Bosnia keen to strengthen ties with Sri Lanka

Wednesday, 6 May 2015 01:15 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

India-based envoy on three-day visit; meets Prime Minister, key Ministers and Govt. officials Says talks so far very positive; emphasises great scope for bilateral tourism, trade and investments Sister-city arrangement between Colombo and historically-famous Sarajevo being explored   Bosnia is keen to strengthen ties with Sri Lanka, with the European nation’s India-based envoy currently in Colombo for official talks to firm up several new initiatives. The Ambassador for Bosnia and Herzegovina Dr. Sabit Subasic who arrived on Monday called on Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday and expressed keenness to boost ties with Sri Lanka. As part of his official three-day tour, Dr. Subasic has also lined up meetings with Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, the Investment Promotion Minister, the Tourism and Sports Deputy Minister as well as the State Minister of Defence and other officials. This is the first visit for the Bosnian envoy after having presented his credentials seven months ago. In an interview with the Daily FT on the sidelines of his visit, Dr. Subasic welcomed the positive changes in Sri Lanka following the 8 January presidential election and emphasised that given many similarities between Bosnia and Sri Lanka, the scope for greater bilateral ties was vast. Once part of Yugoslavia and following the end of the war, the multi ethnic and multi religious Bosnia today is a thriving democracy and an emerging economy of nearly four million people. Bosnia enjoys free trade agreements with the European Union and Turkey. The country is also a potential candidate for membership to the European Union, which the Ambassador said was likely in about five years. Bosnia, which is located in southeastern Europe, is also a popular tourist destination. “Being a co-founder of the Non-Aligned Movement under the leadership of President Josip Tito the then Yugoslavia had very good ties with Sri Lanka. I am very keen to build on that strong foundation and enhance bilateral ties between Bosnia and Sri Lanka for mutual benefit,” Dr. Subasic said. He said talks with Government so far during the visit have been very productive and positive.  “Many initiatives have been planned and new ones recommended. Several of those will be firmed up before the conclusion of the visit,” he added. He said during the meeting with Prime Minister Wickremesinghe several new ideas were shared whilst an invitation for the Premier to visit Bosnia was extended as well. Dr. Subasic expressed hope that several bilateral agreements in the area of economic cooperation was likely as well as an exchange of visits. Work is progressing towards finalising the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement which will be a boost to greater business ties, as well as simplifying visa and travel issues. Exchange of business delegations, and opportunity for travel agents to undertake a familiarisation tour of Bosnia are among other plans.  Exploring the possibility of sister-city arrangement between Colombo and historically famous Sarajevo is another proposal. Bosnia is famous for several industries such as wood and furniture, food processing, machinery and clothing. Being rich with hundreds of rivers, Bosnia is also a fertile base for hydro power capacity of which is not fully tapped. Scope is greater as the country exports electricity to EU. Bosnia also has a strong defence industry and cooperation in that regard is also being explored. Dr. Subasic said given its popularity as a tourist destination, Bosnia is keen to woo Sri Lankan tourists.  The country is about one hour flight time from Istanbul and Turkish Airlines five times a week flights from Colombo will be an ideal proposition apart from regular flights to Turkey operated by host of Middle Eastern carriers. Bosnia is one of the most frequently visited countries in the region, and projected to have the third highest tourism growth rate in the world until 2020. Bosnia and Herzegovina is regionally and internationally renowned for its natural beauty and cultural heritage inherited from six historical civilizations, its cuisine, winter sports, its eclectic and unique music, architecture and its festivals, some of which are the largest and most prominent of their kind in southeastern Europe. The country encompasses mountainous terrain, medieval villages and Muslim and Christian landmarks, which the Ambassador pointed out as ideal for pilgrimage tourists from Sri Lanka. Bosnia’s countryside is marked by deep gorges, turquoise rivers and lakes, and the Dinaric Alps’ forests and crags. It’s a popular destination for outdoor sports such as hiking, mountain biking, white-water rafting and skiing. The country also boasts of high literacy, life expectancy and education levels with skilled work force. Bosnia is home to three main ethnic groups or, officially, constituent peoples, a term unique for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosniaks are the largest group of the three, with Serbs second and Croats third. Given its own success in post-war revival, Ambassador said Bosnia can also share experience with regard to its own post-war reconciliation in a multi ethnic society. Dr. Subasic said for many Bosnians reference of Sri Lanka is a vivid reflection of a beautiful exotic country with warm people and strong ties under the Non-Aligned Movement.