Matthew Field was appointed in January 2018 as Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and in August 2018 he officially assumed the function of Ambassador.
He joined the UK Foreign Office in 2003. He worked in the Middle East Peace Process, then as a resource manager, he was the head of the Europe Directorate in Croatia, and he worked as the political adviser to the EU Special Representative in Skopje, Macedonia. Later on, he worked in the US Directorate as well as a political counsellor in Brazil.
Field worked as the Head of the Political Department of the EU Delegation and the Office of the Special Representative of EU in BiH in the year of 2016.
TST: Mr Field, you are in Bosnia and Herzegovina for almost five months. What was your most liking in BiH, and what was the least?
FIELD: I feel very lucky to have been appointed British Ambassador to a country as interesting and diverse as BiH. There is a great deal to enjoy about life here – the fantastic countryside, the cultural life, the outdoor activities, and the rich history. But for me it is the people that are the greatest thing about BiH, their talent, warmth, and humour. The things I struggle with are the same things for many citizens, such as poor infrastructure, and bad air quality. But what I find most frustrating is the lack of real political determination to improve the country, and to act in the best interests of all citizens.
TST: What are your priorities for Bosnia and Herzegovina?
FIELD: The UK’s priorities are the same as those of people here – creating more and better jobs, stronger rule of law, reduced corruption, and better public services. All of this helps to create a more stable and prosperous BiH, one that young and qualified people do not need to leave in order to find opportunities to succeed.
TST: Which politician from Bosnia and Herzegovina would have the most success in the UK?
FIELD: That’s a really interesting but difficult question. Our parliamentary system requires a strong link between a politician and the people in their constituency, so it is probably easier to think of examples here of local leaders and mayors who have demonstrated the focus on meeting citizen needs which gets you elected in the UK. At the same time, I am regularly impressed by the success of people originating from this region in all walks of life, in the UK and around the world – as politicians, business people, musicians, athletes and much more.
TST: Is it a little unusual that the UK leaving the EU, urges BiH to enter the same EU?
FIELD: I would be wrong to tell someone to do something my own country was against. Brexit was a democratic decision, which the UK government will respect and implement. The people of BiH, across the whole country, have chosen the EU path, and that is a democratic decision which the UK will respect. We will also continue to provide practical support along the way, because BiH’s success is good for all of us. Brexit will not mean less of the UK in BiH, but quite the opposite. We are increasing our bilateral assistance programmes, and our partnership in tackling the challenges that people in this country face.
TST: Give me two arguments why is good for BiH to enter in EU?
FIELD: Again, it’s not for me to tell citizens of BIH what is good for them. But I do have personal experience working on the accession process here and in other countries of the region. The EU path provides a series of opportunities, to use the requirements of EU membership to bring about change the country itself wants to achieve. Improved environmental measures can help with air quality. Better business climate attracts more investment, and provides access to an export market of 450 million people. Higher education standards can prepare young people for 21st century jobs. Improved anti-corruption systems can root out this terrible blight on daily life. Better agriculture provides quality food and increase exports. These are opportunities which a country can take advantage of along the EU path, but it is up to the country to decide what it wants.
The fact is that people are already choosing the EU in huge numbers. They are not waiting for the EU to come to them, but leaving in search of the opportunity, freedom and rule of law that they see in EU countries. Leaders here need to reverse that trend by bringing those qualities and standards of living to BiH, and the EU path offers a way to do just that.
TST: What is your opinion on the initiative of the SDA about the abolition of the name Republika Srpska?
FIELD: As I said at the time, and the Peace Implementation Council collectively underlined, it is irresponsible of anyone to keep on raising issues from the past, let alone ones which are already clearly defined in the constitution and Dayton. I do not see how this proposal, and other similar ones, are meant to be constructive.
TST: How do you comment that Bosnia’s Presidency Chairman Milorad Dodik was whistled during his speech at the opening of EYOF 2019?
FIELD: I thought EYOF as a whole was a wonderful celebration of sport, and its power to unite people. I really appreciated the ‘Two Cities One Dream’ slogan, and the hard work of all, especially the Sarajevo and East Sarajevo mayors. I attended both opening ceremony in Sarajevo and closing ceremony in East Sarajevo, as well as curling matches in Pale. They were well hosted, and organisers deserve to be praised for that. During the opening ceremony, I heard noise during the speeches. I didn’t like it. Though I will admit it is not the first time I have heard a politician treated this way, including in Brazil and the UK. But that is a small footnote against the success of EYOF, and the way it showcased this country’s hospitality and love of sport. I think all of the visitors went away impressed by what they experienced here.
Author: Danka Savić