Regional stability and development of overall cooperation in the Western Balkans have been long-standing foreign-policy priorities of Serbia. The pursuit of these goals has long been reflected in the activities of my country as we believe that this is the best way to bring about a politically stable and economically dynamic region. The projects that we carry out jointly, therefore, are of paramount importance in our endeavours to provide realistic prospects for a better future of Serbia, as well as the future of its neighbours. Convinced that Serbia’s good will is acknowledged and recognized, we have always been willing and ready to invest additional efforts to achieve more in this regard. And for the achievement of these goals, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a crucial and reliable partner in our joint march along the same road.
Serbia’s ties with Bosnia and Herzegovina are deep-rooted and manifold. In 1995, the milestone Dayton Peace Agreement was signed, ending a protracted and bitter war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Serbia is a guarantor of the Agreement and continues to believe that it is very important. It provides a basis for peace and stability and is a key to the promotion of the all-important goal of genuine reconciliation and mutual trust and confidence. We are still called upon, however, to continue to invest our best efforts in its achievement notwithstanding occasional discordant tones heard in the region that hark back to events from the tragic past. Detrimental to the efforts that we all have elected to promote, they often burden the political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, create unnecessary problems among the country’s Entities and constituent peoples and affect the situation in the entire region.
Serbia has been a staunch and consistent supporter of the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Western Balkans’ recent past is indicative of their importance for peace and stability and the creation of sustainable confidence. The respect of these principles is a conditio sine qua non in the relations among neighbours and, proceeding from the provisions of the Dayton Peace Agreement, Serbia has been firmly and genuinely committed to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Serbia considers that potential differences in the positions of the Entities on important issues, both with regard to jurisdiction and election law, as well as some other issues, belong in the realm of internal questions of Bosnia and Herzegovina and supports genuine and open dialogue which, we believe, is conducive to implementable solutions acceptable to all. All sides are called upon to work towards building mutual confidence and respect.
Serbia supports an unimpeded election cycle in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Transparency, good faith and responsibility will help much in this regard. They will also help the country’s joint institutions function more effectively and their greater contribution to its reform processes. One-sided acts, exchange of heated negative messages, recycling of old and the creating of new divisions and problems are contrary to the true interests of all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Serbia is convinced that political dialogue at all levels with Bosnia and Herzegovina is of particular importance for the development of all-round relations. Officials of the two countries have taken part in many meetings, bilateral and multilateral, in the preceding period. One of these meetings of substantial importance was surely the trilateral meeting among the Members of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Presidents of Croatia and Serbia in Mostar on 6 March 2018.
Economic cooperation between Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and the continued efforts by the two countries to constantly develop it impact positively overall bilateral relations. In the last 10 years Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have almost doubled their trade exchange.
We are also well aware of the need to strengthen regional efforts in order to bring people together and link economies. These efforts are and will be helped in no small measure by regular discussions of concrete projects in the field of infrastructure, energy, tourism, free trade and, particularly, the modernization of roads and rail road corridors.
We are joined in our common endeavours with Bosnia and Herzegovina also by our common aspiration to join the European Union. The Union may be facing multiple challenges and is in the process of consolidation right now. Yet, we are emboldened that our efforts are appreciated and accorded attention that we, in the region, expect. That the Union’s policy of enlargement to the Western Balkans is a continuous and stable process that provides for the admission of new members perhaps even before 2025 is evinced also by the documents it adopted recently. Their message is constructive and encouraging and grist to the mill of the region’s reforms and development of mutual cooperation. The processes of reform and cooperation are of great importance both for my country, widely seen as a viable candidate for EU membership in 2025, and for Bosnia and Herzegovina and some other neighbours of Serbia. While carrying out its own reform processes, Serbia looks forward to each and every success Bosnia and Herzegovina achieves and is willing to exchange its own experiences and help Bosnia and Herzegovina in its progress towards European integrations.
The people of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are very close. After all, Bosnia and Herzegovina and, in particular the Republic of Srpska, are home to a large number of Serbs and, for the sake of their better future also, Serbia is ready to cooperate extensively with Bosnia and Herzegovina and its Entities. By common will and joint efforts, we can make our relations catalytic to the processes of regional rapprochement and good-neighbourliness. The development of the region, the use of its considerable economic potentials, linking of infrastructure, ensuring of better communications and movement will help us meet the justified expectations of our citizens. We should address the open questions from the past, but we should take them in stride, not allowing that they affect our present interests and their realization.
Thank you, Mme President.