Ambassador of Bosnia & Herzegovina talks to Centreline and DNA
Ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina Mr. Nedim Makarevic talked to Centreline and Diplomatic News Agency(DNA) on a variety of issues. He specifically talked about the areas where both countries could cooperate with each other besides discussing business prospects in Bosnia. Nedim Makarevic is a highly qualified person. His two books were recently launched in Pakistan. Excerpts from his interview: Let us begin with bilateral relations. How would you describe Pakistan-Bosnia relations in the field of politics and business?
Bosnia and Pakistan have an emotional relationship. We work closely with each other at various forums including the United Nations. A number of agreements in various sectors such as defence, textile, surgical instruments and education have been signed between the two countries. Bosnia’s first professor had also started teaching at the National University of Sciences and Technology. The mission was also extending scholarships for Bosnian students to study in Pakistan.
Although Bosnia is not such a big market yet Pakistan business community has a great potential to invest in Bosnia and expand trade after getting GSP-plus status, as Pakistani half-finished products could be completed in Bosnia and exported to the European market. As an example, surgical instruments and textile industry have great scope in the European markets through Bosnia. Unfortunately all these products come to Bosnia through another country. They are in fact Pakistani products but are finished and chromed in a third country and reach Bosnia market with the stamp of that particular country. I think, it is mistake on both sides, if we do not have direct trade. We have invited many delegations to Bosnia, who have travelled there; had a great time there but there has been no tangible outcome.
Let me empathically state that Pakistan businessmen have a great potential and prospects. Half finished Pakistani products can be given final touches in Bosnia and then exported to the European markets. Let me also share with you that those who are in possession of valid Schengen visa do not need Bosnian visa. I believe majority of the serious Pakistani businessmen have valid Schengen visa therefore it is not difficult for them to go to Bosnia and explore various business potentials there. Since we are a candidate for European Union membership therefore we have to follow the visa regime in vogue in the EU members states. However, we still try at our end to facilitate genuine and serious Pakistani businessmen and those who are going to Bosnia for tourism purposes.
The trade volume between the two countries was quite low before my arrival here, however the volume is now increased by 300 per cent but still I think there is tremendous scope for improvement. My first and foremost responsibility is to further improve this volume to even greater levels. Let me also say here that our cooperation in the field of defence is quite encouraging.
I have time and again emphasized at various forums and meetings to the Pakistani people that Bosnia offers them huge incentives and will facilitate all business ventures by Pakistani people . If someone opens a company in Bosnia and has three employees in his office he or she can live in Bosnia for three consecutive months in one year. The visa can be extended for one more time. After this the D visa is issued which is valid for two years. And once you spend five years in Bosnia you become eligible to apply for the Bosnian nationality. The initial cost, which one has to bear to start the business is just USD 3,000 and imagine if someone sets up business and later gets Bosnian nationality and Bosnia becomes European Union member then what prospects and status that particular individual would have within the European Union? Perhaps no other country offers its nationality on such easy terms as Bosnia. Therefore, I urge and encourage Pakistani businessmen to visit to Bosnia and invest there in order to secure a bright and prosperous future.
We congratulate you for launching your books in Pakistan. Please tell us something more about your works and your motivation to author these books? Do you intend to also promote education and literary links between the two countries?
As I highlighted before that we are cooperating in the field of education by sending Pakistani students to Bosnia for higher studies for a two year program. Similarly, NUST has offered 30 scholarships in the field of engineering to Bosnian student.
Culture is yet another field where both countries can cooperate with each other. Pakistani Qawali music is something, which can be promoted in Bosnia. I am planning to send some Qawali musicians to Bosnia. Likewise musicians from Bosnia will come to Pakistan also. I am confident this exchange of artists would contribute significantly towards promotion of cultural ties between the two countries.
Not many people know that originally I floated the idea of having a diplomatic band. The former Australian High Commissioner Peter Heyward invited me over a cup of coffee and during our conversation I discussed this idea with him. His support was forthcoming and he offered to be part of the band as a flute player. Then we teamed up with the former Danish ambassador Jesper Sorensen and the incumbent Japanese ambassador Hiroshi Inomata. Thus this diplomatic band “The Envoys” came into being. We received tremendous support and appreciation from the people at the outset much beyond our expectations. The band was an instant success which encouraged us to perform even better.
If you could give a brief account of the genocide of Bosnian people and how are your relations with the neighboring countries especially Serbia?
It is very disappointing that some days ago the United Nations Security Council resolution that would have described the Srebrenica massacre as genocide was rejected. The incident was unique as Bosnia is situated in the heart of Europe. During the Bosnian War between April 1992 to July 1995, the mass killings of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys took place by Serb forces in the town of Srebrenica. Bosnian Serb soldiers swept into a UN designated ‘safe haven,’ they did not leave a single adult male. Over the days that followed, they executed them and dumped their bodies into pits in the surrounding forests. The executions were well-planned, and the Serb army made considerable effort to disguise its activities. While the killings took place over just a few days, the process of finding the bodies took years and the task of identifying and burying them properly continues to this day—more than 1,000 are still listed as missing.”
Bosnia is also looking for EU membership. Can you give us some updates on this issue and are you satisfied with the pace of membership negotiations with EU?
Bosnia of course is a potential candidate for EU membership nevertheless we have some problems also. As you know, there is a Serbian minority in Bosnia, which has representation in the parliament also. Serbs do not want Bosnia to become member of the European Union and that is the key hurdle in the way of our membership to the European Union. Some other countries like Serbia are playing politics on this issue. Serbia wants to join European Union first and then may cooperate with Bosnia on the issue of EU membership. Though we are very close to becoming a NATO member.
Despite being a small country of 4 million people, you still get a huge number of tourists every year. Please tell us potential of your tourism industry?
Tourism in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a fast-growing sector making up an important part of our economy. The tourist business environment is constantly developing with an increasingly active tourism promotional system.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has been a top performer in recent years in terms of tourism development; tourist arrivals have grown manifold. Bosnia, a country of 4 million people gets around one million tourists annually. The European region’s solid growth in arrivals in 2007 was due in significant part to Southern and Mediterranean Europe’s strong performance.
There are many fascinating destinations throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina for every type of tourist. In our country, one gets the best of both worlds. Here, the most interesting and attractive sites are a wonderful mix of this tiny country’s cultural and natural heritage. It is almost impossible to separate them, for it is from this pristine nature that its cultures and traditions evolved.
You have produced a very emotional song following the APS tragedy. What was the inspiration to produce that song and do you plan any other similar venture in the coming days?
All the world leaders came out to show solidarity and support for the victims of the Paris killings, whereas Muslim children who lost their lives in Peshawar and many others who were still suffering did not get similar respect globally. The reaction of world leaders was “shameful” to say the least. This perception that someone’s life is more valuable than others is what makes it more painful. It was a very heartbreaking when I first learnt about the APS tragedy. I felt it was my duty to meet the children and their families. I have seen war and have suffered from all of this. I was very pleased to meet the children who were recovering and were in high spirits. The vibe of resilience and courage was reflected through conversations I had with the people. I spoke about my struggles, how it made me tougher and led to a successful life.
Bosnian media gave widespread coverage to the gruesome incident. Although the Pakistani community in Bosnia was small, there was great support and a strong reaction by all Bosnians.
As a writer and an intellectual how do you see the menace of terrorism affecting the global peace? What is your vision that how this menace can be tackled?
Of course terrorism and extremism are the issues that need to be tackled properly. Let me give you example of Bosnia where Muslims follow Hanafi school of thought. We have one grand Mufti; muftis; grand Imam and Imams. Only these people can preach Islam and not ever body. Briefly, we have a structure and a system responsible for preaching Islam while in Pakistan you do not have that structure. Here anybody can speak about Islam. I think this trend has to be reversed and a centralized monitoring system shall have to be put in place. Once such kind of system is enforced you will see a marked reduction in extremist activities. In Bonsia madrassa education especially is strictly centralized. Nobody is allowed to open any private madrassas.
What were your impressions and views about Pakistan especially before coming here and after your arrival and now that you have spent quite some time here?
All diplomats whether Ambassadors, counselors, first secretaries, second secretaries who I know have the same views that Pakistan is much better country than they thought before coming here. Similarly, my perception of Pakistan was changed also as soon as I landed here. It is a great country with great people. It has huge potentials in all fields. There are a number of commonalities between our two countries and I am quite optimistic that Bosnia-Pakistan relations would surely expand and strengthen in the days to come.