Danka Savic (Zenica, Bosnia, 1969) has been the ambassador of Bosnia-Herzegovina in Spain for two and a half years. She is a professional journalist, she changed the media for diplomacy. When she is asked about the Balkan War, which she suffered from, she recognizes the work of the Spanish soldiers in her country, but she wants to talk about her future with a Europeanist vocation. She did it a few days ago in La Laguna.
What have been the best and worst moments since you have been ambassador to Spain?
I am grateful for the opportunity to serve my country in another beautiful country, so great and important, as well as a friend, such as Spain. The pandemic was a very hard period because we had to help the compatriots who live here, some 3,500 with dual nationalities and 1,200 with only Bosnia.
He was a journalist. Has the profession served him in his task?
It has been very useful. For example, in terms of curiosity. I wanted to know before and now my intention is to know everything. But it is different to work for the media than for the State as I do now.
He spoke in La Laguna about Bosnia’s European perspective and 30 years of bilateral relations. Make a summary.
Bosnia has only one perspective, the European one. Europe is the solution and the future. There is total consensus in my country on this idea. I explained the process we are facing with many challenges that bring changes and advances. It is not an easy route, but it is totally necessary.
Has the visit to the exhibition on the war in your country that has been in the Economic these days brought back memories?
I liked the exhibition, but I prefer to talk about Bosnia after the war. Of course it has brought back memories, but it is important to know that we have other things. I want to show the face of Bosnia as a mixture of cultures. A tradition of melting pot of peoples and races. A friendly and open people. A small Europe in the heart of Europe.
How do you assess the mission of the Spanish Army in your country for more than a decade?
He played a fundamental role and is highly respected by the people. They spent almost twenty years with different developments of the mission. From thousands of soldiers to the current small endowment for support work. There is a deep relationship that goes beyond military protection or reconstruction with friendship and other very strong ties. Many soldiers have returned to Bosnia after finishing their mission there. My first official act as ambassador was to pay tribute to the 22 soldiers who gave their lives in the line of duty. After the war, the support for development in which Spain plays an important role remains. The Army planted the seed and the relationship has grown. We are very grateful for the reconstruction of destroyed symbols such as the Sarajevo Library or the Mostar Bridge.
The figure of Laura Papo centered the institutional sample, which contributed the embassy in La Laguna. Because she? It is curious that a Sephardic woman is honored by a Muslim country. Or is she not so curious?
It is not so much because mine is a country where everything fits. It is very open and multicultural with the Muslim, Jewish, Orthodox and Christian religions living together. Laura Papo is an important figure, linked to Spain, since she comes from the Sephardim who were expelled. She kept her culture, her language and her traditions, but she is also part of the history of Bosnia. An example of my country mix.
In Tenerife, especially in the north, in Garachico or Los Silos, many Bosnian children once took refuge who came thanks to the work of the NGO Amigos de la Paz. I knew it? How do you value that? Were some compatriots left on the Island?
I had no record and I’m sorry, although I’m going to visit Los Silos (I did so after the interview). In Spain we do not have a diaspora association and we should have one. The embassy cannot maintain the contact it would like. We know that there are organized groups in Madrid, Catalonia or Valencia. I would like a more direct relationship like in the Czech Republic when I was an ambassador.
What is the current moment in your country?
The will to belong to Europe is evident and with absolute social consensus, but it is not easy both because of the current internal and external situation of the continent’s geopolitics. We had a peace agreement that includes the participation of foreigners in all post-war stabilization processes. Bosnia today has fourteen conditions to gain a candidate status to the European Union. A process full of challenges such as the obligation to change our constitution. It is something very complex, but we are working on it to establish a solution. Modification is necessary to find the fit in a specific model for Bosnia.
Bosnia seems to have a high tourism potential. Wasted yet?
We have three million inhabitants within our borders, but between one and two outside, although we do not know the exact figure. In the EU, the United States, Canada or Australia. Regarding tourism, we were doing very well before the Covid-19 pandemic, with an increase in the number of tourists every year, but the development of the coronavirus stopped this trend. We are in the process of repairing and returning tourists. For example, the Christian sanctuary of Medjugorje, which is among the most visited in Europe. There is also a weight of the primary sector and that is the meaning of the contacts that we have maintained here to integrate the International Oil Council. We have a lot of potential for the olive tree sector and derived products. Every year we receive awards for this and I hope in the future to collaborate with Spain in this area as well.
Did you expect to see another conventional war in Europe at this point like the current one between Russia and Ukraine? Has it been a failure of diplomacy?
The failure belongs to every society, but also to diplomacy. I did not expect it and of course it worries me like everyone else. This war will change us. In Bosnia there is an emotional aspect to what we lived through thirty years ago. The images of Ukraine bring to mind very hard moments. I feel a return to the time of the war in Sarajevo, where I spent it. But there are other consequences that the war brings, such as the growing Russian presence in the Balkans and in Europe, in general. It’s a pretty serious situation and I sincerely hope it gets better.