Ambassador of the Kingdom of Sweden to Bosnia and Herzegovina Anders Hagelberg has been in Bosnia and Herzegovina slightly longer than a year, and he says it is a beautiful country. At the same time, he is aware of the complex history and structure of the country, which has caused many people to suffer.
-I think it’s very important and interesting to try to figure out what’s going on here. Despite the war destruction of B&H, many historical monuments and features do not only include architectural constructions. For me, the two most interesting aspects of this country are architecture, which reflects history, and landscapes. In addition to these two beauties, what makes this land beautiful, dear and attractive for tourists are people who are very kind, open and accessible. Tourists who come to B&H often do not feel like tourists, they feel welcome and accepted. In many other destinations, the development of tourism has changed people’s mentality, so you feel uneasy in some way. This is not the case here, because people in B&H are extremely welcoming – said in an interview for the magazine Visit B&H.
There are many projects implemented by the Embassy of Sweden in B&H, which probably resulted in your frequent travel to our country? What impressed you the most and what is the natural beauty in B&H that you would set aside?
– As far as the impressions are concerned, I have to make a division. Firstly, I would separate a few rural areas that left me really impressed because of its beautiful landscapes. I am primrely speaking about villages of Lukomir and Umoljani in Bjelašnica, and Bobovac. I would also single out Blidinje where I once had lunch with colleagues from the Embassy. Regarding the cities in B&H, my three favorites are the old part of Sarajevo, Jajce and Trebinje.
You mentioned lunch at Blidine. How do you like Bosnian food?
– I like your food very much. However, in other countries there is a lot of influence of different cultures on culinary art, which is not the case with B&H. People are pretty traditional here. I really enjoy the food that is offered and served here. However, I come from Sweden, I worked in many countries and I am used to international cuisine.
What do you think about tourism potential of B&H and what is, in your opinion, the chance for tourism development in B&H?
– Tourism development is a very sensitive issue. It is very important that the development of tourism does not lead to excessive exploitation of resources. At the same time, tourists must have open access to various places. I think that a good step was made when a mountain hiking network was created that mountain climbers can use, within the Via Dinarica project. If a tourist comes to a country he does not know, he will not dare, just like that, to go hiking, but with this network of trails it is much easier to start hiking. In addition, the development and improvement of infrastructure, which includes roads, must be worked on, and in some places it is necessary to build accommodation and catering facilities. The problem in the winter period, and I think that many of them are not sufficiently aware, is a lot of air pollution. So far, many friends have visited me and my family here and they really spent nice time and everyone was very satisfied, but I tell them all not to come in winter because pollution is really high.
Embassy of the Kingdom of Sweden implements numerous projects, primarily for agricultural projects FARMA I and II, and Sweden recently supported the energy efficiency project in B&H. Do you have any data on the success of these projects and does Sweden plan to continue such projects?
– You mentioned a small part of it. We are very determined with the continuation of the projects we are implementing in B&H. Our annual assistance to B&H amounts to 16 million euros and we will continue with development cooperation at the same level. There are really many projects we are implementing. We have a project that we have recently started, focusing on suppressing air pollution, then installing wastewater treatment plants in many cities. There are also projects that include start-ups and entrepreneurship development, assistance in improving the efficiency of the fight against corruption, assistance in the reform of the judicial sector, and something intertwining in all our projects, which is gender equality. In addition, various activities help B&H prepare for membership in the European Union. Moreover, I definitely see progress in all these segments.
How big is the presence of Swedish companies in B&H and is there interest of Swedish investors for investing in B&H?
– Sweden is geographically very far from B&H and this is a relatively small market for us. Despite these facts, there is a certain connection. One advantage we have is a number of BH Diaspora in Sweden. Today, in Sweden, there are about 100,000 people from Bosnia and Herzegovina living in Sweeden and many of them are very successful. At the same time, they express great interest in being active in B&H. So far, I have met many cases where these people come to B&H and bring representatives of Swedish companies. Several successful IT companies have been opened here that employ a lot of people. I can cite examples of companies that have opened factories in the more traditional branches of industry. One of these examples is the famous Swedish footwear manufacturer Kavat, who moved production from Sweden and opened a plant in Novi Travnik, where there is a very competent cluster of footwear industry. Opportunities are large, but at the same time, much has to be done at the political level. All companies want to reduce as much unpredictability as it is crucial for all companies to radically improve the business climate.
Which BH products are most interesting for Sweden and its citizens?
– There are a lot of interesting sectors. A very good example is the food industry, which includes berries, but also fruit in general. Also, industries that rely on the forestry sector. I am impressed with the prefabricated houses that are manufactured in B&H and which in terms of price can very well compete on the market. I am delighted with the production of furniture, and here I would like to point out the cooperation of top Swedish designers with the Handicraft/Craft from Konjic Company, and as a result of this cooperation, fantastic products were created. There are many examples of BH companies that manufacture for IKEA. Then there is the production of automotive parts that are produced here and delivered for the automotive industry in Sweden.