“The United Kingdom Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) Edward Ferguson leaves office after four years mandate and in a farewell interview for Sarajevo Times, speaks about Euroscepticism in BiH, and about current economic and political issues.
ST: It is evident that in certain parts of BiH the phenomenon of Euroscepticism is present. In your country, there is also a heated debate about its relation to the EU. Do you think Brexit can undermine the desire of BH citizens to access the EU? In your opinion, does BiH have an alternative to European integration? Is there a Russian influence evident in BiH?
Debate is always healthy, but there’s no doubt that the majority of citizens of BiH that I have met want to join the EU. And it’s obvious why, when the entire Western Balkans region is heading in the same direction, and when 70% of your trade is with the EU. So no, as a small country in the heart of Europe, I don’t think that there is any credible alternative to European integration for BiH. Of course, there is influence from Russia in BiH, as well as from other countries. But I don’t believe that any of them would seriously claim to represent an alternative to the EU. For example, just 2% of your trade is with Russia.
‘I don’t think that Brexit is particularly relevant to citizens in BiH. We are very different countries, with very different histories – although, I’m pleased to say, with a very similar love of sport, music and dark humour! We may be leaving the EU, but we fully understand and respect your desire to join, and will continue to support you to reach the necessary standards.’
Because I don’t think that it’s just about the end-goal of joining the EU. Citizens want the reforms that come first. The people I meet, wherever they live in BiH, share the same frustrations: they’re worried about the lack of jobs, about young people leaving the country, and about the lack of investment in schools and hospitals, and they’re angry that the justice system is failing to deal with widespread corruption. That’s why I’m personally so pleased that the new EU strategy for the Western Balkans has the rule of law as the top priority. The EU accession process is the best tool we have to address the concerns of citizens in BiH, and in the wider Western Balkans.” (Full interview at Sarajevo Times)