March 19, 2019

From the past to the future

By H.E. Ms. Mirsada Čolaković, Ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

It seems as if it was only yesterday when I was a young diplomat in the mid 1990’s representing my newly independent country to the Benelux. This is where my first ties and personal connections with the Netherlands began. Today, I have the privilege to serve my country as Ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, as well as Permanent Representative to the international organizations located in The Hague.  

The Netherlands, 27 years ago, was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with my country.  Those relations continue to improve. Much progress has been made in our bilateral political, economic and cultural cooperation. 

There is an important connection between our two countries. By saying this, I refer to the significant number (around 40,000) of people with Bosnian and Herzegovinian origin who found refuge here in time of great need, during the tragic war in former Yugoslavia. Today most of them are very successful and highly educated individuals, working as lawyers, doctors, business owners, artists and distinguished members of academia.

As the Ambassador of BiH1,  I am very proud when I talk to Dutch officials and hear them say that Bosnians are among the best integrated communities in the Netherlands: according to the statistics, 40% of the young generations who grew up in the Netherlands, obtained a university degree. 

A remarkable variety of people-to-people contacts between Bosnians and Dutchmen has been established. These bonds were forged in extraordinary circumstances and in difficult times. I am very happy to note that they continue to flourish to this day, as many joint commercial ventures and charitable projects show. Dutch entrepreneurs, among them quite a few from the BiH community, have discovered the economic and commercial advantages that my country has to offer.

At the Embassy of Bosnia & Herzegovina in The Hague, Ambassador Čolaković, works restless to increase bilateral relations with the Netherlands.

Portugal: From The Hague, I am serving as the non-residential Ambassador to the Republic of Portugal. In this capacity, I am paying official visits to this beautiful country several times a year. This has given me the opportunity and honour to meet the Portuguese President, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Augusto Santos Silva; as well as other high-ranking Portuguese officials and diplomatic colleagues. 

BiH is an attractive place for cost-efficient and reliable outsourcing of parts of production processes, e.g. in light metalworking, in furniture making and software development. There is room for more, notably in agriculture and in food processing.

If it is true that wisdom comes with age, it is also true that today our world is facing unprecedented challenges: multilateralism is under immense strain, and our shared values are being tested, our common endeavours, system and structures are being revisited. I feel that only a reinvigorated vision and persistent commitment to our shared beliefs can make a difference. Indeed: small and big, developed and developing countries, need to rally around and unite to uphold our legacy; the principles of international law, human rights and other core values enshrined in the UN Charter. 

My dedication to multilateralism is the result of personal experience: working as the Permanent Representative of BiH to the United Nations in New York, in particular when I represented my country during the time it served as an elected member of the Security Council (2010 /2011).  That experience gave me an additional perception and unique knowledge of global political dynamics. The Netherlands just finished a successful membership in the Security Council; my Dutch colleagues lobbied very hard to improve certain practices and to enhance the efficiency of the UN Peacekeeping efforts. The multilateral approach to global challenges is another example of a vision that BiH and the Netherlands share. On numerous occasions, the importance of this concept has been reconfirmed by high ranking officials from both countries.

The path to the European Union

Submission of the application for the EU membership by BiH occurred during the Dutch Presidency of the EU in February 2016. This date marks the completion of one of the very important steps in fulfilling the primary strategic priority and goal of my country’s foreign policy: joining the EU.

Granting the candidate status to BiH, which we expect to happen this year/in 2019, would give a strong impetus to the implementation of all necessary reforms to meet the EU membership criteria. It would also further contribute to our citizens’ natural sense of belonging to a larger European family of nations, with which they have always shared values, history as well as cultural heritage and strong personal ties. 

Security

BiH was once a receiver of international peace-keeping and security efforts, and has since moved on to become a provider of peace and security across the world. In this regard I want to underline our troop contributions and our continued presence in the NATO mission in Afghanistan, as well as to EU and UN missions dedicated to the fight against terrorism and radical extremism. 

What is Bosnia and Herzegovina famous for?

Apart from an unfortunate, tragic and painful recent past, over the centuries our country has enjoyed a very vibrant and rich history. It has always been a meeting point for the West and the East. This has resulted in a rich plethora of cultures, traditions, ethnicities, and religions. As such, diversity is one of the core principles of our country, the same principle upon which the European Union is based.

The testimonies of those who have visited my country are the best proof of the unique beauties of BiH. They will tell you of its natural wonders, ranging from snow covered mountain peaks, lush forests, deep valleys with beautiful rivers, amazing cities, deep lakes and a short but beautiful seaside. They will also tell you about the hospitality of our people, wonderful cuisine, excellent Herzegovinian wine, the best regional Film Festival and Oscar winners, our Olympic Winter Games (1984) as well as the European Youth Olympic Festival 2019, which opened just last month (February). 

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