“Further enhancing important bilateral cooperation in all fields, starting with political dialogue”
Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias emphasises that Greece has a “firm commitment to the integration of the Western Balkan countries in the European Union; as was reflected in the Thessaloniki Agenda which was adopted back in 2003.”
Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias recently travelled to Bosnia and Herzegovina where he had successive meetings in Sarajevo with his counterpart Dr. Bisera Turković, Deputy Chairperson of the Council of Ministers and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina; the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Zoran Tegeltija; Members of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Milorad Dodik (Chairman), Željko Komšić and Šefik Džaferović; and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Josip Brkić. The talks focused on, among other things, strengthening of bilateral cooperation, the European perspective of the Western Balkans, regional security and stability and wider regional developments.
Foreign Minister Dendias promised, among other things, to assist in their path toward European Union membership. In speaking with his Bosnian counterpart Bisera Turković, Minister Dendias said “we had the opportunity to address ways of further enhancing our important bilateral cooperation in all fields, starting with political dialogue.”
Minister Dendias further emphasised that his meetings in BiH were about boosting economic cooperation and cultural exchanges. “In this regard, it is a particular pleasure for me to underline that courses of Modern Greek are being taught in Sarajevo and Banja Luka. I hope that when conditions allow, the teaching will resume of course with the physical presence of all students,” he said.
As the Greek Minister observed, the pandemic is a factor we have to deal with and has hit hard the whole world. This is the definition of a global challenge. And this is also the test of solidarity. “As we have repeatedly stressed, we need to support the countries of the Western Balkans in order to address the effects of the pandemic as a European Union. In this vein we have decided to provide concrete and tangible support to the hospitals of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he added.
It has been decided, as Minister Dendias announced to provide financial aid to three hospitals. First of all, support the ‘Abdullah Nakas’ hospital in Sarajevo through a donation of 50,000 Euros. Also support the ‘University Clinical Centre of the Republika Srpska’ in Banja Luka with the same amount. Last, but not least, it will be provided 30,000 Euros to the ‘University Clinical Centre of Mostar’. “This is also an occasion to reaffirm my country’s firm commitment to the integration of the Western Balkan countries in the European Union. Greece joined the European Economic Community four decades ago, being the first country of the Balkan Peninsula to do so,” he said. “In a few years, we could envisage a Union, in which at least one quarter of its Members will be Balkan countries. Something that would have been unimaginable just thirty years ago,” he added.
Minister Dendias emphasised that “Our commitment is long-term. It was reflected in the Thessaloniki Agenda which was adopted back in 2003. We remain fully engaged in this process. Because we believe that it constitutes the sole path to peace, stability and prosperity both in the region, but also in the European Union as a whole.” The countries of the region should eventually join the EU, of course on the basis of conditionality and on the own merit principles. Greece hopes that Bosnia and Herzegovina will take the necessary steps that will help in bringing the country closer to the EU. “We therefore hope that Bosnia and Herzegovina will take the necessary steps that will help in bringing the country closer to the EU,” he said, adding that his trip was “in order to submit proposals regarding technical assistance” to implement EU policies.
Minister Dendias also took the opportunity to refer to Turkish delinquency in the East Mediterranean. “Allow me also to underline the importance we attach to the need for Bosnia and Herzegovina to align itself with EU Positions and Decisions,” the head of Greek diplomacy said; “and notably those regarding the Eastern Mediterranean.” “We value our cooperation within the context of the Regional Cooperation Council, which has its Headquarters right here in Sarajevo,” Minister Dendias said. “We also look forward to further enhance this cooperation during the upcoming Greek Chairmanship of the South-East European Cooperation Process starting this July,” he continued.
“In conclusion, let me highlight the importance of promoting good neighbourly relations on the solid foundation of International Law,” Minister Dendias pointed out. “This has been Greece’s position for decades and I have to say that we are happy to see that most unfortunately not all, but most of the countries of the broader region espouse the same fundamental principles,” he stressed. “Likely, Greece and Bosnia-Herzegovina are on the same page on this,” he added, before inviting Minister Turković to visit Athens.
Bilateral relations between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Greece are excellent, without open issues, but also with significant space for improvement, especially in the field of economy and foreign trade, BiH Foreign Affairs Minister Bisera Turković said following her meeting with her Greek counterpart. The good relations between the two countries, she added, are confirmed by the signed bilateral agreements in the field of economy, investment protection, defence, traffic, culture, education and science. “These agreements represent the foundation that corresponds to our future efforts to improve cooperation and I believe that cooperation will continue, especially in the field of energy,” said Minister Turković.
She recalled the business forums held between BiH and Greece in Sarajevo and Athens in the past years and expressed her willingness and hope for them to continue to be held in the post-pandemic era. Minister Turković said it is in BiH’s interest to improve its foreign trade with Greece in the future, which currently does not meet expectations. “We deeply appreciate Greece’s position that the European perspective of the Western Balkans should be a priority not only for those countries, but also for the EU. Within this context, regional cooperation, which has recently been strengthened through the signing of a declaration on the common regional market under the Berlin Process, is extremely important for us,” said Minister Turković.
According to the BiH Minister, in their discussion they paid special attention to the crisis that is increasingly burdening BiH, briefing her Greek colleague in detail on the latest developments around the migrant situation.
“Our position is that the EU’s involvement must be strengthened in resolving this issue and that it is not fair that only two cantons in the Federation of BiH bear the burden of the entire migrant crisis. Therefore, I reiterate my position that the burden of the crisis must be distributed to the whole country and that our border must be strengthened as soon as possible in such manner that migrants will not be able to enter,” said Minister Turković.
(Photographs by H.Akriviadis/Office to the Minister of Foreign Affairs)