Interview with Ambassador Sorensen for FENA news agency

Excerpts of the interview were published by FENA news agency.

1. How do you assess your mandate and can you briefly summarize the results of your work in Bosnia and Herzegovina?

the range and depth of the work the EU does here, it’s about the whole
team and not me alone. I have a great, dedicated team working with me in
Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The reorganisation of the EU offices
here back in 2011 brought all the people working for the EU together. As
a team I think we have been able to get big projects on the road and
make them a success together with our Bosnia and Herzegovina partners – I
think particularly of the Census, and of our project to help improve
law enforcement agencies’ work.

The EU is the biggest source of
financial assistance to this country and my office is implementing it.
Since September 2011, I have signed 422 contracts for projects worth
just under 300 million Euro in total; 202 contracts totalling nearly 231
million Euro are currently under implementation.

We have
developed a very clear and very comprehensive communication between
Bosnia and Herzegovina and Brussels, with a much clearer understanding
here in the country of what the path to the EU really looks like. You
know better what getting to the EU involves, and I think we are working
with the situation and specificities of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

more generally the EU has been present around the country through our
meetings, our offices in the regions, our public events and outreach.
All of which is to say that there is a real partnership evolving between
BiH and the EU. There is a good development under way. That stronger
partnership is a success.

Obviously, we all hoped that Bosnia and
Herzegovina would be further on in the EU integration process than it
is. But it takes two to tango!

2. Which impressions will you take with you of people in BiH and BiH in general?

greatest impression is of the talented people I have met – especially
the young people. I find it a real tragedy that so many people either
leave the country or have ambitions to do so. Too much talent is thrown
It’s a beautiful country. I have travelled extensively around
Bosnia and Herzegovina – with municipal tours, meetings, visiting EU
projects and of course in my leisure time with my family. I think there
are very few places I haven’t been!

I have had really memorable
encounters with people – the young guy in the company who tells me to
focus on jobs, the grandmother who encouraged me to keep on doing what
we’re doing. Those sorts of voices and opinions are important and help
you to remember what the real priorities are.

3. With which politicians in BiH you have had the best cooperation?

EU approach now and in the future is that we have an open door for
everyone who wants to work with us in good faith. That means I am not
going to make a ‘top list’ now!

When you do like somewhere as I
like BiH, it is of course important not to let your feelings get in the
way of doing a correct job. I certainly have strived to be correct, and
do what I believed professionally was best for BiH, and the majority of
my interlocutors I think have done the same.

I would like to
thank the many civil servants and officials who have done diligent and
often unappreciated work away from the TV cameras. There are many people
at all levels who care about BiH and who work every day to try and take
the country forward.

4. At what accomplishments of your mandate in BiH are you particularly proud of?

been a wide range of issues coming over the desk in the past three
years. However, following the devastating floods that hit the country in
May, our office has put a great deal of effort into dealing with the
emergency and the aftermath.

The European Union of course
responded immediately through the Civil Protection Mechanism. It was in
fact the largest operation since the creation of the Mechanism with
3,000 people rescued and 23 EU Member States offering assistance
including motor boats, firefighters, helicopters, pumps and a lot more.
Approximately 800 relief workers were deployed to Bosnia and Herzegovina
and Serbia during the emergency operations.

Now we are
implementing the EU programme for flood recovery worth 42 million Euro
and I am very pleased with how it is going – and how fast it is going.
The programme will rehabilitate 4,000 dwellings – for approximately
14,000 people – 100 local roads and bridges, 90 educational
institutions, 10 water and sanitation facilities, three municipality
buildings; four Centres for social welfare, and four healthcare
facilities. Also in the 24 most affected municipalities, grants will be
made to small and medium enterprises to help them restart activity,
retaining around 2,000 jobs.

These days I am attending opening
of schools and kindergartens. It’s very rewarding and makes you feel as
though you are really making a difference when you can present
reconstructed and modern educational facilities for children in Bosnia
and Herzegovina.

I would also point to the population and
housing census. Lots of people told us it couldn’t be done. But together
with the three statistical institutes it was done!

5. What would you say to your successor and what responsibilities you are leaving to him/her?

you leave, you leave – and I would not presume to set an agenda for my
successor. In fact, I think the real work is for the authorities in
Bosnia and Herzegovina to do: to fulfil the expectations of citizens
especially after the elections.  
There are of course some well-known
issues on the table. Both BiH citizens and the EU want this country to
join the EU. And every survey shows that citizens want a better life –
they want jobs, better salaries and pensions, good education and health
system, fight against corruption…

So everyone working in
politics and institutions has, I think, a responsibility to take forward
social and economic reform that will open up more jobs, use public
funds more wisely and make it easier to do business. That is the way to
build more prosperity. Linked to that, clearly there needs to be
progress on the key EU-related obligations. This includes ending
discrimination in certain elections and making an agreement on a
co-ordination mechanism so that BiH can speak to the EU with one voice.
If those things can be done, I think Bosnia and Herzegovina can make
progress first and foremost on its own prosperity and equally on its EU

6. What would be your message the citizens and politicians in Bosnia and Herzegovina?

want you in the EU. We’re here to help you get there, but the steps
need to be taken by Bosnia and Herzegovina. We believe you can do it.

7. Your brief review or comment on the last general elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina?

EU has welcomed the overall orderly conduct of the elections and also
made clear that allegations of irregularities should be investigated. We
are grateful for the work of the OSCE/ODIHR observation mission and
their eventual recommendations of OSCE/ODIHR will need to be addressed
by Bosnia and Herzegovina

Most important for us now is swift
government formation at all levels, so that incoming authorities can
address the real challenges that BiH faces. It is now up to those
elected to deliver in the next four years.