Swiss Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Andrea Rauber Saxer, has been in the office since September 2016. In an interview for the Magazine Visit B&H, she says she feels very welcome in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
– I feel very welcome in Bosnia and Herzegovina with warm, hardworking people offering great hospitality. In my view, a little bit more of Switzerland would do the country good. I mean that in Switzerland a sense for the common good, for the nation as a whole, without losing our local identity, has promoted compromise and respect for minorities. This contributes to social peace. But definitively, we Swiss can also learn from BiH, to be a bit more generous and laid back for example.
– Considering the nature of your business, I believe you travel a lot round Bosnia and Herzegovina. What impressed you most, and what are the natural beauties in B&H that remained in your most beautiful memory?
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a beautiful country, which has a lot to offer to visitors. I love the waterfalls, for example Kravice in the Herzegovina or the waterfalls in Kostelski Buk in the Una-Sana region. But there are also interesting monuments like the Jajce castle and quaint towns like Trebinje which I really like.
-Switzerland is really a beautiful country. Can you make a comparison of the natural beauty of Switzerland and Bosnia and Herzegovina?
Actually, many of the landscapes in Bosnia and Herzegovina remind me of Switzerland even though they are perhaps a bit wilder. In summer, I like the hiking and in winter the skiing in Jahorina and Bjelašnica. It is a luxury to be able to be on the ski slopes so quickly from our house in Sarajevo! My family and I also enjoy the river rafting on Neretva near Konijc. A place that always fascinates me is the Neretva canyon on the drive to Mostar. It looks like the landscape out of a fantasy movie.
-What do you think about BH tourism potentials? In your opinion, what is our chance to develop tourism in Bosnia and Herzegovina and how much can we learn from Switzerland in this regard, since tourism in Switzerland is extremely developed?
The tourism potential of Bosnia and Herzegovina is great in my view. I am sure that the country is attractive also for visitors from Western Europe. The most important step would be to make sure that enough information about the country and its many offers is available on the internet, ideally in several languages. For tourists travelling around by themselves, a few more road signs would be useful. I would also encourage the country to do more marketing for Bosnia and Herzegovina as a whole. In Switzerland, we have a marketing organization called Swiss Tourism. They market all the different regions in Switzerland together while still illustrating their differences. In my view, this attracts more tourists for everyone.
-Traditional Bosnian cuisine is significantly different from Swiss. Can you tell us how much you like Bosnian traditional cuisine and are you used to it?
I love pita, in all its forms. The first Bosnian words my kids learned here were Sirnica (cheese pie), Zeljanica (spinach pie) and Krompiruša (potatoe pie). Once in a while, I also like to eat Ćevapi. This is usually part of a tour around Bascarcija in Sarajevo when we have visitors from Switzerland.
-Switzerland is one of the countries that have invested most in Bosnia and Herzegovina so far. Can you tell us a few of the points that have been implemented here, and to which you are extremely proud of?
Switzerland is partnering with Bosnia and Herzegovina mainly in three fields: jobs and economic development, health, and local governance (developing municipalities). I believe that in all the three fields we have been able to make a real difference in people’s lives. I am particularly proud about our approach. We do not just sign checks and move on. Our cooperation team contributes to a change in mindsets and to reforms. I think we have managed to be regarded as a respected partner with a very results-oriented vision.
– Can we expect continuation of this support and which projects Switzerland is planning to implement in the upcoming period?
One year ago, we confirmed our long-term support by launching the new cooperation strategy. We will build up on the work done in the past 20 years. Even more attention will be paid to make sure that even the most socially vulnerable and excluded persons benefit from our projects. We want them to become respected and productive members of society.
-What is the presence of Swiss companies in Bosnia and Herzegovina? Is there a greater interest of Swiss investment companies in B&H and what does the Swiss Embassy do on this issue?
At the moment, the interest of Swiss companies to invest in BiH is still rather limited. While I am convinced that the potential is huge, I also understand that for business people rule of law and stability are very important basics they would like to see covered before they invest.
-What business sectors in Bosnia and Herzegovina are most interesting to Swiss businessmen?
Most companies invest in smaller production plants involving lots of manual labour, for example manufacturing of textiles, metal works, etc. In most cases, there was a personal connection to BiH, be it that the company owner originates from here or that the Swiss company employs BiH citizens.
-In the end of this conversation, would you like to send a message to citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina?
You have such a beautiful country, which is a huge resource. Please take care of it! It always pains me when I go hiking in the mountains or river rafting to see garbage lying in the bushes or swimming on the river. The same goes for water and air quality!