Inaugural Address of the President of the Republic of Srpska Željka Cvijanović

Dear Speaker of the Republic of Srpska National Assembly,

Distinguished members of the National Assembly,

Honourable BiH Presidency Member from the Republic of Srpska,

Dear Envoy of the President of the Republic of Serbia,

Dear Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia,

Dear Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia,

Dear Ministers in the Government of the Republic of Srpska and the Government of the Republic of Serbia,

Honourable religious dignitories,

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear citizens of the Republic of Srpska,

I have had the opportunity to address countless times in this esteemed house in the previous period, but today I am doing this for the first time as the newly elected President of the Republic, which is not just a special honor for me, but also an exceptional responsibility.

I consider the President of the Republic of Srpska election as an acknowledgment of all that I, together with my colleagues, have been doing as the Prime Minister in a time that was not easy, and in circumstances in which many political and financial challenges threatened from all sides. But, I understood then, as I understand now, that strong institutions are the best defence against all threats and are the best guarantee of existence of the Republic.

In addition, stable institutions are a guarantee of fulfilling obligations towards our citizens and budget users, they are a guarantee of infrastructure construction and the overall development of the Republic, a guarantee that lives and efforts of those who have created and built the Republic will be respected and that we shall be ready for everything to be resolved in the times that are ahead of us.

It is an important day today, since after the elections, one of our key institutions – the National Assembly of the Republic of Srpska in a new convocation – was constituted, before which the President of the Republic of Srpska and the Serb member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina take the oath.

Soon, the new Government of the Republic of Srpska shall be elected in this high house, and immediately afterwards our strategic documents will be adopted – the Budget for 2019 and the Economic Reform Programme. By this, we demonstrate our ability to carry out elections in a democratic manner and be effective in forming the government so that our institutions can continue to function smoothly.

In the next four years of our common mandate and both political and institutional work, we shall surely encounter many obstacles, challenges, problems. It is therefore important that in the Republic of Srpska we ensure the unity of institutions and mobilise sufficient political will to work on the programme of development of the Republic and consolidation of its constitutional position. Therefore, it is important that we work closely with the team from the Republic of Srpska, headed by our current President and the newly elected Serb member of the BiH Presidency, and harmonise the positions and attitudes of the Republic.

As the President of the Republic, I shall work on securing institutional and national unity. Awareness of the importance of the Republic, its preservation, its political, institutional, financial stability and its overall identity must be dominant.

Though some people wanted to, unfortunately, they even worked on its destabilisation, citizens again and in these elections clearly stated that the Republic of Srpska was above all and that the Republic of Srpska has been in the first place.

That is why today I would like to express deep appreciation and respect for those who have incorporated their lives or parts of their bodies into the Republic of Srpska. For all of us who perform the most responsible functions, but also for all others who work in any part of the system at any place or participate in any process which is important for the Republic, these victims must be the main guiding force during the struggle for its further strengthening and development, and for its defense in these and all other challenging times.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear citizens,

As the President of the Republic, my basic idea shall be the same as the one I was guided by in the previous period, and that is a strong, stable and prosperous Republic of Srpska.

It is the Republic that has a clearly articulated political attitude and the one which is not afraid to express it. It is the Republic opened to everyone to live in it, to the one who respects its laws and who is ready to advance its values. It is the Republic that will continue to develop and build itself, and in which institutions will continue to work on improving the conditions for the lives of its citizens. It is the Republic that is respected from outside and inside, which builds partnerships with others, without losing patience, will or persistence to build bridges of cooperation with others, even when it seems that the differences are insurmountable.

Although we are few in comparison with many other nations or republics, I believe in our human and every other potential. If we are gathered around the interest of the Republic, then we can do a lot together. If we are divided and if our institutions are weak, then we shall neither be able to do something nor accomplish anything.

The government headed by myself in the previous mandate was guided precisely by this idea. We worked together with the President of the Republic and our National Assembly as a big team. That is why we have managed to overcome many obstacles, to preserve political stability and to ensure economic growth.

Respected members of the National Assembly, respected citizens,

Our Republic is stable today. The time in which I address this high house today as the newly elected President of the Republic is completely different from that when I addressed it on two occasions as the Prime Minister Designate for the composition of the government. I believe that the time will come in which some new presidents or prime ministers will do it better, which will mean that the Republic is in motion and moves forward.

For 16 months, we have recorded a positive rate of real GDP growth, and for the first time it has reached the amount of over 10 billion BAM. We have achieved the highest level of employment since this statistical category in Srpska is measured, as well as record coverage of import with export and our industrial production recorded continuous growth.

The budget of the Republic of Srpska is completely stable, without any outstanding debts. We have built over 100 km of highway and implemented numerous other traffic projects and communal infrastructure, we have built or reconstructed schools, hospitals, student dorms, kindergartens and all of this we have done precisely thanks to financial stability and discipline.

We managed through several steps to increase pensions by around 20%. We also increased the budget for incentives in the field of agriculture, family and personal invalidity allowances and other social benefits. We increased salaries for all workers – both in the public and private sectors, we introduced some new rights such as benefits for unemployed mothers-to-be for a period of 12 months and 18 months, then civilian invalidity allowances, as well as compensation for demobilised soldiers who are over 65 years old and who have not 15 years of service.

I am particularly pleased that we have achieved all positive developments in the economic and social sphere in close co-operation and through an honest dialogue with our social partners.

While building hospitals, schools, kindergartens, road infrastructure, tourist complexes, we have tried to take into account the balanced development and needs of all parts of the Republic of Srpska. But, I know that there are still many challenges ahead of all of us, so it is important to form a new government in the shortest possible period, and that is why I intend to appoint a mandate designate as soon as tomorrow, my first working day as the President of the Republic.

As the President of the Republic, I will insist on preserving the constitutional capacity and position of the Republic and on the relations within BiH defined by the Dayton Peace Agreement. The Republic of Srpska offers partnership and cooperation to everyone in and outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but it will not allow any attempts to jeopardise its autonomy and its constitutionally defined competencies. I am convinced that with the harmonised and coordinated work of the institutions of the Republic of Srpska and its representatives at the level of the joint institutions of BiH, we can achieve all our common goals.

By understanding the historical moment in which we live, these regional and global movements, as the President of the Republic, I shall strive for the highest possible unity not only of the institutions, or of political actors in determining important issues or attitudes, but also the unity in the whole society. I shall strive to encourage dialogue between institutions and social partners, peace and tolerance in resolving issues which are of essential interest to the Republic. From the position of the President of the Republic, I shall be in a position to harmonise attitudes between our representatives in the institutions of the Republic and at the level of BiH.

In addition, I intend to encourage the activism of institutions, university community and all actors in society in terms of population policy and demography. Now, when we have come out of the crisis, when we have settled debt, established a stable budget, recorded some macroeconomic indicators, we can say that this is a solid basis for further movement.

That is why it is necessary to go on to further modernisation in order to keep society in line with the global trends and to offer young people what they lack and for that reason decide to leave the country and live and work elsewhere.

With the support of young people and on their initiative, I intend to launch a great action, possibly one integral and comprehensive program called “Srpska – Society in Motion”. We need more action, more mobility, more initiatives.

We need stronger ties with the Diaspora, and as the President of the Republic, I intend to further engage in this aspect, even though I have devoted myself to working with our people in the world even during my prime ministerial mandate. Our diaspora is manifested as a very important economic, intellectual, political and communication resource that deserves special attention.

We have to work together. Only in this way can we survive and succeed. If we could learn anything from the historical vortex we have been exposed to in this area for the past two centuries, then it is certainy so that divisions among us have always been fatal, that when we were divided we have always come out as losers.

The division takes away the strength of the people and the strength of society and it endangers the authority of the institutions. That is why it is important to have a united Republic of Srpska.

Internationally, the Republic of Srpska is open to cooperation with everyone. The process of the European integration, despite the problems that the European Union is undergoing and the deviations that accompany this process within BiH, remains one of our priorities. Our position is clear here. We support the European path, but we do not accept the approach in which this process is being abused or is used to neutralise the constitutional roles of the Republic of Srpska institutions.

Together with other institutions of the Republic of Srpska, I shall insist on the full implementation of the coordination system in the process of the European integration. The Republic of Srpska is and will continue to be an equal and indispensable partner in this process, and everyone in BiH must move exclusively within their constitutional competences.

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished members of the National Assembly,

Although some try to impose artificial divisions, our commitment to the European integration does not in any way exclude intensive co-operation with others outside of this union. The Russian Federation is our proven friend and our relations in the political, economic, and cultural and every other way are becoming more and more developed. Russia is one of the largest investors in the Republic of Srpska. It has consistently insisted on respecting the Dayton Accords in BiH and it represents a voice of justice and principledness in the UN Security Council, opposing the disinformations that are released there on the situation in BiH.

Our relations with the People’s Republic of China are also becoming more and more developed, Chinese investors are becoming more and more interested, and scientific and cultural cooperation is becoming increasingly visible, and we are firmly committed to further strengthening of this cooperation.

Our relationship with the United States is open and positive. The Republic of Srpska welcomed President Trump’s stance on non-interference in the internal affairs of other states. With the United States, the Republic of Srpska shares many common values, including the fight against terrorism, to which we are all, directly or indirectly, exposed. We regret missing opportunities in the past to make our understanding better and I believe that this can happen in the future, when imposed stereotypes give way to a more rational and objective approach.

The NATO issue is very delicate for us, for several reasons. This honorable house, by adopting the Resolution on neutrality, clearly opted for the issue, pointing out that no (NATO) border on the River Drina can be made between Srpska and Serbia. If Serbia ever makes a different statement regarding the membership in NATO, we consider that the people of the Republic of Srpska should declare their membership through a referendum. Of course, this does not mean that the Republic of Srpska and its institutions are not ready to establish cooperation in existing contractual, educational and programme frameworks, such as, for example, the Partnership for Peace in order to strengthen the overall security and improvement of the security capacities of the Republic of Srpska.

Of course, we wish to have a good cooperation with everyone in our environment. Unfortunately, little has been changed in the relations between the countries which were created by the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia.

For us, the relations between the Republic of Srpska and Serbia are essential, and we can proudly say that such relations have never been at a higher level. We are grateful to the leadership of the Republic of Serbia, led by the President Vučić, for the entire help and support provided to the Republic of Srpska, for the understanding and concrete projects that have been implemented in many of our municipalities. As the President of the Republic, I shall work on strengthening our ties and improvement of the economic and infrastructural relations between Serbia and Srpska.

Given the common problems such as the migrant crisis, radicalism or the threat of terrorism, it is necessary to further strengthen the mechanisms of our joint action in the region. We can rightly say that the Republic of Serbia has been a true support to the Republic of Srpska and that the Republic of Srpska senses a lots of love for Serbia.

In a country like BiH, whose sovereignty is severely affected by the existence of a high representative, by the actions of foreign judges in the BiH Constitutional Court or the daily interference of foreign diplomats with the life of local institutions, it is difficult to define many things. It is therefore important that we build the overall stability and functionality of our institutions in the Republic of Srpska.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear citizens,

As already mentioned, during the past years, the Republic of Srpska, despite numerous aggravating circumstances, is on the rise line. I expect the new Government of the Republic of Srpska to continue these positive trends and to foster dialogue with our social partners. We need to work together on joint forces to create new jobs, raise population standards and modernise the society. Only in this way, we can respond to the challenges facing the entire region, but also to the individual members of the European Union, which is the migration of the labor force, especially the young.

There is no future of the Republic of Srpska without its young generations. Thus, the institutions of the Republic of Srpska acted to support this population in our society with various measures in the previous period. We will have to continue this kind of action and we should not forget the other population categories.

We must fight together to raise the living standard in the Republic of Srpska, since there is enough potential to make everyone live a quality life in it. In addition to existing measures, such as financing in vitro fertilisation, housing subsidies for young married couples, support for mothers, pupils, students, multi-member families, additional efforts will also be necessary in order to improve the demographic image in the Republic of Srpska.

In addition to the economic development, the modernisation of economy and the inflow of investments, it is necessary to have a reform of our educational system and its adaptation to the requirements of the labor market, as well as the introduction of modern development technologies.

Although we have made some progress in this regard, I shall openly say that I am not satisfied with what we have achieved and that, as the Prime Minister, I have been amazed many times with the amount of resistance towards this, I will say freely, the most important reform without which there is neither secure employment nor secure economic growth. Only the economically empowered Republic of Srpska can be politically and institutionally stable and can resist all challenges and it is therefore important that we reform the system together.

Dear ladies and gentlemen, assuming the duty of the President of the Republic of Srpska, I solemnly undertake to use all my human and institutional potentials to protect the constitutional position of the Republic of Srpska and its prosperity.

In particular, I would like to emphasize that I shall act as the President of all the citizens of the Republic of Srpska, regardless of their political, party or national affiliation, that I shall insist on the protection of the rights and freedoms of all citizens which are constitutionally guaranteed to them, including minority groups and particularly the most vulnerable categories of the population.

I firmly believe in the Republic of Srpska and its people and I know that together we can create the future we want for us and especially for our children.

I am convinced that in four years we will proudly state that the Republic of Srpska is politically, economically and institutionally more stable and stronger. I believe that as people to whom our citizens have given their trust in the past elections, we shall justify their expectations, as committed to working hard for the interest of our Republic.

May the Republic of Srpska live forever!

Thank you!

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