Forum for Prosperity and Jobs starts in Sarajevo

A two-day long Forum for Prosperity and Jobs started today in Sarajevo. Following the Conclusions of the EU Foreign Affairs Council published in April 2014, and their call for a broader EU-BiH agenda, this major conference on May 26 and 27 convened by the EU Special Representative is aimed at helping the economic recovery of Bosnia and Herzegovina including after the recent floods.

The Forum for Prosperity and Jobs aims to identify measures that will attract investment, broaden access to economic opportunity, spur the creation of jobs and enhance social protection.

The Forum convenes interested parties and the broader citizenry of Bosnia and Herzegovina for identifying a package of concrete policies and measures to help the country’s economy recently seriously affected by the devastating floods. The programme consists of an opening plenary session on the first day and five workshops on possible reforms that should yield recommendations for concrete actions to be undertaken.

The EU Special Representative/Head of EU Delegation, Ambassador Peter Sorensen opened the Forum and said:

“Economic recovery in these very difficult times is more important for Bosnia and Herzegovina than ever. Our ‘Forum for Prosperity and Jobs’ provides a platform for all the citizens of this country to do exactly this: to initiate a socio-economic reform process that will lead to more investments, more employment, higher revenues for the public budgets, and ultimately a better standard of living for each citizen and for society as a whole. We have representatives from all segments of the society of Bosnia and Herzegovina here with us today, academia, political parties, civil society representatives, think-tanks and others. I am pleased to see so much expertise gathered in economic reform and transition.”

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, Ali Babacan, the Chairman of the BiH Council of Ministers, Vjekoslav Bevanda, and the Chairman of the BiH Presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic, spoke at the opening session.

Mr. Steinmeier said:

“I want to use this forum to invite BiH politicians to have the courage to do the necessary reforms to strengthen the economy in the country. Let me remind you that only 10 years ago Germany was among the countries with the highest unemployment rate in the EU. Today, Germany economy is strong thanks to reforms.”

Mr. Babacan said:

“Coexistence, compromise, consensus, cooperation. This is what Bosnia and Herzegovina needs in order to move forward and this is what will create political stability and predictability that will attract investors and foreign investment. We are well aware that this country is endowed with natural beauties and abundance of natural resources. It is time to put them in use for the benefit of the citizens and economic development”.

Mr. Bevanda said:

“What we need now in Bosnia and Herzegovina is help from our friends all around the world. We need to improve business environment and attract foreign investment. We also need to reform the labour market, eradicate corruption and make institutions more functional. This is the only way we can move forward.”

Mr. Izetbegovic said:

“We practically need to thoroughly reform every sector of our economy and public governance. Without reforms, we cannot have economic growth and economic development, which is now needed more than ever.”

The Forum started with a minute of silence for victims of the recent floods in Bosnia and Herzegovina, while all the speakers reflected on the devastation caused, and expressed their sympathy and solidarity for those in the affected areas.

Prior to the opening ceremony, Ambassador Sorensen and Mr. Steinmeier held a bilateral meeting where they discussed the current political and socio-economic situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the country’s path towards the EU.

Read the full speech by Ambassador Sorensen here