There is much to do in the year ahead and the US and UK, like many other friends of Bosnia and Herzegovina, are here to help, ambassadors of the United States and United Kingdom said in their joint blog, hoping they will find the “willing partners” for that.
“2020 is over. Many of us have been counting the days until the end of the strangest of years. Of course the simple change of a calendar does not fix the problems we face, but it does give the chance for a fresh start. And we are feeling cautiously positive about the year in front,” the UK's Matt Field and US’ Eric Nelson said in the opening part of their blog.
They pointed out the young people as the country's chance, as those trained through the US BOLD programme and UK Youth Advisers proved to be “positive, smart and can-do young people,” already achieving great things in various fields.
“Given the right opportunities, the future of BiH can be very bright indeed,” the ambassadors stressed, noting that their countries and other friends of Bosnia and Herzegovina will need willing partners to achieve that goal.
“We have found them in many places, but by no means everywhere. We will target our support to BiH organisations, grassroots groups, and individuals who are really trying to make a difference,” they added.
The foreign diplomats also touched upon the situation with the pandemic in Bosnia and Herzegovina, pointing out as good the information about soon arrival of Covid-19 vaccines. However, they stressed, this was not the reason to relax but to continue sticking to the measures in place.
As for the economy, the pandemic made an impact around the world including Bosnia and Herzegovina, but the ambassadors stressed, this moment has to be used well.
“We must not waste this crisis, and should instead use the moment to think how to better support businesses and entrepreneurs, through less red tape, more digitalisation of services, depoliticisation of public companies, and more transparency in government spending. The recovery needs to be more inclusive, especially of women and young people. The IMF is offering a large amount of assistance to BiH, but we think it is completely correct – and understood by most citizens – that this money should be conditioned with exactly these kinds of reforms. Long overdue steps to join the World Trade Organisation could also give businesses a much-needed boost,” reads the blog.
The lack of election processes in 2021 should be used to improve the electoral system, said Field and Nelson, noting that the recent Mostar vote which was the first vote in 12 years was rather “a failure fixed” than a “positive reform.”
“Let’s remember we are still waiting to see 2018 election results fully implemented! What else needs to change is clearly laid out by the OSCE, and by the European Court of Human Rights. The EU Opinion confirms this must all be done. The Parliamentary body responsible for this work needs to meet and get on with this essential task, so BiH voters do not find themselves in the same position in 2022,” the ambassador stressed, reiterating the need to meet the requirements set in the EU opinion on Bosnia's membership application, which among others also require the improvements in the judiciary and public procurement.
“These difficult reforms become easier when you invite 30 Allies of NATO to help”, they noted and recalled of Bosnia's Reform Programme that started in 2019 and that is meant to push forward the country on its EU path.
Finally, the ambassadors touched upon the migrant situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the problems it has brought.
“In the short-term, it is in the interests of all BiH citizens that migrants currently in this country are safely and humanely accommodated, off the streets. BiH authorities need to coordinate their response to the migrant crisis, and to share the responsibility fairly across the country,” the ambassadors concluded.