IN FOR THE LONG HAUL

Zambia 2017 | DIPLOMACY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Mladen Ivanić, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, on strengthening economic ties, bilateral knowledge transfers, and building upon historically friendly ties.

Mladen Ivanić
BIOGRAPHY
Mladen Ivanić has been Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina since 2016. He was elected as the member of Presidency from the Republika Srpska at the general elections held on October 12, 2014. He holds a PhD in economics from the University of Belgrade, and completed Postdoctoral Studies at the University of Mannheim (Federal Republic of Germany) and the University of Glasgow (UK). He has worked as a journalist, consultant, and politician, holding office as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Vice-President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. He also currently teaches economics at the University of Banjaluka.

There have been longstanding close relations between Zambia and the countries of the former Yugoslavia. In what ways has the fruitful relationship between the two countries developed over time?

Yugoslavia and Zambia have cemented a close relationship over time. Bosnia and Herzegovina continued to promote friendship with Zambia after establishing our diplomatic relations in 1995. However, between BH and Zambia, as with most African countries south of the Sahara, there has never been an exchange of official bilateral visits. In spite of this, officials from both countries have met before, most frequently on the margins of international conferences, and contacts between diplomatic representatives of the two countries have been exchanged elsewhere in the world. However, I am convinced that mutual cooperation would be highly beneficial to both parties, and am optimistic regarding the future. With boosted interest from both sides, the relations of the two countries will enter a new chapter.

What measures can be taken by both governments to boost levels of trade and economic activity?

Currently, there is limited trade between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Zambia and little mutual investment registered regarding initiatives in the economic field. We know Zambia is developing rapidly and has become one of the biggest construction sites in Africa. During the Yugoslavian period many companies from Bosnia and Herzegovina worked in Zambia, including Energoinvest. Today, Zambia needs researchers, experts, and operative workers in the mining industry to undertake operations like open pits and mining extracting. In this regard, it makes sense for us to strengthen ties in this area, since Bosnia and Herzegovina has many workers and experts of that kind. We would gladly cooperate between mining institutes and faculties.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is enjoying stability after a period of conflict. Since Zambia is often seen as a haven of stability in the Sub-Saharan region, what political and ideological overlap exists between the two nations, and how is this reflected in the two countries' collaboration efforts?

The war in Bosnia and Herzegovina ended nearly 22 years ago. Despite numerous tensions in the region that inevitably resurge from time to time, I am optimistic when it comes to the future. Two decades have passed since the war and we have achieved stability and security, even in the face of adversity, given that Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country with an extremely complicated internal structure, different nations and religions, and numerous domestic differences. There is a true consent within Bosnia and Herzegovina that our place, as well as the entire region, is in the EU. At times, it has seemed difficult to live in the Balkans and in Bosnia and Herzegovina; however, much can be learned from the people of our country and the way in which they have fought for national harmony. I believe that with Zambia experiencing similar peace and stability, even with a complex internal social structure, there is much that can be shared in these experiences.

Tourism and cultural exchange have been pinpointed as areas of interest for the two countries. What initiatives in particular will be launched to support this venture?

Both Bosnia and Herzegovina and Zambia have emphasized in their diplomatic correspondence the interest for cooperation at all levels, although so far concrete initiatives and implementation have not come to fruition. Mainly regional concerns were to blame for this. With Zambia as well as other sub-Saharan countries, except in rare instances, Bosnia and Herzegovina has failed to establish intensive cooperation, in spite of the friendly relations that have dated back to the time of Yugoslavia. We have a great deal to offer when it comes to culture and tourism. We are fortunate that our culture and arts are well developed, despite the comparative lack of financial allocation in this area. Many of our artists and cultural workers have won numerous awards and achieved global acclaim. We are nestled in the heart of the Balkans: blessed with spectacular mountains, valleys, lakes, and even a small coastline.