Ambassador of Slovenia in B&H Andrej Grasselli
Except from the construction of ten mini hydro power plants on the Ljuta river basin, there is also interest for expansion of existing Slovenian investments in B&H.
Ambassador of Slovenia to B&H Andrej Grasselli in an interview for ”Sarajevo Times“ highlighted some of the success of B&H Diaspora in Slovenia, which, as he states, contributes to a better image of B&H. Ambassador also talked about the economic collaboration of these two countries, emphasizing the importance of a mutual performance on the third market, and he also announced possible future expansion of existing Slovenian investments in B&H. Ambassador also considers that B&H saving depositors of the Ljubljana Bank have to be paid, but also that it is a issue that needs to be resolved within succession. According to him, it is important for B&H to begin with the process of adjusting its legislation and to talk with the EU about its concrete changes.
By: Nevena Šarenac
On one occasion you said that the European Union is not a promised land and that it will not make dreams come true, but that in this moment it is the best thing that can happen to B&H. Concerning the experience of Slovenia, which positive changes and advantages would the membership in the EU bring to B&H citizens?
Slovenia entered the EU when this same Union was in its most desirable economic state, but since that things have changed. Although it is a tough period for the EU, there is not one country, except from Great Britain, that would want to leave the European family. Quite on the contrary, many countries want to use help of the EU in order to overcome the problems they are currently facing. For B&H, it would be significant to make a step forward in the membership process of the EU, in order for the Agreement on stabilization and accession to take effect. After that follows the concrete adjustment of B&H laws to the legislation of the EU. In that manner, Slovenia had to change more that 80% of its law regulation. When a country becomes a member of the EU, one may notice bigger standards of a law country and the rule of law, and in B&H it is quite noticeable primarily because of the intensified fight against corruption. It is important for B&H to begin the process of adjusting its legislation and to talk to the EU about its concrete changes. The EU membership process lasts long and from the technical aspect it is very demanding. When it comes to the NATO membership, I think that B&H has made a lot of improvement, and that B&H will finalize the membership process for NATO a little bit faster in comparison to the membership process for the EU.
According to the information given to ”Sarajevo Times” from the World Diaspora Association of B&H, around 80 thousands of B&H citizens live in Slovenia, out of which, many who are currently residing in your country, have gone through the process of Euro-Atlantic integration and have successfully integrated themselves into the Slovenian society. What do you think how does B&H Diaspora in Slovenia contribute to a better image of B&H?
It is a fact that B&H Diaspora contributes a lot to the positive image of your country, primarily because business connections and jobs are made through acquaintance of people. There are a lot of examples of success of B&H Diaspora in different areas of life. For ”Sarajevo Times” I will talk about some concrete examples. Writer Goran Vojinović won the award ”Prešernov slad” for his novel ” Čejfuri raus” which speaks about the life of B&H Diaspora in Slovenia, and about how the new generations integrate themselves into the Slovenian society and what are the problems with which they face. Two films in preparations are based on that novel and I hope that B&H audience will have the opportunity to see it, maybe at the Sarajevo Film Festival. Also, some of the best B&H sculptors are all originally from the western parts of B&H. This witnesses the fact that the bronze entrance door of the Ljubljana Cathedral was made by a sculptor from B&H. There are also numerous NGO’s which are run by people from B&H, and which are organizing positive events, holiday vacations, shows and similar other cultural events.
Certain analyses in the field of employment show that the biggest partner in B&H is the Slovenian partner in the field of employment, and that currently these two countries are exchanging 38 thousand workers. Slovenian Embassy in B&H and Slovenian Business Club have organized in December in Sarajevo a meeting of businessmen and business partners of both countries. Which other activities are being conducted by the Slovenian Embassy for the contribution to a better economic collaboration of B&H and Slovenia and the improvement of investments in B&H?
This year, Slovenia will be a partner country at the Zenica Economic Fair ZEPS. Also in collaboration with the Slovenian Business Club, we will organize gatherings of B&H and Slovenian businessmen around B&H. There is an economic counselor at the Slovenian Embassy who is in contact every day with businessmen who are interested in investing in B&H. He also helps to solve eventual problems and organizes all activities concerning promotion. It is important for Slovenia to establish collaboration with B&H at the economic level in the manner of a mutual performance on the third market. Concerning this, an agreement is already made and it is waiting for ratification. So in that manner, Slovenia is also interested in taking part at this years’ Sarajevo Business Forum.
In this year, Slovenia plans to invest 40 million euros in B&H. This investment considers the construction of ten mini hydro power plants on the Ljuta river basin in the Municipality of Konjic. Are there any other concrete investments that your country is planning to realize this year in B&H but which will contribute to the welfare of B&H citizens?
Every investment which opens new working places is for the welfare of the citizens. Except from the construction of ten mini hydro power plants, there is interest to expand the existing investments, but at this point it is early to talk about them.
Media have reported about the unfavorable position of workers in B&H, who in Slovenia present the majority of workers employed in the building industry. To what extent is the position improved, since an Agreement on employing B&H citizens in Slovenia was signed in November, which these two countries have signed because of the frequent appeals stating that the rights of construction workers in Slovenia are endangered?
Thanks to the aforementioned Agreement, the problem of the unfavorable position of B&H workers is solved to the highest extent possible. The problem arose during illegal work, which also would not have happened if the Slovenian inspection worked as it was told to work. The unfavorable position of workers was also affected by the sudden bankruptcy of some of the construction companies. I think that there are no more problems and the fact that Slovenia is still getting requests for workers permit can witness this.
Slovenia filed a complaint to the first ruling of the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg, according to which Slovenia was proclaimed responsible for the payment of the old foreign savings of the Ljubjljana Bank Sarajevo. In case the Court confirms that the complaint was not founded on law, the first ruling will become final. Having in mind that Slovenian Minister of Foreign Affairs Karl Erkjavec earlier said that your country will block the entrance of Croatia to the EU unless Zagreb stops claiming money for foreign depositors of Ljubljana Bank, is there a chance that Slovenia tries to block the Euro-Atlantic integration process for B&H?
The ruling of the Court in the Case ”Ališić and others” (this case considers three saving depositors of Ljubljana Bank from B&H, who have filed a suit at the European Human Rights Court against all inheritors of former Yugoslavia because of unsolved questions of inheritance of the old savings deposit) is not connected to the problem of Croatian depositors, because of which the ratification of the Croatian accession agreement is being delayed. In this particular case, it is about the issue of the so called ”transfer” deposits. According to Croatian legislation, the depositors of Ljubljana Bank could not transfer their deposits to other Croatian banks, which many depositors have successfully made. The banks have paid money to these depositors, and after that, this amount of money was compensated from the Croatian budget. Croatia now wants Slovenia to give money to Croatian budget, which Slovenia is ready to do, because we consider that this needs to be paid according to the territorial principle. The verdict in the case of ”Ališić and others” concerns other depositors who did not receive money and in this case Slovenia will use all legal remedy. We think that all depositors should get their money, but also that this needs to be solved within the succession. The council of Ministers also foresaw that it needs to be solved within the succession period or maybe during their membership to the EU. We think that it is a substantial path to which we all need to strive.
Croatia will become a part of the EU this year, and the public is growing restless because of the rumors that the process of entering this country will be more difficult for its neighboring citizens, such as for citizens of B&H. Do you think that Croatia could solve this matter on the example of the agreement it made with Slovenia, when Slovenia became a member of the EU, because the citizens of Croatia can travel to your country with just their ID’s?
When Slovenia was entering the EU, it had invested a lot of effort to make that agreement functional, because we have incorporated that question into our accession agreement with the EU. I would be delighted if Croatia would act towards B&H as we did towards them, but I am not optimistic. It requires the approval of all member countries of the EU, which is hard to do, concerning the problems with the migrations from the Balkans.