Just a few months before the end of the mandate, the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) established a Coordination Team for cooperation with the People’s Republic of China on July 28th.
While the authorities refuse to talk about the motives behind the establishment of this team, it is known that the four-member team was founded on the initiative of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations of BiH.
New/old Coordination team for cooperation with China
Mirko Sarovic, a member of the BiH Parliament, managed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Economic Relations of BiH during two mandates, between 2012 and 2019. He also managed the Coordination Team for cooperation with China in the previous mandate of the BiH Council of Ministers.
He adds that he does not expect any results from this team and that he believes that its establishment is just an attempt by the Council of Ministers to create the appearance that it is doing something in this regard. He says that cooperation with China has stagnated and the Council of Ministers has stopped a number of processes that had started in the past four years.
The decision of the BiH Council of Ministers states that the newly established Coordination Team is responsible for communicating and coordinating everything related to the so-called “17+1 cooperation”, preparing meetings and business forums, implementing the conclusions of those meetings, and reporting everything to the Council of Ministers.
Neither the initiator of the establishment, Minister Stasa Kosarac, nor the Council of Ministers, nor the employees of the ministries involved in the work of the team agreed to speak about the motives behind the establishment of the Coordination Team and its members.
Why secret agreements?
Damir Miljevic, an economic and energy analyst, says that the essential question is why the Council of Ministers established a Coordination Team at all when even in the previous projects of BiH and China there was no coordination of the state authorities, but the tasks were negotiated by the authorities of the BiH entity, the Federation of BiH (FBiH) and the Republika Srpska (RS).
”When the contract for the highway Banjaluka – Prijedor was concluded, no one cared. When the contract for the construction of Block 7 of the Thermal Power Plant in Tuzla was signed, no one said anything to anyone,” Miljevic stated.
He adds that some of the deals concluded by the authorities of the RS with Chinese partners were not transparent and that the contracts were declared secret, which is unacceptable because it involves public money.
Who represents BiH in China?
Anton Rill, former BiH ambassador to China, says that the BiH authorities, by establishing the Coordination Body, are trying to create the illusion that they are doing something to strengthen relations with China, while at the same time ignoring the BiH Embassy in China, which has been without an ambassador for more than six months.
He says that BiH is represented in China by only one person, the third secretary after the ambassador retired from his position due to the death of a close family member.
”Instead of sending expert people who will evaluate, make certain communications, steps, project selection and everything else, we are now creating some apparent body, which in the end will not do anything,” says Rill, and explains that BiH does not use the potential of cooperation with other world economic powers either.
BiH’s political and economic interests in relations with China?
Miroslav Zivanovic, project coordinator of the ‘Confucius Institute’ at the University of Sarajevo (UNSA), says that BiH could and should make much better use of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and China’s willingness to support the development ambitions of developing countries.
He underlines that BiH is a small country that cannot afford to ignore any global actor, especially not China. Zivanovic adds that BiH’s ambitions to become a member of the European Union (EU), dedicated to respecting human rights, are not in conflict with the development of good and mutually beneficial relations with China.
“China, regardless of everything, is currently cooperating with all European countries and with the United States (U.S.), and this cooperation is mutually developed to such an extent that I don’t really see an alternative to that cooperation. I also see BiH there,” Zivanovic stated, Slobodna Evropa reports.