Minister Schmidt in Sarajevo for political talks
On 13 July, Federal Minister Christian Schmidt travelled to Bosnia-Herzegovina to engage in talks on agricultural policy. His meeting with representatives from politics and industry focused on questions regarding closer relations with the EU.
"Germany is prepared to support the negotiations on enhanced cooperation with the EU between the European Union and Bosnia-Herzegovina and to also get engaged bilaterally in Bosnia-Herzegovina," said Federal Minister Schmidt at the end of his visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Schmidt held talks, inter alia, with Bakir Izetbegović, the Chairman of the tripartite presidency of the federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, with Denis Zvizdić, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, and with Mirko Sarović, the Minister responsible for agriculture. He also met high-level representatives from the entity governments of the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Republic of Srpska.
- Bosnia-Herzegovina is one of the most rural European countries - alongside Montenegro, Ireland and Finland. Rural areas make up around 81 percent of the country's total area. Around two million people live in these rural areas.
- Bosnia-Herzegovina is, in geographical terms, a country of mountains and forests: Only 20 percent of the country's total area is suitable for agricultural purposes, this corresponds to around 1 million hectares. However, over 50 percent of this land is uncultivated..
- The contribution of the agricultural sector to the gross domestic product (GDP) amounted to around 6.5 percent in 2014. Vegetable growing is the key agricultural sector in terms of economic importance.
During these talks they all promised to swiftly take the necessary steps towards reinforced cooperation with the EU. Schmidt emphasised that a rapid internal agreement was urgently required. "Only then will we be able to activate further EU financial aid and establish bilateral cooperation," the Minister said. He went on to say that it would be important to make sure that financial and technical help reached producers on the ground.
The EU is the main trading partner of Bosnia-Herzegovina which is striving for accession to the EU.
In mid-2015, a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) between the EU and Bosnia-Herzegovina took effect; this lays down rules for key trade-related issues. Any EU enlargement is preceded by such an agreement. Bosnia-Herzegovina has, to date, not agreed to amend the SAA, a step that became necessary in the wake of Croatia's accession to the EU. A domestic agreement on the assent by the nation as a whole is still pending. The EU therefore suspended the autonomous trade preferences for Bosnia-Herzegovina on 1 January 2016.
Federal Minister Christian Schmidt endorses closer relations between the Western Balkans and the EU. Most recently in early 2016 he stressed the need for political stabilisation of the Western Balkan countries and campaigned for intensive relations with those countries. This statement was prompted by a high-level meeting held at the initiative of Phil Hogan, EU Commissioner for Agriculture, that involved the Agriculture Ministers of the member states of the "Regional Rural Development Standing Working Group (SWG)" on the fringes of the event "GFFA - The Berlin World Food Conference". The SWG is an international intergovernmental organisation set up in 2005 that is composed of the government institutions in charge of agriculture and rural development in the member countries of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo.
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