Press conference with Minister Elmedin Konaković in Sarajevo
Minister Konakovic, Dear Elmedin,
Ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to thank you for the warm welcome here in Sarajevo. We have been able to experience your great hospitality, for which we are most grateful.
We just concluded an interesting and productive meeting.
Belgium and Bosnia and Herzegovina have excellent relations.
In fact, as part of my visit here, we have just announced that Belgium will upgrade its diplomatic presence here in Sarajevo to a full-fledge embassy. This is an important step for us and a sign of our keen interest to intensify our relation.
Furthermore, we think it is very important to reinforce our presence here as a sign of our commitment for your EU accession path and for your reform process.
We also just signed a memorandum of understanding between our respective Ministries. The objective is to increase our bilateral cooperation and consultations in various fields such as European integration and diplomatic training.
Our two countries have a lot in common. We are in different parts of Europe but we both find ourselves at the crossroads of peoples, languages, and cultures. The motto of the EU is “united in diversity”. Here in your country, just like in mine, diversity is seen as a strength. I must say that this reflected the discussion that we just had.
We discussed the (political) situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
I discussed with my colleague how divisive rhetoric and actions, often stand in the way of urgent reforms that respond to the citizens’ aspirations. We talked about the current dynamic of the government, ongoing efforts and key challenges ahead. These include strengthened rule of law, economic reforms and further constitutional and electoral reforms to ensure equality of all citizens.
We discussed in details the relations with the European Union, the most important political and economic partner of the Western Balkan countries, and of Bosnia and Herzegovina in particular.
Belgium’s commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina's EU perspective as a single, united and sovereign country is unequivocal.
The granting of candidate status last December should now be seen as a driver for change. As I just said, is it important to overcome the divisions, to engage in a constructive dialogue and to focus on structural and essential reforms for the citizens.
In this respect, the 14 priorities formulated by the European Commission are our compass.
The EU enlargement process is too often seen as a bureaucratic process. I fully understand this.
But I would like to emphasize that, fundamentally, this process is about the principles and values that citizens hold dear, aspire to and have fought for. It is about the rule of law, functioning democratic institutions and the respect of fundamental rights.
Belgium stands by Bosnia and Herzegovina to support its reforms, its economic and social development and its European integration. We are ready to help where needed.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Russia’s illegal and unprovoked aggression against Ukraine has been going on for more than one year now. It has reminded all of us of the fragility of peace on our continent. And here it brought back painful memories of the war that swept across in the 90s
Together, with Bosnia and Herzegovina and our Western Balkans partners we must share the responsibility to build and strengthen a democratic, stable, and peaceful continent.
I’m fully aware that this conflict has brought a heavy economic cost to your country. That is why the EU has put up large support packages for our partners in the Western Balkans. The European Union will remain in solidarity with the region.
On the eve of IDAHOT day, I also want to take this opportunity to reinforce the importance of equal treatment and protection for all LGBTQI+ people.
The fight against discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, is a strong priority of Belgian foreign policy and human rights work.
LGBTIQ+ persons still too often face serious forms of discrimination, harassment and violence, including in Europe, let's face it. Therefore, continued attention to legal and policy reforms remains necessary.
We welcome the legal protection for LGBTIQ+ in your country and the adoption last year of a national action plan and look forward to its swift implementation.
In these turbulent times, Belgium and Bosnia and Herzegovina are speaking strongly for the values that we share.
We will continue to be a close partner and a strong player in the years to come.