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News 19 Apr 16

Bosnian Diaspora Potential Not Fully Realized

Bosnians living abroad are a key economic pillar for the country but a lack of systemic planning frustrates some.

Rodolfo Toe
BIRN
Sarajevo
 
 Illustration : Pixabay

The Bosnian diaspora represents an untapped resource for the country's economic development but its government so far has not found a way to exploit their potential.

"The diaspora is one of the key factor for the stability and economic development of Bosnia", said Damir Miljevic, a Bosnian economic expert, told BIRN, adding that unfortunately so far "the government hasn't seen it as an important part of its social and economic life."

The diaspora transfers almost 1,5 billion€ in remittances into Bosnia every year, almost 15 per cent of the country's GDP. There are approximately 2 million persons of Bosnian origin living in 51 countries according to the Bosnian Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees.

Despite the importance of remittances for Bosnia’s economy, state authorities have not done enough to create a systemic way of capitalizing their benefits, according to Hasan Sefovic, President of the Bosnian and Herzegovinian World Network, an association regrouping Bosnians living abroad.

"So far, the only Ministry dealing with diaspora is the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees,” Sefovic told BIRN.

"Our network has been asking for the creation of a specialised Ministry to deal with the diaspora for a long time,” Sefovic said, adding while "currently all the connections between Bosnians living abroad and their homeland are possible only thanks to individual efforts", they don't form part of a systematic and legal approach.

Dzenana Krivdic, a 27-year-old Bosnian working as a coordinator for the Bosnian Cultural Center [BKC] in the northern German city of Aachen, agreed that Bosnian authorities should work to establish better relations with the diaspora.

"We currently haven't got anybody at the government who might represent us,” Krivdic told BIRN.

BKC was founded before the dissolution of Yugoslavia as an association for Yugoslavian immigrants, and today counts more than 1,500 members.

"The vast majority of them [members] support relatives still in Bosnia,” Krivdic explained, noting that the centre also promoted humanitarian actions in the past.

"During the floods in 2014, we collected donations, send four lorries of aid to Bosnia ... but we did it without any support from the authorities,” Krivdic said.

In a region where millions of persons have been obliged to emigrate due to the war of the 90s and poor economic situation, several governments have created either a specific ministry for their diaspora, (Serbia) or a special office dealing with this issue (Croatia, Montenegro, Kosovo).

Bosnia, however, "doesn't have a legally regulated relation with its diaspora,” Bosnian Minister for Human Rights and Refugees Semiha Borovac told Bosnian media on Sunday.

Borovac said that the Council of Ministers is forming a working group which should approve a policy for the cooperation between Bosnian authorities and their citizens living abroad.

"Although establishing a special ministry is not necessary, it would be a really positive step to form a special administration for the economic cooperation with the diaspora inside the Bosnian Ministry of Trade and Economic Relations,” economist Miljevic noted.

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