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    Special Advisor to the EU Commission Franz Schausberger in Banja Luka (BiH): Carry out reforms for yourself, not for the EU

    Translation of the Interview:

    Franz Schausberger, former prime minister of the Austrian region of Salzburg, and now Adviser for issues related to Western Balkans regions and cities and the policies of neighbouring countries of the EU and President of the Institute of European regions, is beloved guest of Banja Luka, where conference on mobility will be organized.
    This was quite lovely occasion for the interview with the prominent European politician, who says that the focus of the EU and the European Commission is again Western Balkans. Schausberger claims that “We simply want to send a signal to the Western Balkans that their future is in Europe, if they want it.”

    NN: 
    Mr. Schausberger, at the end of 2015, I’ve read in an interview in where you stated that the consequences of the refugee crisis which Europe is facing, will not be of economic or social nature, but political. Today, can we say this is what exactly happened?
    Schausberger:
    First of all, allow me to say that this refugee crisis is the greatest challenge for EU and its member states. The problem is was really sudden crisis, something which no one expected. The EU was not ready for such challenge, and member states needed to pursue their own solutions. Meanwhile, step by step, we are on doorsteps of one common, European solution.
    NN:
    And did Europe managed to cope with the refugee crisis?
    Schausberger:
    For now all we can say is that EU managed to reduce the problem, but the crisis is still ongoing. Meanwhile, we have also noticed that the right-wing, populist parties, are misusing this crisis. But they are not the only one; left-winged populist parties exploit these issues. We really have to find an adequate solution as soon as possible, bearing in mind hundreds of thousands more refugees waiting in North Africa.
    NN:
    You are an experienced politician, president and founder of the Institute of European regions, and you were prime minister of Salzburg for two terms. Today you are an adviser to questions of region and cities of Western Balkans, and policies of neighbouring countries, and related to that, question on relation between EU and BiH is imposed – what are relations right now, since there were various ups and downs?
    Schausberger:
    Yes, exactly. There had been many ups and downs, but on the other hand, you can see that the EU is fully aware of the problems in Western Balkans. At the last meeting of European Council, countries which should be included in the expansion were on the agenda of the EU, and despite of many problems, EU is now intensifying its efforts towards the Western Balkans. We simply want to send a signal to the Western Balkans that their future is in Europe, if they want it.
    So, after the meeting of the Council, Commissioner Johannes Hahn visited Sarajevo, where he met with the prime ministers of Western Balkan countries, and they were all sitting at the same table. I believe, regardless of all the problems we have, that we can see some progress – slow, but visible.
    NN:
    Can you tell us – what is the current mood of the Commission, which is a kind of government of the EU, when it comes to the ongoing expansion of the Western Balkans? Information is rather contradictory.
    Schausberger:
    You still must make a difference between the Commission and some member states. I believe Commission is very positive, but of course, Commission needs to make sure that certain conditions must be met, and which countries of Western Balkans need to fulfil in order to join. I remind you that the Western Balkan countries and the Commission agreed on the reform agenda, questionnaire etc. But it is not enough just to reach an agreement, but to achieve it as well. But this, however, depends on the countries of the Western Balkans.
    NN:
    Do you share the opinion, which we heard so many times, that the BiH authorities simply need to complete undertaken reform agenda obligations for ourselves, in order to improve the quality of life of citizens, regardless of when and how we join the EU?
    Schausberger:
    All these changes are necessary, not because of the EU or Commission, but for the country itself. Not because of the politicians of those countries, but for the people who live there. All these reforms will bring certain countries closer to the European standards. Of course, we are talking about benefits for the entire population, especially young people. But do not think that there was any pressure from the Commission. No, this is not the case. Because you, your country, you are doing all that for yourself, and no one, I mean no one, is forced to join. But if you want it, you need to complete the requirements.
    NN:
    You arrived in Banja Luka, as a guest of the President of the National Assembly of RS, Mr. Nedeljko Cubrilovic. What do you expect from the conference on the mobility, which will last few days?
    Schausberger:
    This conference is organized by my Institute of European Regions (IRE), together with the National Assembly of RS and the city of Banja Luka. Banja Luka is very interested in becoming a “green city”, and I talked about that with the mayor. I think it’s on the right track. And this is in itself a good sign, a good signal from one of the countries of the Western Balkans. I think it is important to send such a sign to the EU. That is why we do our best to bring experts, politicians from other countries and cities, in order to convey best practices on how to create “green city”. Although each city needs to find its own way, we should use the experience of other cities which already implemented these changes.

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