“On a personal note, I am delighted to be back in the country I have worked in 20 years ago and I have kept in touch ever since. I think there were many reasons I felt home right from the beginning, the most important one is the openness of your people and the hospitality here, but also the rich cultural heritage and last but not least, being Austrian, I love your mountains,” EU Ambassador Johann Sattler said at his first press conference in Sarajevo on Thursday.
EU membership is the country’s strategic goal and a strong desire of its citizens. It is the best offer in town. One thing you can be sure: we’ll be here for the long haul, to stay.
Why do your citizens long for EU membership: The EU is the most advanced and the most prosperous economic unit in the world, but above all, we are a Union of principles, values and standards with a strong social pillar.
“I firmly believe – and this comes from my heart – that the EU is not complete without Bosnia and Herzegovina and the whole region.”
Over the years, Bosnia and Herzegovina has proven – and especially when the going got tough and in spite of your structural deficiencies – you were always able to get your act together. Yes, it took a long time, but in the end you delivered: from fulfilling conditions for visa liberalisation, the submission of the application for EU membership to – very recently – the regional roaming agreement. This is also to counter the many nay-sayers who say that the Balkans is a lost case, nothing is happening, BiH is unreformable, North Macedonia would not overcome the name issue – well look at the country today.
So things are possible, but a lot of work lies ahead. Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to implement comprehensive economic reforms. Your citizens want to have quality education, adequate healthcare, an impartial judiciary and greater job opportunities.
“But too often divisive rhetoric has overtaken the public discourse, while neglecting the actual work and the needs of all citizens. We have reiterated many times that the EU wants to see Bosnia and Herzegovina become part of our family. The European Commission’s Opinion published in May of this year confirms this.”
The Opinion sets out the famous 14 key priorities that the country needs to address in order to be recommended for the opening of accession negotiations.
One of the first things I expect to see from the BiH institutions going forward is the development of an action plan on implementing recommendations from the Commission’s Opinion. This would convey a clear message of commitment by BiH to move forward.
The Opinion key priorities raise the most serious issues to be tackled, I want to mention three: Rule of law, judiciary, socio-economic issues and public administration reform: professional civil service, quality in education, health, less red tape and much less nepotism.
These happen to be also my priorities for the time to come, and you will hear me repeat this.