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I would like to thank all the members of the Presidency, and especially to you, Mr President, for your invitation and for the meeting we just had and for the frank and open conversation, we had about the current situation and the future prospect of Bosnia and Herzegovina on its way towards the European Union. This is a very historic and important day for Bosnia and Herzegovina, and also for Europe.
The war and the siege of Sarajevo is high in my memory. Spanish troops were involved in trying to help people of Sarajevo and I remember very well those days. Today’s we are marking the 25th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Agreement and it is a good moment for reflection about what happened, about the atrocities of the past, to commemorate the victims, and to pay tribute to the many who have worked and continue to work hard on reconciliation.
I welcome very much the Presidency’s statement on the occasion of 25 years of Dayton, recognising the importance of strengthening trust, peace and mutual respect among all citizens in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the need to respect all civilian victims of war.
I would have been very happy to participate in a joint commemoration of the victims, which is I think essential to move forward. It is for a good reason that an environment for reconciliation is one of the 14 key priorities of the European Commission’s Opinion.
We have to commemorate the past, but also look into the future. Looking to the future, we had an open exchange on the current progress and challenges, and on ways to advance Bosnia and Herzegovina’s European aspirations. I want to use this opportunity to reaffirm our support for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s efforts on the European path. Because the country’s future is European.
I don’t have lessons to give, but maybe an experience to share. I come from a country that suffered an awful civil war. Our reconciliation was mainly the result of our hard work to join the EU. We were so busy trying to fulfil all the requirements to become a member of the EU, that the reconciliation came as a collateral effect of this collective engagement on a common endeavour.
The EU is already Bosnia and Herzegovina’s main economic and political partner – most recently in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic and mitigating its socio-economic consequences. We have been happy to give a hand to cooperate with you in order to overcome these difficulties.
Now, authorities need to step up their efforts to deliver on the reform priorities to bring Bosnia and Herzegovina and its citizens closer to the European Union. Candidate status can be considered only when progress is made on all 14 key Opinion priorities expressed by the European Commission, and I underlined the importance of concrete progress in line with these priorities.
More than 80 percent of the country’s population support the EU integration – and I am sure that most, not to say all, political leaders will honour their wishes.
As I said I have an experience to share – an experience of the country that also looked at European, looked at Europe as a light in the darkness in order to join [the community] of political freedoms, economic prosperity and social cohesion, which are the most important characteristic of the EU, and am I sure prospects and objectives that all people in Bosnia and Herzegovina share.
So, allow me to use this opportunity to congratulate the citizens on the occasion of 25 years of peace - in spite of all difficulties and problems to be solved - and to thank them for their inspiring endurance.
I am happy that I am able to visit BiH during these challenging times and once again I want thank the Presidency members for their invitation, hospitality and their common endeavour to bring Europeans closer to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Bosnia and Herzegovina closer to Europe.
Watch video here https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-199094 (from 12:00”)