The Director for the Western Balkans at the European Commission Directorate-General for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Genoveva Ruiz Calavera, visited Sarajevo on Monday when she met with representatives of civil society and beneficiaries of EU-funded projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Director Ruiz visited the Regional Cooperation Council in Sarajevo and participated in a grant award ceremony for the development and promotion of tourism, underlining that tourism is a sector in which excellent regional cooperation can be developed to attract attention to this region: “The European Union sees tourism as a vector for economic development, both internally and externally. By teaming up as a region and developing and promoting joint tourism products, the Western Balkans can create a broader, more exciting offer,” said Ruiz, adding that the awarded projects are an opportunity to cherish common cultural heritage in support of a vision of a common future for the region, in particular for the youth of the region.
Twelve awarded grants, worth EUR 550,000, are the first tranche of a planned 30+ grants to be awarded within the EU-funded Tourism Development and Promotion Project. The project aims to develop a joint regional cultural and adventure tourism offer, improve the quality of services and infrastructure along selected routes, and increase the number of tourists visiting the region through international and intraregional promotion.
“When we prepare countries for EU membership, we look at different aspects, including how countries apply the principles on which the EU is founded. In this context, regional cooperation and reconciliation, and good neighbourly relations, are at the heart of European values,” Ruiz noted, highlighting the rationale behind the EU’s investments in programmes that have a regional dimension, such as the Regional Housing Programme.
Director Ruiz also visited beneficiaries of the Regional Housing Programme, the Hadžiahmetović family, who have secured a permanent housing solution in a newly constructed building in Ilidža, after having previously relocated 17 times. “Moving here and having a permanent roof over my head is a huge relief for me and my family. It is getting better and I think it will be better now. I can take care of my family and ensure my children have a better future,” said Anes, who, together with his wife, is trying hard to take care of their vulnerable family and provide for them the best possible conditions.
“The Regional Housing Programme is one of the flagships helping to bring peace, stability and reconciliation, delivering impact to the most vulnerable families, who now have an opportunity to have a better life,” Director Ruiz added.
The European Union is the largest donor to the Regional Housing Programme, so far allocating over EUR 230 million to this Programme, to support more than 30,000 of the most vulnerable families from the region by providing permanent housing solutions.