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H.E. Aida SMAJIĆ, Ambassador of Bosnia & Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina Implements Rigorous Measures

As dramatic news arrived from Italy, Spain and then from our closest neighbouring countries, Bosnia and Herzegovina was preparing how to respond to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic and what attitude and strategy to take to protect citizens best and material goods from the tragic the consequences of spreading an unknown virus.

Bosnia and Herzegovina, as you may know by the present Constitution, is a complex state with different levels of government in deciding which in such situations should adopt measures and implement population protection strategies. Notwithstanding all the complexities and disagreements that are in the “normal state”, so to speak, an obstacle to effective action in various segments of life, BiH has responded jointly and concertedly to the adoption and implementation of prevention, protection and containment measures, i.e. the controlled spread of the epidemic to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In support of this, praise from WHO, which was given in early April and this year, said:
“The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the Western Balkan countries are complying with all prescribed measures and that they are achieving good results in the fight against the virus corona. Bosnia and Herzegovina is particularly good against the pandemic, the WHO Regional Office for Europe said at a press conference held in early April in Copenhagen. ”

The average mortality from the virus corona in BiH is below the world average. The BiH authorities have enacted measures banning all those places where otherwise large numbers of citizens gathered, the measures were adopted gradually, after daily analyzes and evaluations, and proved to be very effective. Bosnia and Herzegovina is not a wealthy country, the existence of a health care system that operates on such principles is commendable, and any criticism that comes at the expense of a failing health care system is unfounded. The numbers of the dead and the sick speak in the opposite of criticism, as the much tidier and richer countries of the world, find it much more difficult to cope with the Crown Virus than Bosnia and Herzegovina. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, there is currently not a big number of cases of infection, and therefore there is no threat to the health system.

Over 1500 people  so far in Bosnia and Herzegovina have been infected with the coronavirus, 59 have died, over 620 have been recovered and more than 25,000 tested

In this second phase of the fight against the pandemic, experts point out that active clusters pose the greatest danger, and that future citizens may come as well as foreigners who are expected to come in the coming period. Measures that have been introduced, banning gatherings, curfews, are more lenient than in other countries because they are responsible for managing a pandemic at the BiH level, and above all I think that the state crisis headquarters and the crisis headquarters of entities, cantons and municipalities appreciate completing a quarantine of several days it would not be good because between 40 and 50 infected people were diagnosed daily and thought it was not alarming data to introduce strict and harsh measures to the population.

Measures of social or physical distance should remain in force for another extended period, that is, not to give up too soon and not relax too much now that a great job has been done. Only after adherence to these measures for another 3 to 4 weeks, according to experts in this field in BiH, could they achieve good epidemiological control of the population. Patience and persistence in implementing and adhering to all the prescribed measures are what gives the final good results.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has taken all measures necessary to effectively prevent the catastrophic consequences of the virus coronary pandemic, as witnessed in some countries. Governments at all levels, crisis staffs, health care institutions, police, military, civil protection and all others have taken decisive action in the past month to deal with the pandemic in as few consequences as possible. The overriding goal and priority are to preserve people’s lives and health.

In parallel, it is working to mitigate the economic impact, the consequences of which are already evident. The measures taken in BiH before the peak of the pandemic seemed to many more rigorous and more radical than those in other European countries. Now that we analyze everything, we see that these measures have yielded results. The absolute majority of BiH citizens acted responsibly. It deserved all the praise, and the competent institutions have effectively sanctioned those who failed to comply with all prescribed measures by all levels of government at the BiH level.

Successfully combating the pandemic of the new coronavirus, when interstate and international relations are at stake, requires inter alia solidarity. With regard to Bosnia and Herzegovina, assistance from international institutions and organizations, as well as from individual countries, has been successively received in BiH.

One of the first aid contingents to arrive in BiH in the context of the pandemic of the new coronavirus was the one that arrived on 23 March 2020 at the Sarajevo International Airport by US Army aircraft. According to the US Embassy in BiH on that occasion, the first aid series contained medical supplies and other important supplies donated to the BiH Armed Forces. In the meantime, in the context of the fight against COVID-19, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has donated $ 1.2 million to Bosnia and Herzegovina and these funds will serve to help equip laboratories, detect cases and monitor them, support experts, raise community awareness and involvement.

Regarding assistance to BiH from the European Union (EU), it has already been announced on 23 March 2020 on the official website of the EU Delegation to BiH that the EU is considering two ways to assist BiH, which include rapid support in the provision of medical equipment up to 7 million, as well as medium-term adjustments and implementation of EU support of up to € 50 million for economic development programs.

I must point out that the European Union has been with Bosnia and Herzegovina in the past, as was the case with the 2014 flood relief assistance.

Despite the medical emergency, the EU has decided to direct BiH more than € 70 million to rescue businesses by helping the most vulnerable companies, including those operating in the tourism and transportation sectors. In this context, as part of the global response to the emergence of coronaviruses, the European Commission announced on 30 March 2020, close to € 38 million in direct support to the Western Balkans for the coronavirus emergency, and an additional redistribution of € 374 million to assist the socio-economic recovery of the region.

To mitigate the socio-economic effects of coronaviruses, the European Union will also divert funds from the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) to assist the short- and medium-term recovery of partners in the Western Balkans. Support is provided for the private sector, increasing the level of social protection, with particular attention to vulnerable groups, and strengthening resilience in the public health sector. For these purposes, the Commission plans to operationalize almost EUR 46.7 million to support Albania’s socio-economic recovery, EUR 73.5 million for Bosnia and Herzegovina, EUR 50 million for Montenegro, or EUR 62 million for Northern Macedonia, EUR 78.4 million for Serbia and almost 63m euros for Kosovo.

Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhely recalled that as part of the global response to the coronavirus pandemic, the EU had planned more than € 3.8 billion for the Western Balkans.

“The planned funds will be diverted to address their current real needs, which are an urgent response to the health crisis, strengthening health systems and mitigating the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic. We share the same continent, and we can only succeed together. ”

The EU response is based on the Team Europe approach, with the aim of saving lives through rapid and targeted support to partners in the fight against the pandemic. Funds from the Union, its Member States and financial institutions, primarily the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, are combined with supporting partner countries.

Undoubtedly, Bosnia and Herzegovina need such assistance. Still, at the same time, it needs an efficient system that will ensure that every type of aid that BiH receives is used in the most efficient way.

No one is safe as long as a pandemic endangers lives in any part of the world. In this context, when it comes to the effective fight against COVID 19, the responsibility of the competent institutions in BiH is not only local but has a regional as well as a global component.

This time around, it turned out to be in such a difficult situation that Bosnia and Herzegovina has friends in the world. We appreciate every kind of assistance we receive; however, BiH is not only dependent on assistance, but also has its own capacities that have been put in place to combat the pandemic. We have money to buy medical equipment on the world market, but we are very grateful to our friends and all those who have been helping Bosnia and Herzegovina with their help, which still arrives today in various ways and planes and land, for everything they have sent to BiH so far for help and support in the fight against COVID-19. We are aware of the limitations in this regard, as each country has been facing similar problems for the past month. The assistance came from friendly countries and citizens from BiH around the world who at this time did not forget their homeland, personal donations, donations from BiH business entities and wealthy private entrepreneurs and public figures, and by purchasing necessary medical equipment and protective equipment and their own resources. governments and executive authorities at all levels in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It should be emphasized that the BiH Presidency as a whole, and each of its members individually, have taken all necessary internationally to provide medical assistance in equipment, and this has yielded significant results so far. Everyone in BiH is aware that the challenge posed by the coronavirus pandemic can only be successfully addressed if we demonstrate a high level of cooperation, responsibility, solidarity and togetherness. This is exactly what we are showing.

Despite numerous levels of government, complicated decision-making system, I consider as the ambassador of BiH that BiH is very successfully organized and that we use all capacities at our disposal and I am very proud of the results achieved in the fight against the pandemic. I am particularly proud of the praise we receive from relevant international community actors from the region as well as from the world. I believe that we will continue to combat the spread of the pandemic in BiH successfully, and I sincerely wish that to all citizens in other countries. Primarily to our neighbours, then to the countries of our Western Balkans region and to all countries in the world.

This virus has taken many lives, many are infected, and many are lonely and isolated. This virus has shown us that we are not almighty and that in moments of quarantine, self-isolation, and strict measures and restricted movements, we are not independent controllers of our lives. We need to lead and win this kind of battle through our joint efforts and globally. To think of one another, because after all, we are all human beings who cannot live separately, alone and without social interaction with one another.
Ambasador Aida SMAJIĆ

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