Field reminded of the doubling of assistance to the Western Balkans announced by UK Prime Minister Theresa May last summer, and underlined that Brexit - as an upcoming moment that will clearly affect the UK - would “not alter our focus here in the Western Balkans”.
“With my team, we spent a lot of time discussing the Rule of Law, which sits right at the heart of so much that people in Bosnia and Herzegovina would like to see improve. This is a far-reaching concept, but at the heart of it is the idea that no-one can sit above the law. With corruption endemic, we were searching for partners that we could join in a serious fight to tackle this blight on life, from bought diplomas to ‘gifts’ needed for entitled medical treatment. We asked what it would take to see a high level conviction for corruption in the period ahead”, wrote Field.
“We looked for opportunities to build on the UK’s reputation for professionalism in security, including cooperating with BiH to fight organized crime that affects people on the street in both our countries. As in so many areas, the quality of people from Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Armed Forces is extremely high, so we discussed how better to support defense reform, so they could contribute to the country’s stability and global peacekeeping missions”, said the UK Ambassador to BiH.
“With so many talented and qualified people leaving the country for better working opportunities, we tried to find new ways of driving socio-economic reforms that would attract investment, while creating more and better jobs”, he noted. “We also talked about the UK as a partner in promoting democratic rights and values, particularly in transparency, independent journalism, and access to justice. We agreed that civil society, and citizens’ organizations, had a fundamental role to play”.
Ambassador Field noted that even with a double assistance program, “the UK cannot work in all of these areas, and of course there are many other large countries and organizations with their own programs in place”. “So, we are now refining our efforts to focus on where we can make the most difference to citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and where we have serious and credible partners to work with”, wrote Field.
At the end of his blogpost, Field mentioned “a few of the projects we already know will continue in the period ahead”.
Those projects include effective system to prevent the conflict of interest, implemented for all elected and appointed public officials; depoliticization of government-controlled companies, improving their management and efficiency, and making them customer-focused; transparency in public spending; expanded Chevening scholarship program; reduced red tape for businesses, through ‘one stop shop’ and other online processes; supporting local communities affected by migration routes; defense college programs, in other words places for outstanding BiH officers in the UK’s top training courses, with a focus on international missions and leadership; effective search for missing persons; and supporting schools throughout BiH to introduce problem solving, critical thinking and coding skills through the British Council’s ‘21st Century Schools’ project.