The discussion with citizens of Travnik during the public debate organised within the ‘prEUzmi inicijativu’ („Take the EU initiative“) project by the European Union Special Representative Office in Bosnia and Herzegovina (EUSR) in Travnik on 8th July was yet another confirmation of the great interest of citizens in the process of European integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The host of the debate, EU Ambassador to BiH Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, took this opportunity to reiterate before some 90 entrepreneurs, businessmen, representatives of civil society organisations, youth and other stakeholders from this local community that the support for the integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina into the European Union was not questionable, but that necessary changes must be made within BiH itself.
“The candidate status itself and the opening of negotiations are not as important as the transformation of the society that comes with the process of integration into the EU and brings progress in the fight against corruption, improvement of infrastructure, education, justice, but also other segments of society,” said Ambassador Wigemark.
Taking an active role in a very dynamic discussion, Travnik residents demonstrated their awareness of the significance of the the integration process for their everyday life as well as their readiness to to face both opportunities and challenges ahead of the BiH society within that process. In addition to very specific questions on the various programmes of support provided by the EU to BiH within the European integration process, the participants showed great interest in aligning the education system with the labour market, but also in the increasingly present issue of the youth leaving the country. Debate participants have told the citizens that the process of EU accession is slow and complicated, but that it is also our future.
Austrian Ambassador to BiH, Ulrike Hartmann, stressed that the accession of the countries of the region to the European Union would not only benefit these countries, BiH included, but that, by including the region the European Union would import additional peace and stability. Highlighting progress that his country has achieved after joining the European Union, Ambassador of Sweden Anders Hagelberg said that he was certain that Bosnia and Herzegovina would become a member state and that the EU along with its member states is here to support B&H on that path. The debate also included discussion on the experiences of Croatia and Montenegro in the process of European integration, which was shared by the regional experts Daniel Pejić and Ljiljana Belada.
To the citizens’ questions on whether the international community can take the initiative to accelerate the integration of BiH into the EU, Ambassador Wigemark reminded the audience that: “You cannot become part of the EU if someone else is making decisions for you.”
The next debate within the ‘prEUzmi inicijativu’ („Take the EU initiative“) project will be held in Čajniče on 17th July.