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Joint statements of Foreign Minister Kotzias and the Foreign Minister of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Igor Crnadak, following their meeting (Foreign Ministry, 1 April 2016)
N. KOTZIAS: Good day. I want to welcome my friend Igor, the Foreign Minister of our friend Bosnia and Herzegovina, which, after many difficulties, has found the path to peace and development.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a positive example in our region, and we must all support its path to the European institutions. My colleague and friend Igor and I talked about the prospects for our cooperation, and we decided to intensify our cooperation both institutionally, with regard to the sectors of the two Foreign Ministries, as well as in a number of other sectors.
We agreed to put the 2003 agreement back on track. The agreement concerns science, the arts and education. We agreed to develop our economic relations, trade, tourism and all the other areas. Two weeks ago, our economic relations were the subject of a Joint Interministerial Committee meeting, which convened in Sarajevo, and in which the Deputy Minister for International Economic Relations, Dimitris Mardas, participated.
We talked about our cooperation on a political level, about the ways in which Greece might contribute to the European path Bosnia has opened up, and we ascertained the potential that exists, the institutional support, and our support for this course.
The Minister and I also talked about developments in Bosnia-Herzegovina itself. He is an optimistic person. He has an optimistic stance on the future of this country, which I always say – teasingly – is built upon such a complex structure that it is reminiscent of the European Union itself. And for this reason alone it should become a member of the European Union.
We also conversed about the problems of the refugee crisis, the need for intensification of the cooperation between the two states and among all the Balkan states. Let me inform you of something. For the end of April, we are preparing a conference, in Thessaloniki, with the bordering countries – Albania, FYROM and Bulgaria – so that we can discuss the refugee issue.
This international meeting will be preparatory for a broader meeting for the whole region; a meeting at which Bosnia, a stable country with open fronts in the solution of contemporary problems, is welcome.
Once again, Igor, welcome to sunny Athens. I know that you are very familiar with our country, but today is the first time you come in the official capacity of Minister. Welcome, and it was a great pleasure to talk with you.
I. CRNADAK: I welcome all the representatives of the news media. I feel very, very good, and once again I thank Mr. Kotzias. I am extremely pleased with the meeting we had last summer and that we are continuing now, in Athens.
I would like to stress two things. First, today we ascertained that the relations between Bosnia and Greece are substantially – and not just superficially – good. We have no issue weighing on our relations. Why is this the case? Because, from the outset, Greece has been a wonderful partner for us in the European Union. It understood and comprehended all of our problems, the needs of the three peoples, the two entities. It was sincere support, and I would say that this is why we have such good cooperation today.
We want to continue our political relations on the level of Foreign Ministries, and we have active and productive meetings at least once a year. We agreed to promote our cooperation with other ministries, as well, and, as you heard, to renew the agreement for even better and closer cooperation in the sectors of culture and education – and, more specifically, university institutions – which will impart further impetus to the contacts between the two countries.
We agreed to have good political relations, to do everything we can on the issue of the economy. We have trade transactions that could be much greater, bearing in mind the capabilities of the two countries. We agreed for there to be a meeting of the Greece-Bosnia joint Committee on Economic Issues, as it is a sector where the two countries have an action plan.
So, given the bilateral political and economic cooperation, to which we will add tourism, culture and science, I would say that we are moving in the right direction.
I come to another issue: Greece’s support for Bosnia’s European integration, from the time Bosnia submitted its application to become a member of the European Union. I talked to Mr. Kotzias about our intention to continue with the reforms, to crack down even harder on corruption, to work and to do everything possible to stabilize the structures of the European Union. That is why we are asking for Greece’s support, as we want to try to get EU candidate-country status in 2017.
Greece’s support has been renewed once again. And, as the Foreign Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina, I feel that, in Greece, we have a very good friend in the European Union.
We also talked about some other issues today – particularly that of migration. We want the agreement with Turkey to succeed, and I hope the agreement goes into implementation, as it should, on 4 April, this coming Monday.
We also agreed on the linking of television stations and, more generally, on closer cooperation between the two countries in the media sector.
Finally, I want to mention once again the hospitality we were met with here in Greece, as we also had a meeting with the President of the Hellenic Parliament. I want to stress that the meetings between the two countries are of extreme importance, and we await their continuation in the coming time, including presidential and parliamentary activities.
Once again, I want to express my gratitude for the hospitality you provided for us in Greece.
JOURNALIST (ERT Radio): My question is for the Foreign Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina. You talked about the refugee/migration issue. I would like to hear your stance on the policy being followed by certain Balkan countries, with the closed borders.
I. CRNADAK: Bosnia and Herzegovina was not at the core of the so-called Balkan route, but we were in very close contact with everyone, we discussed and monitored the situation, while the Foreign Ministry was prepared to react in case of greater problems. We did not participate in the sharp exchanges of words. Some of the countries in our region reached the lowest levels in their relations for some time, given that there were those who believed that they should gain something from this issue. The important thing is that all of us in the region have seen that we need to resolve the problem together, and that no one can do anything alone, damaging another, but that we have to work together.
JOURNALIST: Regarding Bosnia-Herzegovina’s accession course, Greece has always supported your country and your efforts. There is an old agreement on the transfer of know-how and various other details. Can you tell us how that agreement is going?
I. CRNADAK: Our agreement and the support for Bosnia and Herzegovina will also include know-how on the matter of European integration. We also said this during today’s talks: The support will not be just political, but will also concern specific sectors. I expect that, on our path to Europe, we will make optimum use of the benefits provided to us by this agreement.
N. KOTZIAS: For example, two experts are coming from Bosnia to talk to our Ministry about matters concerning EU agricultural policy. We have also agreed to hold, at a time of their choosing, a seminar on special issues of the European Union, and we have also agreed to assist – in specific ways that aren’t for discussion here – with any need that exists in the negotiations with the European Union.
Thank you once again, thank you Igor.
I. CRNADAK: I thank you, as well.