The Ambassador of the Republic of Croatia to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ivan Del Vechio, has been in this position for almost five years. He says that during this period, he has been traveling throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina and that he is in love with it. In an interview for the Visit B&H Magazine, Del Vechio talks about B&H’s tourism potentials, economic cooperation between the two countries …
You have been an Ambassador to B&H for almost five years. What do you like most about this country?
What has impressed me for five years is the potential of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Primarely, I am talking about people, natural and tourist resources, and geographical position. I am eagerly waiting for all these resources to be put into operation and for Bosnia and Herzegovina to finally flourish. There is a chance, things need to be mended and the whole philosophy is to find wise enough people who will recognize these potentials and put them into operation.
B&H and Croatia are neighboring countries and there are really many things connecting them. Among other things, tourism is one of the most important branches of the economy. What do you think about BH tourism potentials? What is the chance for tourism development in B&H and how much B&H can learn from Croatia when it comes to this?
– We need to learn from each other. My thesis is that we must offer tourist potentials in the package. I mean, here, all the countries of the region. We must offer tourists our resources together. Croatia offers the sea, B&H mountains, rivers and we are not competing here, but complementing each other. The moment when we bring tourists together and we offer them what we have, then success is guaranteed. There is not a lot of philosophy, but we need to have ideas and offer tourists what we have. Tourists will come to the sea, sunbathe a few days after which they will visit B&H and all its beauties and sights. Croatia has built roads, B&H is constructing Corridor Vc and we let’s make money.
Considering the nature of your business, you travel a lot around Bosnia and Hezegovina. Can you extract some natural beauties that somehow impressed you the most?
-When I travel around Bosnia and Herzegovina, and I traveled all over it, it delights me with mild valleys that are ideal for agriculture. They are surrounded by powerful mountains. The relief of Bosnia and Herzegovina is something that thrills and every time I go through such places I am impressed. You go through a valley full of rivers and lakes, after which you climb to the mountain that has snow throughout the summer … These are unrepeatable landscapes.
While Bosnians and Herzegovinians are spending summer in Croatia, your country’s citizens come for winter holidays, to ski, to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Are you skiing and are you engaged in some sports?
– I do not ski, but I play tennis. However, I know that Bosnia and Herzegovina is able to express the potential for winter tourism as well as winter sports. Croatian citizens use and will use these potentials. However, the problem is road communication. I guarantee that when these communications are built, and Corridor Vc is crucial for B&H, all ski resorts will be filled with tourists from Croatia.
Croatian traditional cuisine is very versatile, but also quite similar to Bosnian. Do you have food that you especially prefer in B&H?
-That’s our advantage, because for almost a century we lived in the same country. However, there are parts of B&H where food is almost the same as in Croatia. These are primarily the northern parts of the country, and then Herzegovina, which relies on Dalmatian, that is, Italian cuisine. It is this diversity that is worth and what can be offered to tourists who come to B&H and who will really enjoy it.
Croatia is traditionally the most important trade partner of B&H. However, statistical data on trade exchange are on the side of Croatia. Can we expect that the foreign trade deficit in B&H, in the exchange with Croatia, will decrease and what needs to be done to make this happen?
– That’s already happening in the last two years. Our trade exchange has already passed two billion euros and export from B&H to European Union, predominantly Croatia, is growing at a rate of 20 percent. What’s going on here? We can all remember when B&H was angry at Croatia because it banned the import of milk and dairy products from B&H. When we raised the level of phytosanitary protection and when B&H began to fulfill them, export licenses were automatically received. These are the processes that B&H must continue doing. When it comes to this, B&H must use Croatian experience and not be angry when Croatia sends a warning. We walked thrpugh the same road. It is a tougher period of harmonization, but after that, everything that meets the standards of the European Union without problems will go from B&H to Croatia and EU. This has already begun and I am extremely pleased. I guarantee that a very fast trade exchange between the two countries will come to balance. I do not want to be unfair to other B&H neighbors, but when B&H exports to Serbia or Montenegro, and then it does the old way. However, when you export to Croatia, it makes you competitive, and products are better.
Which products from B&H are most interesting for Croatia and where do you see B&H’s opportunity to increase exports to Croatia?
– The things you are already in competition with are electricity, aluminum, wood industry, metal industry that went far in front of Croatia. I have been in numerous companies that cannot be ashamed by even the most advanced European companies. The whole spectrum of BH products that without any problems have a place on the Croatian market.
Croatia is also the most significant foreign investor in B&H in the last 20 years. Can B&H expect new investors from Croatia and what is their interest here?
– I believe that B&H will soon become a big construction site. From investment in road and electricity infrastructure, agriculture … I hope that B&H will soon get the status of a candidate country for EU membership, which opens up a whole range of IPA programs, the use of money from EU funds, and all this will enable everyone who is outside B&H to participate in these investments. Croatia is ready in this segment. We are very interested in wind parks in B&H, but also all that I have already mentioned. Croatia does not invest in the financial sector but in the real sector. In B&H, more than 200 Croatian companies are cooperating on mutual satisfaction. I am absolutely sure of the continuation of good economic cooperation between the two countries.