German Chancellor and the leader of Christian Democrats Angela Merkel visited Bosnia-Herzegovina on Thursday to rebuild social and economic relations with the country and to speed up its European Union membership process.
Sarajevo was the last station of Merkel’s visits in the Balkans which also included stops in Tirana and Belgrade this week.
Merkel stressed the importance of economic reforms that would create jobs in Bosnia-Herzegovina and help speed up the EU membership process.
In January, the three leaders of Bosnia-Herzegovina who represent its three main communities - the Bosnian Muslims, Serbs and Croats - signed a joint declaration expressing their readiness to implement all EU reforms proposed by Germany and Britain.
Decisions were made by consensus that reforms in Bosnia-Herzegovina could not be implemented in June because the Bosnian Serb side cancelled their participation.
Merkel stressed that reforms would require difficult decisions citing the necessity for an active and determined government for taking decisions.
The proposed reforms include cutting income taxes and improving the climate for business in order to reduce Bosnia-Herzegovina’s high unemployment rate which currently stands over 27 percent.
"We know that the problems which have to be solved here in Bosnia-Herzegovina are very complicated, but that the entire region can only prosper if Bosnia-Herzegovina develops well," Merkel said.
The Serb member and Chairman of the Bosnia-Herzegovina presidency, Mladen Ivanic, who is currently serving an eight-month term as president, said that to apply for EU membership in late 2016 or early 2017, Bosnia-Herzegovina needs to agree a reform agenda in the next several weeks.
Chancellor Merkel was welcomed in the capital city Sarajevo, where it is hoped Germany can help the country launch reforms that will bring jobs and prosperity.
Munira Subasic, the head of the association Mothers of Srebrenica, said "We said we wished she would have been with us on Saturday when we mark the anniversary," adding "We told her that everything she does is good and that we wish there would be more people like her in Europe."
Merkel’s visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina took place on the eve of the 20th anniversary of Srebrenica genocide that occurred in the last year of the Bosnian war in 1995, in which Serbian forces killed more than 8,000 thousands of civilians in the town.
"We will all need courage - and this counts for all the responsible here who are forming the future- to make sure that such horrible events never happen again," old reporters in Sarajevo.
"I came here at the time when we remember the Srebrenica genocide [of July 1995]... I think that we all need the courage to create such a future in which really horrible things could never happen again."