giménez adds that they would like the youngest in this country to have quality, depoliticized and, above all, inclusive education. In the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is not just about training human resources, education is a major pillar of social reconciliation. “Spain has already implemented important projects in this field, such as the Los Rosales Center in Mostar for persons with disabilities regardless of nationality, and I would like to invite you to visit it,” Ambassador adds.
Explaining the second project, Ambassador says that they are translating the Haggadah, a document of fundamental importance to the Jewish tradition, into Spanish. It is the Embassy’s gift and commitment to the Sephardic community in this country. “Of course, apart from these and other important obligations, my duties consist in supporting and assisting the authorities in their efforts to implement reforms and continue the European path of this country,” Mr. Valdemoro Giménez concludes.
Speaking about Bosnian Diaspora in Spain, how they were welcomed and integrated in the society, Ambassador explains that the Diaspora in Spain has been reduced in numbers today compared to 5,000 refugees who arrived during the war, but their integration level is very high. “There are two factors involved, the immense ability to integrate the Bosnian Diaspora itself, and, on the other hand, the openness and receptiveness of Spanish society, which are among the largest in the world. Members of the Bosnian Diaspora in Spain are engaged in all kinds of professions, from start-ups, sports, to medical disciplines, so important today,” Mr. Valdemoro Giménez concludes.
Interview by Zejna Yesilyurt