Bosnia: Strategic Gateway For Malaysia Into EU & Central Europe

By Ainul Huda Mohamed Saaid

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 24 (Bernama) — Bosnia is offering itself as a
strategic gateway for Malaysian firms into the lucrative European Union
as well as the Central European markets, both of which have a consumer
base of up to 500 million and strong purchasing power.

The potential areas for business and investment in Bosnia include
the fast-growing halal industry, Islamic banking, tourism, food
production including organic and health food, energy and education,
Bosnian Ambassador to Malaysia Ensar Eminovic told Bernama here.

He said Malaysian firms should take advantage of Bosnia that
enjoys tariff-free access into Europe although it has yet to be granted
EU membership.

This is due to the Stabilisation and Association Agreement it had
signed with EU last year prior to its membership possibly five years
from now. The agreement means that anything produced in Bosnia can be
sold in EU without being subjected to quotas, tariffs or customs duties.

Eminovic said ties between Malaysia and Bosnia had always been
strong, but “it has always been a one way street” since Malaysia’s help
during and after the devastating Balkan war in 1992-95.

“Bosnia wants to give something back to Malaysia. It has been
Malaysia that has always been helping Bosnia, and for a long time
Bosnia has been a humanitarian case. Lucky that is no longer the
situation and now is the time for business,” he said.

Given the potential for trade and investment, the Bosnian envoy
believes that bilateral commercial linkages could be raised to a new
level for mutual benefits.

“This could be done through the Malaysian Global Business Forum
which will be held from the 8th to 11th of December this year in
Kuching, Sarawak,” he said.

He said the forum aims to bring together business communities from
Bosnia and Malaysia and countries in the region as well as from Europe
and Bosnia’s neighbouring countries such as Croatia, to form strategic
alliances and explore business opportunities.

Eminovic said Malaysian investors and entrepreneurs should take
cognizance of the fact that Bosnia is a signatory to the Central Europe
Free Trade Agreement.

The trade grouping includes non-EU members in South-East Europe
such as Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Albenia, Montenegro and Turkey, and
has a combined population in excess of 100 million people.

Bosnia has a stable currency in South-East Europe whereby one Euro
is equivalent to 1.95 Bosnian Mark, and it is fixed and has been like
that for 10 years, he said.

“Through the forum, they can get to know each other and establish business cooperation,” he said.

The forum will be officiated by Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri
Abdul Taib Mahmud, while former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad,
a key figure in supporting Bosnia and reconstruction of its economy,
would deliver a keynote address during the opening dinner.

“The forum is also in line with the thrust of Prime Minister Datuk
Seri Najib Tun Razak’s call for Malaysian companies to go global and to
make Malaysia a global place for business.

“So, through the forum, we are also trying to promote Malaysia as a good place for doing global business,” he added.

Eminovic also said Bosnian educational bodies hope to sign a
Memorandum of Understanding with the Malaysian Qualifications Agency of
the Higher Education Ministry on mutual recognition of diplomas and
degrees during the forum.

“We will also use this forum to launch the Bosnia-Malaysia Business Club which will be registered in Malaysia,” he said.

The club will have boards of trustees from both sides and will
serve as the forum’s secretariat and a catalyst for future business
cooperation between the two countries,” he said.

Apart from that, Bosnia now has many influential leaders who
graduated from Malaysian universities, said Eminovic, who himself was a
student of International Islamic University Malaysia in the 1990s.

“I am one of them, and I am very proud to say that I am a Malaysian product,” he said.

The Malaysian universities alumni association formed by graduates
from Bosnia has become quite an influential organisation and its
250-300 members are probably the only group of non-Malaysians who
celebrate Merdeka every year, clearly reflecting their deep sense of
gratitude to Malaysia for its part in helping to educate Bosnians after
the war in the Balkans.

“This group is very much passionate about Malaysia and identifies
itself with this country. We always gather on the 31st of August to
celebrate Merdeka and share our memories in Malaysia,” he said.