Sarajevo, Oct 15 (CTK special correspondent) – The Czech Republic will help Bosnia in its reform effort to be able to seek membership of the European Union, Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek told reporters after the opening of a business seminar in the Bosnian Foreign Trade Chamber yesterday.
The Czech Republic supports Bosnia’s integration into not only the EU but also NATO, Zaoralek said after his talks with his counterpart Igor Crnadak.
Zaoralek also met Dragan Covic, head of the presidium of Bosnia and Herzegovina, yesterday.
Covic said Bosnia will apply for EU membership by the end of the year.
Zaoralek invited Crnadak to come to Prague on November 13 for the establishment of the West Balkans Fund.
“I believe we will succeed in launching the fund, following the example of the Visegrad Fund,” he said.
The Visegrad Fund, founded in 2000, encourages cooperation in culture, science and education within the Visegrad Group, comprising Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
The West Balkans Fund will be officially established within the Prague European Summit that will deal with the integration of the West Balkan countries into the EU, the migrant crisis, the situation in Ukraine and fight against Daesh (Islamic State) on November 12-13. Apart from representatives of the EU member countries and the Balkan countries, European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans is to participate in the event.
After talks with Zaoralek, Bosnian Foreign Trade Minister Mirko Sarovic said he was not fully satisfied with Bosnian-Czech bilateral trade so far. He expressed conviction that it would double in two to four years.
“We are prepared to share the know-how of our transformation experience with them [Bosnia],” said Zaoralek, referring to the economic and political transformation of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic, its successor state, since the 1990s.
It culminated with the Czech Republic’s EU entry in May 2004, he added.
“However, they [Bosnia] must also take some steps alone to create trust for investments,” Zaoralek said, adding that Bosnia must show by its particular steps that it is able to fight corruption.
Bosnia has been only a potential candidate country so far. It has signed a stabilisation and association agreement with the EU that took effect in June. However, this is no guarantee of talks about EU membership.
“Czechs like Sarajevo, you have a good partner in the Czech Republic,” Zaoralek said.
However, he added that Bosnia must also increase the performance of its economy and help create a safe environment for investments.
He also noted that a mixed commission for economic cooperation had laid grounds of cooperation between the Czech Republic and Bosnia. It met last time in 2012.
“I would like the commission to meet again in Sarajevo next year,” said Zaoralek, adding that he can see the cooperation potential mainly in agriculture, energy industry, renewable energy sources and state administration.
Sarovic thanked the Czech Republic for being one of the countries providing the highest financial support for Bosnia within development cooperation.
Bosnia with four million inhabitants, ranks among the priority countries of the Czech development aid programme. Last year, it received 76 million crowns, and thus became the fifth in terms of the financial aid level after Ukraine, Afghanistan, Moldova and Ethiopia.
Zaoralek will meet Bosnian Prime Minister Denis Zivzdic later yesterday.
Then he will fly to Zagreb to open the Czech Film Week. On Thursday, he will meet Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Vesna Pusic. He is to return to Prague on Friday.
($1=23.762 crowns)