Within the series of Shuttle Diplomacy Talks organized by the IUS Balkan Studies Center (BSC), the fourth guest lecturer was Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to BiH, His Excellency Jan Waltmans who visited IUS on Tuesday, May 23, 2023. During his interactive lecture, Mr. Waltmans focused on the Dutch perspective of social transformation and human rights in the Western Balkans. In this slightly different lecture, His Excellency encouraged the students to ask questions and thus make the session more interactive.
In his answers, Mr. Waltmans referred to migration issues emphasizing that the Netherlands is one of the most populated countries in Europe which creates difficulties in providing all the necessary services to its citizens. They rely on the Geneva Conventions which protect refugees who come to the country for different reasons. Another challenge is the assimilation because the Netherlands do not force foreign citizens to assimilate but it creates problems because people do not integrate into the society.
The issues he encountered during his previous appointments in Lebanon, Sudan and some other countries he noticed in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well: the political elite pulls all the strings in the country which makes it more difficult to make any changes that would benefit the society. He added that this county has a potential, but it has to change and get closer to the EU so that young people want to stay in here and have good living conditions. This would also be good for the Netherlands because BiH would be a competitive market and a reliable partner, thus making the EU more stable.
Mr. Waltmans also reflected on the case of Srebrenica, which was a huge tragedy and the Netherlands still feels sorry that their troops were left alone and did not provide the protection they were supposed to. Even after 30 years later, this is an important file in the Dutch Embassy. The Netherlands have apologized numerous times and offered financial compensations to the survivors. He also highlighted that the people who were part of the peace troops at the time suffer from trauma as well.
His Excellency then elaborated on the fact that if BiH wants to join the EU, they have to follow certain rules, namely, the 14 Key Priorities. These requirements are important for the country because they will ensure that the country follows the values and principles of the EU and they will bring her closer to the membership. It is up to the political representatives to take the necessary steps and choose what they want.
Mr. Waltmans concluded the session with the statement that no county should be isolated from the international community, but the international community should rationalize its involvement with the country’s issues. He also expressed that there are two things the Netherlands can learn from Bosnia and Herzegovina: the family relations and hospitality. In the end, he congratulated the IUS Wolves on winning the championship.