Year and a half ago, it almost went bankrupt. On January 1st, Greece is taking over the rota-ting EU presidency – and has many plans concerning international relations, especially in the field of economic diplomacy. Bosnia and Herzegovina is part of these plans. Republika Srpska is obviously also part of these plans having in mind that Greek representatives and diplomats often visit Srpska interested in improving cooperation, especially in the field of trade and tourism. Further improvements in cooperation are certainly yet to come since Government of the Republika Srpska opened its representative office in Thessaloniki in August. However, His Excellency, Greek Ambassador Carolos Gadis succeeded in not mentioning Republika Srpska at any time during the whole interview for The Srpska Times.
By: Predrag Ćurković
What are the priority activities of the Embassy of Greece in Bosnia Herzegovina?
Greece being a traditional friend of Bosnia and Herzegovina, its support to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Euro-Atlantic perspective is well known. The Greek Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina operates since November 1996 and has ever since been working in a constructive spirit of cooperation towards three main directions: assisting reconstruction, promoting bilateral relations and supporting the European and Atlantic perspective of B&H.
How do you assess the so far cooperation between the Hellenic Republic and Bosnia and Herzegovina?
Bilateral relations have been excellent in all fields. However, there is still significant space for enhancement, particularly in the area of trade and investments, as well as culture. At this point, let me highlight the paramount scientific work carried out by the Brčko Center of the European Public Law Organization (EPLO), an international Organization based in Athens, with distinguished experience in public administration issues, whose Bosnia and Herzegovina has become a full member since 2012.
What do you see as opportunities for promotion of cooperation in the future?
Both Greece and Bosnia and Herzegovina have the privilege to collaborate, along with other countries of our neighborhood, on a major energy project, namely the Trans-Adriatic Gas Pipeline as well as in the frame of Ionian – Adriatic Pipeline. This exemplifies that great ideas can be materialized into concrete partnerships in highly sophisticated domains, such as the crucial energy sector. Furthermore, of great importance is deemed to be the Memorandum of Understanding that the two countries signed on April 2013, aiming at providing for specific support and know-how to B&H’s European path.
What are the forms of cooperation of the Hellenic Republic with institutions of Republika Srpska?
As part of the broader plan of assisting B&H reconstruction, Greece has proceeded to the construction of schools as well as other buildings useful for public benefit. In addition, significant ties of academic cooperation have been initiated between Greek Academic Institutions and the Universities of Banjaluka and East Sarajevo. Economic and commercial relations have also been increased. Last but not least, several twinning projects have been established between cities, thus contributing toward bringing civil societies together.
Thousands of citizens of Republika Srpska travel as tourists to Greece. Still, many opportunities of touristic cooperation have not yet been exploited. In which ways this tourist cooperation could be improved and further developed?
It constitutes my personal commitment and a goal of mutual interest to work for the increase of bilateral tourist flows, which will lead toward bringing more B&H citizens to Greek resorts and more Greek tourists to the impeccable nature of B&H.
History and culture in particular are the areas where cooperation could be much more intensively developed. Are there any plans or at least ideas in that direction?
There are historic and cultural contacts between the two peoples. Allow me to refer to a characteristic historic location: The Hellenistic town of Daorson (Δαορσών), near Stolac in Herzegovina, for which the up to now researches confirm that it has been founded and inhabited by Greek communities between 300 and 50 BC. Being a Greek, I have an inherent respect for history; therefore our intention is to work upon this significant milestone of Herzegovinian cultural heritage, which constitutes just another example of long-standing, essential contacts between our peoples.
What can be expected in the forthcoming year 2014, when Greece takes over the EU presidency? What will be the focus of activities towards B&H during the Greek presidency of the EU?
Greece will assume its next EU presidency, in the first half of 2014, in a period of a generalized and protracted crisis, not only in Europe but also in a global level. Therefore, issues related to the functioning of the Eurozone system as well as to Development, Employment and Social Cohesion are of immediate importance for Europe and the European Citizens. All that, in a limited legislative period, since the elections of the new Members of the European Parliament will take place in May.
Being a country with particular ties with all Balkan countries, Greece is always a steady supporter of the Enlargement. Let me recall that it was during the previous Greek chairmanship, back in 2003, when the treaty of accession of 10 new EU members was signed and the European perspective of Western Balkans was shaped, what is often referred to as the Thessaloniki Agenda. This perspective is always valid and the related procedure already set up. In this context, Greece has the intention to organize in Thessaloniki, during its EU presidency, a high level Meeting, aiming the better inter-connection of the Western Balkan countries with EU, in particular in sectors such as Energy and Transports.
Last but not least, it is to be noted that Greece, under the capacity of holding the chairmanship of the EU Council, will be the guest of honor of the esteemed Sarajevo Winter Festival 2014, for which prominent cultural events will be undertaken by the Greek Ministry of Culture.