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Edward Ferguson

British Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina

Part of UK in Bosnia and Herzegovina

23rd December 2014

Recharging the batteries

Today, I will be flying home to the UK for Christmas to join Caroline and the children, who are already there. It will be my first proper visit home since I arrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) in July, and I’m looking forward to catching up with family and friends.

Looking back through my diary, the variety of my first five months here has been incredible. The life of an Ambassador is a privileged one, primarily because of the range of people one gets to meet, and the different events in which one is invited to participate.

Some are uplifting. I am thinking particularly of our work with young people and children, often in partnership with the British Council, such as the Big Dance in September or our recent football tournament. This brought together children from 8 schools, from right across BiH, to commemorate the Christmas truce in 1914. Seeing young children from different communities and ethnic backgrounds meeting and competing in the finest spirit of the game was a wonderful experience, and I hope that we will have more such events in the New Year.

Some experiences are much more solemn. In September, I visited Srebrenica with one of the many groups of people involved in inter-community relations in the UK who are being funded by the British Government to visit BiH in order to learn the lessons from Europe’s post-war genocide. Talking with bereaved mothers and, afterwards, laying a wreath at the Potočari cemetery, was a profoundly moving experience. It drove home for me the importance of promoting reconciliation between all the communities of this country, and of working together for a more secure, stable and prosperous future, in which such events can never happen again.

And that is the focus of my team here at the Embassy. Politically, it has been a fascinating period. First, we had the elections. The pre-election campaign was depressing and divisive. But in the period immediately afterwards, there was a change of tone in some quarters, with the early coalition negotiations focusing on substantive reforms. It was in this context that we announced the UK/German initiative – now, I’m pleased to say, the new EU strategy – which we hope will provide the necessary incentives to underpin and accelerate the reforms across a broad political, economic and social agenda which this country desperately needs.

There are some grounds for optimism. Political leaders are all telling me that they recognise the public demands for change, and know that they have to respond. But at the same time, government formation is still moving too slowly. There is not yet enough concerted discussion between the parties about the substance of the reforms that will underpin the programme of government, and form the basis of the Written Commitment that we are seeking.

So I am planning to spend the next two weeks recharging the batteries after a busy start in post, and then returning to the charge early in the New Year – this time under EU leadership – to drive forward with the change agenda as urgently and as concretely as possible.

To all those who are celebrating, I wish you a very merry Christmas, and to everyone in BiH, a better 2015.