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Bosnia is keen to strengthen economic relations with Pakistan

Bosnia is keen to strengthen economic relations with Pakistan

An Exclusive Interview with H.E Nedim Makarevic Ambassador of Bosnia & Herzegovina
Raja Aamir Mahmood Bhatti

Q: How do you see the relationships between Pakistan and Bosnia & Herzegovina?
A: We are two friendly, even more brotherly countries. Pakistan recognized the independence of Bosnia from Yugoslavia in 1992, and Pakistan and Bosnia established diplomatic relations. Pakistan sent UN Peacekeeping forces to the former Yugoslavia during the Yugoslav wars. During the war, Pakistan supported Bosnia while providing technical support to Bosnia. Vice versa Bosnia supports Pakistan in every diplomatic occasion. The both countries signed MOU for defense cooperation in October 2012 during the visit of Bosnian President, Mr. Bakir Izetbegovic to Islamabad, the two countries vowed to boost their ties. Donations from Bosnian schoolchildren and the government funded the building of a school and health centre in Azad Jammu and Kashmir after the 2005 earthquake.
Pakistan was the third Islamic country by numbers of Bosniak refugees, following Turkey and Jordan, during the Bosnian war.In June 1993, at least 380 Bosnian refugees had arrived in Pakistan, almost 200 of them children. Pakistan said at the time that it would accept some nine thousand additional refugees.Many of the first 380 had been prisoners.
Q: What is the geographical importance of Bosnia & Herzegovina in Europe?
A: Bosnia and Herzegovina has important geo-strategic role. It is located in Southeastern Europe, in the western Balkans. It has a 932 km border with Croatia to the north and southwest, a 312 km border with Serbia to the east, and a 215 km border with Montenegro to the southeast. It borders the Adriatic Sea along its 20 km (12.42 mi) coastline. The most striking features of the local terrain are valleys and mountains which measure up to 2386 m in height. The country is mostly mountainous, encompassing the central Dinaric Alps. The northeastern parts reach into the Pannonian basin, while in the south it borders the Adriatic Sea.
Q: Is there any progress that Bosnian can become part of European Union.
A: Yes there is. The accession of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the European Union is the aim of the present relations between the two entities. Bosnia and Herzegovina has been recognized by the EU as a “potential candidate country” for accession since the decision of the European Council in Thessaloniki in 2003. Bosnia and Herzegovina takes part in the Stabilization and Association Process, and the relative bilateral SAA agreement has been signed in 2008, ratified in 2010, but it is still not into force. Meanwhile, the trade bilateral relations are regulated by an Interim Agreement. Bosnia has not yet formally applied for EU membership, and it thus remains a potential candidate country.
The nation had been making steady progress, including co-operation with the war crimes tribunal at The Hague, but this came to a halt in 2011 when the EU refused to ratify the Stabilization and Association Accord.
The EU established a regional approach to the Western Balkans already in 1997, with political and economic conditionality criteria for the development of bilateral relations. The following year, a EU/Bosnia and Herzegovina Consultative Task Force was put in place to start the process. Since 2006, the task force is replaced by the Reform Process Monitoring (RPM).
Q: In which fields of trade both the countries can cooperate?
A: The two countries have a free trade agreement and are currently negotiating Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA). The bilateral trade between the two countries is not on appropriate level. Much of the trade between the two is routed through some third country making products like surgical instruments, textile products, rice and lumber much more expensive. We need to change that. There are lots of possibilities especially in a defense programs. One of the main advantages of Bosnia is that there is no export quota for the most of the products. This is a fact what needs to be reconsidered by the Pakistani investors.
Q: What are the main trade items?
A: Main export items from Pakistan are cotton, textile and yarn. Pakistan imports from Bosnia some machine spare parts.
Q: How many agreements have been signed between the two countries for cooperation in different fields?
A: We have until now four of them. This is not sufficient. We need more of them and I will definitely try my best to increase that number.
Q: What would you advised to those Pakistani investors who would like to invest in your country?
A: Just to visit Bosnia and to see the possibilities for yourself. I am pretty sure that the most of possibilities are actually unknown to the Pakistani business community. For example, we have a great food industry and exporting over 80% to the EU. I am talking about the high quality chocolate, candy’s, puddings everything halal. I am definitely sure that that has a great future in Pakistan.
Q: Every year how many Pakistanis are visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina for different purposes like business and tourism etc?
A: Not too many Pakistanis visit Bosnia and Herzegovina every year. This number is approximately around 100 per year.
Q: Bosnia & Herzegovina introduced a new via facility for those Pakistanis who have Schengen Visa.
A: Yes. If you have a Schengen Visa you can freely travel to Bosnia and it not just Schengen. If you have a UK visa, US Passport and there are is lot of possibilities for the Pakistanis which are moving internationally.
Q: What are your main targets as an Ambassador?
A: There are several of them:
1. To make out bilaterally connections even more better
2. To increase bilaterally trade
3. To make a better connection in terms of education and culture
Q: How do you feel in Pakistan and which different cities have you visited in Pakistan?
A: Pakistan is a great country with unfortunately not adequate image worldwide. I am feeling very well and have support here to “move the things” as a diplomat. I’ve been already to Lahore and Karachi and hope to visit also another places very soon.
Q: What is the current status of tourism in your country and what are the main attractions for Pakistani tourists?
A: Tourism is field which is in big expansion recently. There are more and more tourists every year in our country (spa tourism, rafting, seaside, eco-tourism, and ski resort -Winter Olympic Games in 1984 took place in our capital Sarajevo etc.To many people Bosnia and Herzegovina is an unknown land, tucked below the towering peaks of the central Dinaric Alps. Few are aware of its stunning beauty, pristine nature, unrivaled hospitality, and abundant rivers and natural springs. BiH’s unique geographically positioning lends itself to warm Mediterranean weather in the south and cooler continental temperatures in the Alpine North, providing nature lovers with a wide array of landscapes, flora and fauna, and thrilling outdoor activities. The southern extension of the Alps encompasses most of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This mountainous terrain creates perfect conditions for the eco tourist. Hiking and trekking, particularly in the central Dinaric Alps, is a magical journey for both novices and the pro’s. One can hike for days in BiH’s outback, and visit some of the most isolated villages in Balkans. Other extremely interesting activities that one can enjoy include hiking, biking, fishing, canoing, rafting, bird watching, and herb picking.
Q: How would you describe your stay in Pakistan?
A: I have a wonderful time in Pakistan. It is a wonderful country and wonderful people. I feel friendly sentiment among Pakistani people as soon as we say we come from Bosnia. Our country is in your people’s hearts and vice versa.
Q: Anything you would like to add?
A: I would like to mention the visit of our President Mr. Bakir Izetbegovic last time in 2012, October
Bosnia pledges to promote trade and exports ties with Pakistan. He said that Bosnia is keen to strengthen economic relations with Pakistan as the two countries have good potential to promote trade and exports. He expressed these views while addressing a seminar on “Pak-Bosnia Business Opportunities” organized by Trade Development Authority of Pakistan and Ministry of Commerce. Mr. Bakir Izetbegovic said that Bosnia offers Pakistan a gateway to enter into a huge European market of more than 600 million people and Pakistani entrepreneurs should explore Bosnia for increasing trade and capturing better market share in Europe. Pakistan and Bosnia should benefit from the process of globalization. Bosnia is a well-integrated economy with Europe and Pakistan can reap rich economic benefits by increasing trade & economic cooperation with it.
I want to mention one more important thing that a four-member delegation from Sarajevo University visited NUST from February 03 to 04, 2014. The delegation was headed by Rector Sarajevo University Prof Dr Muharem Avdispahic. Upon their arrival at NUST, the esteemed guests were warmly received by Rector NUST Engr Muhammad Asghar, which was followed by the delegates’ meeting with Rector NUST at the latter’s office. During the meeting, both sides showed keen interest in expanding meaningful cooperation especially in the fields of joint research, and faculty and student exchange programmes. The result is the 30 scholarships for the Bosnian student provided by NUST.

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