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Interview

Visit By Minister Of Foreign Trade And Economic Relations Of BiH Mirko Sarovic

 

INTERVIEW: MIRKO ŠAROVIĆ, DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COUNCIL OF MINISTERS AND MINISTER OF FOREIGN TRADE AND ECONOMIC RELATIONS OF BIH

 

Interviewed by: Ajsela ZAHIROVIĆ

SARAJEVO, March 16 (ONASA) – Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers and Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations of BiH Mirko Šarović in the interview for the Agency ONASA talks about the problems of BiH when it comes to export and import with Croatia and Serbia, the Draft Amendments to the Law on Excises of BiH, Veterinary Office from Dublin, and the current political situation in BiH …

Interviewed by Ajsela ZAHIROVIĆ

ONASA: Economists say that the biggest challenge for BiH will be the traditional trade. In the context of this issue is the problem of exports and imports with Croatia, that is how to reach a mutually acceptable agreement?

ŠAROVIĆ: We are negotiating on this issue with Brussels for the last three years, from the moment Croatia joined the European Union (EU), some call that process adaptation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA), while others call it the additional protocol to the SAA as is the official name of negotiation when a country joins the EU. Then all of this, in a way, is simply treated as the Agreement on Traditional Trade on which Brussels insists, and BiH does not accept. These negotiations were stalled for a year and now are renewed. They have gained particular importance after the submission of BiH’s application for the EU membership. These days is scheduled second round of these negotiations in Brussels. It is important to find a mutually acceptable solution, which would contain interests of both sides ie. BiH and the European Commission. Position are quite apart, considering that in our opinion European Commission’s requests are too extensive. On the other hand, we are pointing out that our agricultural sector is very vulnerable and that this should be taken into account. Also, we have to find an acceptable solution for several key product lines from BiH. In the first place milk and dairy products, meat and a few lines of food products. I think that this process will last for a while, but BiH is ready to negotiate. We will try to take care of the interests of BiH and it is our duty. Compromise is something to strive for in the future.

ONASA: Lately Serbia is making problems for our exporters at border crossings, setting some new unagreed tariff barriers, how to overcome this problem?

ŠAROVIĆ: Unfortunatelly and in the framework of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) are present invisible barriers, which one side makes for the other, without that being part of the CEFTA. Sometimes they are continuous, and sometimes ad hoc and we try to eliminate them. In this regard, few years ago we have signed an agreement on mutual recognition of documents with Serbia. In order to simplify and speed up procedures, as well as to make export cheaper we have agreed that a lab and every other findings for a particular product are accepted by every sides, to avoid delays at the border of especially perishable goods. In principle it works, but with time some problems arise on all sides, some of these sides lead and some rarely use barriers. In this regard was established a special point – a place where these non-tariff barriers are reported and then authorities are trying to eliminate them. On several occasions I have talked with relevant ministers in the Serbian Government, and I think it is a good proposal that the two sides delegate per one person on behalf of the Serbian Government and the Council of Ministers who, during every reporting of non-tariff barriers, would be commissioned to consult with each other, negotiate and search for solutions within this system in order to remove barriers. I have accepted this idea and we will see what will happen. There are barriers, but it is up to us to resolve problems and to strive that there are less barriers. And Serbia sometimes complains of us, thus we are both obliged to remove them.

ONASA: As you have recently said that BiH will lose over 200 million euros from IPA funds, due to own unwillingness and lack of political will, how to get these resources?

ŠAROVIĆ: At a forum in Bihać I have explained how we are likely to lose funding in 2016 that are available to us. It is amount of 18 to 20 million euros for agriculture because we can not agree on one or two payment agencies in the country and we have already lost 100 millions for each this year and for each subsequent year new 20 millions we receive as grant funds. We will lose a significant number of funds from IPA, which a few years ago have been reduced by 40 millions because we have not made progress on certain strategic documents and therefore the European Commission decided to in a way deny part of the funds from the IPA to BiH. I have also said that every year up to 2030 the region for transport and energy can withdraw the total of 11 billion euros, of which 10 billion of favorable credit funds and one billion of grant funds for energy projects and projects in transport and that each year for countries in the region is allocated 150-200 million for various projects. BiH as one of the countries in the region can count from the fund for transport and energy to some 150 to 170 million euros, which it will probably not withdraw again in Paris this year, when is held the next summit which begins on July 4 this year, because we are not ready to adopt a strategy in the field of energy and transport. If we would have that, or at least adopt a principled document that would be acceptable to Brussels we could nominate various projects for our roads, highways, bridges, border crossings, airports and of course energy projects.

ONASA: Your opinion on the Draft Amendments to the Law on Excises of BiH?

ŠAROVIĆ: My opinion is that we should stick to the reform agenda, because regardless of how it is, based on it we have agreed on certain things, how to achieve them and also when it comes to excises. It is never popular to increase excises, as citizens pay for it and therefore if we are already introducing them we have to do so with caution and use them properly ie. not waste what citizens will pay. In this sense, for us is particularly open the issue about the excises on alcohol and tobacco that are supposed to go for support in the healthcare sector. The reform agenda clearly states that it can be done in a certain time when entities government make high-quality action plans for reform of the healthcare sector. In such unreformed healthcare sector we will inject money in vain that will be used to paid huge debts in the healthcare funds. I believe that it is necessary to reform healthcare through the development of appropriate plans before providing new funds via increased excises.

ONASA: Are BiH dairies ready to meet the criteria of the Veterinary Office from Dublin?

ŠAROVIĆ: Veterinary Office from Dublin began its work in BiH, and all preparations were made in previous weeks at different levels in the production facilities, ie. export facilities with farmers, veterinary services in the entities and cantons, and in the Office of the Veterinary. We had a kind of training in the last month, where we simulated the arrival of the inspection. I think we have progressed in the last seven to eight months, and I hope for a positive outcome. The weakest points are the slowness in passing the legislation, because it is difficult to agree on the reform legislation in this area. Without reform of the legislation and adaptation to European directives there is no exports to the EU.

ONASA: In addition to agriculture, what are your priorities in the current year?

ŠAROVIĆ: We have a number of priorities in various fields, but when it comes to the agriculture we think we need to continue to proceed on the adoption of European standards as they are the key to our competitiveness and survival of this sector. Also, we need to be competitive and improve the quality of products that can compete with European ones. Without it there is no progress, the point is to constantly work to improve the quality and standards of each product. In other areas, particularly for me, is interesting trade with the region and the strengthening of economic cooperation, trade with countries with which we record good results, such as Turkey, China and of course our key partner the EU. I believe in this year we will try to resolve the energy issue as well as open issues with the energy community as well as the Law on Electricity, the issue of the third energy package, that is the adoption of European directives from it, within which is the issue of gas and gas legislation in the country. We also have a number of other laws that will soon be on an agenda as well as laws relating to weapons and military equipment, etc …

ONASA: How do you assess the political situation in BiH?

ŠAROVIĆ: Overall, as the country we have made progress in the past year. I will not say this happened because of this or that structure of government, but we have made perhaps the most significant step forward in the last ten years by submitting credible application for the EU membership and the chance to get the candidate status. Since we are facing many challenges on this issue in 2016 and 2017 the political and general stability in the country is necessary. We should take advantage of good opportunity and climate of support from the EU, because this is the best opportunity that arose for BiH in the past 15 years. There is good mood in Brussels towards us and now we are a bright spot there. They will follow us for several months and therefore it is necessary to maintain the continuity of stability. (end)