Central European Time Zone UTC+01:00
Capital City Sarajevo
Currency Bosnia and Herzegovina convertible mark BAM
National Day 1 March
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA’S new Ambassador His Excellency Vanja Filipovic notes that his arrival in the UK on 1 September coincided with some remarkable events: two Queen’s speeches in Parliament, a major court ruling, a general election and the country’s imminent departure from the European Union. He observes: “Despite these momentous events and the fundamental changes that they bring, life goes on. The economy is humming, institutions are performing their tasks, and there is a general sense of stability, continuity and future prosperity.”
The Ambassador believes that “the unfortunate events surrounding the breakup of Yugoslavia, conflict and displacement certainly played a role in [his] choice to pursue secondary education in political sciences and international affairs.” He completed both a BA and MA at universities in the United States, and more recently in 2017, he graduated with an Msc in Violence, Conflict and Development from SOAS. “I wanted to learn more about the processes that lead to such outcomes, how we overcame them and how to prevent them happening in the future. But also, from an early age I had a desire to be proactive in defending and promoting ideals that I strongly believe in.”
The Ambassador’s career began when he was hired by defence contractor firm, Northrop Grumman in 2000, which provided linguist support services for the US peacekeepers in Bosnia and Kosovo. Eventually, he decided to move from management and recruitment with “hands-on work providing linguist and consulting services to NATO HQ Sarajevo, a job that was very multifaceted, rewarding and stimulating.” After completing the contract, and after much deliberation over what to do next, an unexpected opportunity presented itself to work as an advisor for the member of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Presidency, Željko Komšić, primarily on issues concerning the country’s NATO membership path.
Prior to his departure to London, he worked as Foreign Affairs Advisor to his country’s Presidency, the three-member body that collectively serves as Bosnia and Herzegovina’s head of state. “Most of 2019 was marked by negotiating and producing an annual defence reform programme that was compatible with NATO’s expectations within the Membership Action Plan (which is the last stage of reforms prior to membership decision),” he recalls. “This programme had to not only meet the NATO criteria for aspiring members, but also represent the country’s internal political consensus, which was lacking at the time. The document was eventually adopted by the Presidency and submitted for approval after my departure, but I am proud to have played a small part in its creation, as it represented a major stumbling block not only for the country’s NATO membership aspirations, but also internal political processes, including government formation.”
Defence cooperation has been a strong theme throughout Mr Filipovic’s career, which stands him on good ground while he’s Ambassador in the UK. “Bosnia and Herzegovina and the UK have extensive defence cooperation. The UK government has been a strong supporter and ally in all aspects of our defence and security sector reforms. My hope is for cooperation to continue and deepen for mutual benefit, and I will use my experiences to accomplish that goal.”
Furthermore, he continues, his main goal “is to represent and promote Bosnia and Herzegovina in the UK, in order to further tourism, cultural and educational exchanges, trade and investments. Our country is blessed with stunning natural beauty and biodiversity, has a rich historical and cultural heritage, and enormous economic potential.” His government is “encouraged with the increased interest, involvement and support that the UK is showing in our country and the region. Stability and prosperity of the Western Balkans remains a significant priority for the UK and that is unlikely to change because of Brexit.”
He anticipates challenges in the road ahead. “Many people here, unfortunately, know very little about Bosnia and Herzegovina except for its tragic past from the 1990s. I hope to change that.” He continues: “The greatest challenge for our diplomacy is to put Bosnia and Herzegovina on European and world maps, but in a positive light. Our country was prominently featured in news cycles during the 1990s because of the brutalities of the conflict. Twenty-five years on, it is our task to dispel that unfortunate legacy and promote our potential. In the sea of other regional and global problems and crises, that is a significant challenge.”
For now, the Ambassador will have to put his favourite hobbies of freeride skiing and mountain-biking on hold. “Mountains are my preferred habitat in any season. I enjoy the serenity and quietness that they offer, along with a bit of adrenaline rush.” For now, London’s royal parks will have to do.