The European Union suspended more than 9 million euros of help for Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) because of the lack of political co-operation.
By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo – 14/08/13
Tourists raft down the Vrbas River in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The EU withheld millions of euros that were to help the BiH tourism industry because of officials' failure to co-operate politically. [AFP]
For the second time this summer, the European Union withheld millions of euros earmarked for Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) because of officials' inability to co-operate with one another.
The Union on July 28th withheld 4.5 million euros allocated for projects to support the tourism industry and the introduction of quality management systems for small and medium enterprises. The decision came a month after EU officials withheld 5 million euros because of the failure of BiH officials to complete preparations for two agriculture and rural development projects.
EU officials told SETimes that more funds may also be in jeopardy.
"It may also have implications on the allocation of millions of euros of EU funds for economic development under IPA 2, the main EU programme of financial assistance to BiH for 2014-2020," according to a statement released by the Delegation of the European Union to BiH and European Union Special Representative.
Clear political agreement on the scope of activities, including the approval of relevant project reports, and an agreed way forward in project implementation are needed for further support, the EU added.
Experts and people dealing with the tourism business are not optimistic when it comes to future economic development, while politicians are aware that they didn't fulfill their obligations.
Duljko Hasic, director of the sector for economic systems of the Foreign Trade Chamber of BiH, said the decision is bad news as the economic crisis tightens all levels of the society.
"In times when thousands of people are losing their jobs, someone offers you money and you refuse it. It's like nobody cares about these funds," Hasic told SETimes. "Authorities were unable to agree on elementary things; co-ordination, strategy on how to spend funds and responsibility for the taken money. Tourism in BiH is still in a developing phase and these funds are necessary for the development. Each branch of the economy strengthens when tourism is developed. However, authorities do not seem to care."
Nearly 750,000 tourists visited BiH in 2012.
Milivoje Pranjak, owner of a small guest house in Knezevo, said that the owners of small enterprises cannot obtain the necessary information about where they can seek financial assistance.
"I am willing to train my staff to work at the European level, to teach them foreign languages, to do marketing campaigns so that people can hear about my guest house. Of course, I have no money for all this, but people in the EU are willing to give money for this. Only problem is that our government is not willing to allow that. When I ask someone from the local government where I can be informed about the contests and aid projects, they do not know the answers," Pranjak told SETimes.
Politicians admit that they haven't done enough to implement the decisions needed to secure the funds and stressed that the main obstacle is co-ordination.
Mehmed Bradaric, a member of the BiH Parliamentary Committee for European Integration, said that BiH is supposed to develop a strategic plan for tourism development and rural development and has the needed funds to do so.
"However, we have not done anything. Great political disputes in the executive power have led to this. Each party is setting some of its personal requirements and EU seeks concrete results. When the BiH delegation was at the meeting with (Stefan) Fule two months ago in Brussels, the man told us that Europe will provide BiH one more chance and that they will come in October to see the results. When they see these reports and failures, I think they will be very disappointed," Bradaric told SETimes.
How should the BiH government better co-operate internally to take advantage of EU funds? Leave a comment with your thoughts.