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Thank you very much. It is a pleasure to be here together with Commissioner Hahn. We came to Sarajevo for our first joint visit – not the last one, the next joint visit is in a couple of days. So, this is telling you something about the new way in which the new Commission started to work: hand in hand, close cooperation and coordinated approach.
The reason for us to be here today is that the discussion with the Foreign Ministers of the European Union at the first Foreign Affairs Council that I had a pleasure to chair in my new capacity in November was about the way in which we could profit from the post-electoral period in Bosnia and Herzegovina and new start in Brussels that we have with a new Commission. We wanted to see if this could be a chance and occasion for this country and for the European Union to get closer not only in words but in practise, in reality. And to come and see if there is a will, not only in the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also in the political leadership and institutions to start a new phase, a new process to move things.
We've had meetings, together with Commissioner Hahn, with civil society, with the Presidency, with the leaders of political parties in the House of Representatives. We've met the outgoing Chairman of Council of Ministers and the Foreign Minister. I would say that our overall impression was, first of all, that the civil society – the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina – are more than ready to have the country moving forward towards the European Union and that there is a relevant and significant political will that we have had a possibility to see today in the institutions and the political leadership to meet these expectations and start working on a new basis.
From our side this would mean not lowering the bar and changing the EU conditionality – that is not something that is on the agenda – but it might mean that we can look at how the sequence can be changed or can be better addressed to make sure that there are some concrete deliverables in terms of reforms, starting from the economic and social reforms and getting also to the functionality of the state.
This is something that we will report to the Foreign Ministers of the European Union in a little bit more than a week, on December 15. We will report about the meetings we have had today and the assessment of the existing political will that we have found today to move forward on this way. And we will have the discussion with the Ministers about the engagement of the EU in this process given the political will that we find in the country, as I said, not only, but firstly in a population, but also in the institutions and in the political leadership.
We know that this is not going to be just about signing something. It is about starting a process of delivering to the people, and I think, we think, it is a good opportunity for the country, for the institutions, for the political leadership of this country to move forward. We have an opportunity to close with the divisions or the problems of the past and have a fresh look at the way in which Bosnia and Herzegovina can fulfil its being part of the EU family.
We always say that all countries of the Western Balkans have a future in the EU and we have to make it real now, together, with the sense of ownership, here in Sarajevo and all parts of the country and with a sense of responsibility and being ready to cooperate from the European Union side.
Let me also say that we know that we have to engage also and very strongly with civil society and that is something we are willing to do ourselves - a meeting today was extremely good with the civil society organisations.
We have the possibility to announce today a competition for journalists throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina with nine awards to be made to advance the discussion in the public opinion about the social economic reforms and this is possible thanks to the kind support also of the Royal Norwegian Embassy. We will work with media to have a deep discussion in the public opinion on how reforms can be turned into reality. I am sure that if you want more information, you can find it in the Delegation here.
Thank you very much.
Anca Paduraru: +32 498 966 430 - Anca.Paduraru@ec.europa.eu
Irina Novakova: +32 498 957 517 - Irina.Novakova@ec.europa.eu
Eamonn Prendergast: +32 460 75 32 93 - Eamonn.Prendergast@ec.europa.eu
Nabila Massrali: +32 460 75 41 75 - Nabila.Massrali@ec.europa.eu