Bosnia and Herzegovina is not only a next-door neighbour, but also one of the key partners of my country in the region. At the time when Europe is facing numerous challenges, dialogue, understanding and cooperation in the Western Balkans and South East Europe are perhaps more important than ever before. It is therefore only too natural that the promotion of comprehensive relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of Serbia’s priorities. The potential for cooperation between the two countries is enormous, all the more so as we remain committed whole-heartedly to achieving our common goals and set our sights on the positive vision of the future.
Serbia is a guarantor of the Dayton Peace Agreement, the 20th anniversary of which we are marking nowadays. 20 years ago, the Agreement was instrumental in ending the tragic conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina and established the basis for a peaceful and stable future and, just as importantly, for reconciliation. It was followed by economic and social recovery, development and progress in the process of EU integrations, as well as by the strengthening of neighbourly cooperation in the region. A good neighbour, my country was and remains open for close relations and joint activities with Bosnia and Herzegovina that bring us ever closer to the membership of the European Union.
Serbia has always respected, fully and consistently, the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of States, the international standard of paramount importance. In that context, my country has been a staunch and steadfast supporter of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as provided for by the Dayton Peace Agreement. For, the stability and development of this country, the homeland also of 1.5 million Serbs, and its regional and European integration have no alternative.
Over the past 20 years, Bosnia and Herzegovina has demonstrated that dialogue and agreement between its Entities best address the issues that are important for its future. Active dialogue is needed today, too, just as is intensive communication, if differences are to be overcome and we firmly believe that all political leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina are also aware of the need. We also believe that all crucial decisions important for the future of the country should be brought as a result of dialogue and agreement between its Entities and among its three constituent peoples as they reflect the interests of, and benefit, them all. In that context, it should be pointed out that the holding of the referendum in the Republic of Srpska on the judiciary of Bosnia and Herzegovina is an internal question to be resolved by dialogue between political actors within the existing legal system of that country. After all, the creation of ever greater trust among the Serbs, Bosniacs and the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina is invaluably important for joint activities and reforms conducive to the country’s full membership of the European Union.
As a neighbour and an important partner, Bosnia and Herzegovina occupies an important place in the activities of the current Government of Serbia. It was, I recall, the first country that Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić visited after his election and the political dialogue between Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, in which my country invested significant efforts, peaked this year. Last week, a joint session of the Governments of the two countries took place in Sarajevo; indicative of the importance attached to the development of mutual relations, the session was also focused on furthering good-neighbourliness and reconciliation and the quest for ways and means to promote cooperation and realize the expectations of the people of the two countries to live a better life.
Last July, the victims were commemorated in Srebrenica 20 years after the crime. Serbian Prime Minister Vučić also went to pay respects. Regrettably, he was brutally attacked at the Potočari Memorial Centre. Yet, well aware that senseless acts of violence must not be taken as points of reference for relations among States and guided by the spirit of Serbia’s avowed policy of friendship and cooperation, the Prime Minister invited the members of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina to visit Serbia only ten days after the incident. The occasion was used to re-confirm the resolve of my country to work just as hard and undeterred as it did before on the promotion of good relations and cooperation with Bosnia and Herzegovina and conduct dialogue on all issues, including those in respect of which differences do exist. In addition to sending a strong message that the leaders of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are responsible people who look optimistically to the future and have the wellbeing of their children at heart, the visit was used to sign three practical agreements in the field of telecommunications, the environment and cultural heritage and a protocol on cooperation in the quest for missing persons.
Also, last May Prime Minister Vučić participated in the Sarajevo Business Forum alongside political and economic leaders from all over the world and will participate in the International Investment and Development Conference, scheduled to begin in Srebrenica tomorrow.
In the spirit of a genuine collective commitment to the future, especially lasting reconciliation and a better life for all, the young people in particular, that this Conference symbolizes, Serbia is ready to help the local self-government of Srebrenica by constructing a necessary public facility in this town.
Avowals, Mr. President, of support for a cause or a policy may ring hollow and phony unless substantiated by evidence that it helps the cause and the policy succeed. Here, therefore, are some basic statistics.
In 2014, the overall trade exchange between Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina amounted to €1.4 billion. In the period January/July 2015, it reached €822.3 million. This year, Serbia’s exports increased by 9.2 per cent and its imports by 9.6 per cent compared to the same period last year. The possibilities to increase these amounts even further are manifold, especially in the investment in infrastructure development, energy, tourism, joint ventures and defence industry. Joint approach to the Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) would help in that regard, too.
Serbia welcomes the decision of the European Union to defreeze the Stabilization and Association Agreement with Bosnia and Herzegovina of last June. A staunch advocate of the European integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina, it looks at the possible submission by this country of the candidature for membership in the Union in a positive light and is willing to strengthen mutual cooperation in that regard, especially through the work of the Commission on the Implementation of the Action Plan of the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in the Field of European Integrations, the next meeting of which is to be held in Serbia in the first quarter of 2016. And, on a note of special satisfaction, let me point out that the Serbian Presidency of the OSCE was delighted to see Bosnia and Herzegovina in the chair of the Council of Europe. A very important rostrum to cooperate with in addressing many important issues on the agenda of these two organizations jointly, it was also a sign of recognition of the level of stabilization and cooperation achieved in our region.
In lieu of a conclusion, let me reiterate what my country has said many times over: we are committed to promoting ever closer and best possible relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina. We treasure its stability and prosperity and for us the policy of dialogue, good-neighbourliness and cooperation has no alternative.