Sattler and Sedar thank BiH civil protection teams for the assistance provided to Slovenia

Head of the European Union Delegation and EU Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina Johann Sattler and Slovenian Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Damijan Sedar said today in a joint op-ed that the professionalism shown by BiH civil protection teams in Slovenia is an indicator of the value of European solidarity.

A little over a year ago, Bosnia and Herzegovina joined the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, which pools the expertise and resources of EU member states and 10 further participating countries to ensure that when a disaster strikes, the principle of solidarity and support for friends in times of need governs.

The EU Civil Protection Mechanism goes to the heart of what the European Union was created to do – countries working together for the benefit of all. It was a momentous step forward that Bosnia and Herzegovina’s civil protection infrastructure met the standards and requirements to become a full member last year.

In August this year, Slovenia was hit by catastrophic floods, the worst natural disaster in the country’s history. Parts of Austria and Croatia were also affected. For the first time, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s authorities used the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and came to the assistance of their neighbor. By all accounts, the teams from Bosnia and Herzegovina performed their tasks with great professionalism and dedication.

Coincidentally, civil protection teams from Bosnia and Herzegovina were present for the rescue and clean-up efforts in Koroška, the home region of Damijan Sedar, the Ambassador of Slovenia to Bosnia and Herzegovina. This provided an opportunity to witness the dedication and exceptional work of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s rescuers firsthand. Moreover, the rescue teams came from both BiH’s entities, demonstrating excellent cooperation to support those in need. The people of Slovenia are extremely grateful for the support of Bosnia and Herzegovina in a very difficult time.

Joining the EU Civil Protection Mechanism was one of the milestones that Bosnia and Herzegovina reached on the road to candidate status. Since then, Bosnia and Herzegovina has established full cooperation with EUROPOL and is expected to make progress in establishing cooperation with FRONTEX and EUROJUST. These incremental steps, where Bosnia and Herzegovina increasingly takes part in EU structures on the path to EU membership are a win-win for all concerned.

The benefits of EU membership are clear for Bosnia and Herzegovina – this is why all major political parties are united in expressing EU accession as a shared strategic objective, with the support of the majority of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s citizens. EU membership however benefits all sides and these advantages are self-reinforcing.

In the field of civil protection for example, while EU member states are able to get the support of skilled teams from Bosnia and Herzegovina at critical moments, Bosnia and Herzegovina also benefits from this assistance. Moreover, civil protection teams from Bosnia and Herzegovina are able to participate in Europe-wide training activities, as well as get valuable hands-on experience by responding to disasters across our continent. The EU budget also provides significant financial support for teams operating whenever the European Civil Protection Mechanism is activated to respond to a member in need. Bosnia and Herzegovina will receive a reimbursement for almost three-quarters of the costs for the operation in Slovenia.

What is true for cooperation during disasters, is equally so for cooperation in culture, research, education, economic growth, environmental protection, law enforcement and all the other fields where Europeans working together has demonstrated its enormous value. Indeed, the creation of virtuous circles and win-wins for cooperation between countries is a core objective for the EU. It is at the heart of the project to unite the continent in peace and prosperity.

We would like to sincerely thank the courageous and dedicated response teams from Bosnia and Herzegovina who provided assistance in Slovenia in the summer, and encourage Bosnia and Herzegovina’s authorities to use this positive example to motivate greater cooperation with the EU at all levels. The new momentum for EU enlargement opens up significant opportunities for Bosnia and Herzegovina, and every law adopted on the path to the EU creates new openings and win-wins. It is time for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s authorities to take an example from the heroes of the rescue operation in Slovenia and show a more determined commitment to delivering on the EU agenda.