Getting acquainted with new people, some new culture and new surroundings every few years is a huge challenge in a diplomatic line of work for the German Ambassador to BiH himself, Christian Hellbach, but also for his family. But, at the same time, he regards it as the biggest enrichment a man can imagine. Thus, he says, in a motivating fashion: “I accepted my vocation from conviction and affection!”
Interviewed by: Elma Zećo
Photo: Almin Zrno
Your diplomatic mission in BiH is slowly coming to an end. How would you sum up your time spent here?
– I had a truly exciting time in Sarajevo. It pleases me that after the unrest in February 2014. the BiH’s access to EU was renewed, with the aim of unblocking the EU’s integrational process. And I believe that something really got started. The direction is right, BiH has its place in the European Union. But there is still a lot of work to be done so that the citizens of this country would feel that the EU perspective is realistic and that it will bring them concrete benefits, especially in regards to jobs, security and justice. However, a lot of work still lies ahead! Primarily, the resistances to development of this country need to be diluted and responsible politics that is aimed at the interests of the citizens need to be supported. We do not give up!
Was there a particular moment in your work that you would single out as very important?
– Spontaneously, I can think of three events: when the Council of Europe adopted in December 2014. a German-British initiative as EU policy, by which years of deadlock and stagnation were overcome. The adoption of reform agenda and primarily its materialisation promise BiH an improvement of its socio-economic situation. People here deserve that! Further important step is a recently achieved initalling of adaptation of Stabilisation and association agreement (SSP) – by which another hurdle on the road to European Union was finally removed..
On which fields, in your opinion, can BiH rely on for a more progressive development?
– First of all, I am glad to conclude that Germany is the most important trade partner to BiH, many German companies successfully do business in bh. market. BiH has a long tradiotion in, for example, wood and leather processing industry. This tradition has been supplemented meanwhile with modern product lines, such as with furniture and modern eco treatment in leather tanning. Also, water potential of BiH is, among other things, in the forefront – these are the areas which need to be preserved and developed. BiH has a metal-processing tradition, and I think that the restoration potential is not exhausted. Also biological farming and tourism, in my opinion, can contribute in the future to the modern direction of economy and achieving prosperity.
What is, generally, the focus of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in BiH?
– The most important job of our Embassy is to represent its homeland in the host country and to nourish and develop relations with the host country. We are lucky that these relations in BiH are excellent. Hundreds of thousands of BiH nationals found refuge in Germany during the war – many came back, or are closely related to BiH, and thus contribute to the mutual exchange and understanding. Germany supported BiH in hard times after the war and provided assistance. To this day, we provide humanitarian aid in, for example, destruction of remaining mines and ammunition. We have been standing by BiH closely for a long time in regards to the accelaration of Euroatlantic integration process. Our countries are bonded with the common goal – to integrate BiH into European Union.
IMPRESSED BY THE HOSPITALITY OF THE PEOPLE
Which parts of BiH impressed you the most during your travels through the country?
– I traveled a lot and gladly so through BiH. Bosnia and Herzegovina is a beautiful and incredibly diverse country. I like the steep mountains, gentle valleys and crystal clear rivers, vineyards, orchards and many idyllic places. I appreciate the diversity, there is simply no place or scenery which I prefer more. But I prefer the people here, very much so! I was most impressed by the hospitality and openness of people. They are the capital of this country!
What is your opinion on bh. culture, tradition, art or natural beauties?
– As diverse as natural beauties in BiH are, so is its tradition as well, its art and culture. Tradition and culture witness the long and turbulent history full of events. They are part of European cultural identity. For this reason, Germany’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs supports projects related to preservation of cultural heritage. It extends from the Jewish cemetary sustainability projects, via restoration of mural painting in one mosque, and then all the way to conservation of arceological discoveries from Roman times. For the year 2017. we have planned a restoration of one church. I was also impressed by an exceptionally diverse artistic creativity. Apart from having a truly varied local art scene, BiH is also a hotspot for international festivals. German artists regularly come here for that reason, and German Embassy often provides support for that. It was a wonderful thing for me to see that the exchange between partners in Germany and BiH in this field is very intense. This is why, for instance, I was really glad that in the spring of this year it was possible to ceremoniously celebrate new organs in Guča gora, with the support of the Association of partner cities Leipzig-Travnik.
What impressed you the most?
– It’s hard to say, there were many memorable impressions. Maybe it’s the people, their kindness and openness, but their creativity as well in resolving many everyday problems. In BiH I met many strong personalities, which have left a lasting impression on me.
What will you remember Sarajevo by?
– By excellent ćevapi. Seriously! The thing that I will particularly remember are those many interesting persons that I met. And, of course, I will fondly remember the joyous hustle and bustle in čaršija, I will remember a lot od small museums and worship places – simply those diversities. It is a wonderful city that has survived so many events, and those terrible ones – and maybe that is why it can offer so much.
SUMMER PROGRAM OF HELLBACH FAMILY
It is a vacation time of the year. Where do you usually like to spend your free warm days?
– It’s a good question this year! I think that I will use that time to prepare for the move with my family. Maybe a few days will remain to rest a little and to take a few trips to the Baltics, or to pop by to Mecklenburg lakes. Perhaps in August we will visit Heckentheater by the Rheinsberg castle: this year they have Tosca, among other performances, which is one of the most beautiful operas of all times, if you ask me.
Are there any tourist destinations that you happily go back to again and again?
– Oh yes, there are in many countries, in my homeland Germany, in the whole Europe and in Latin America, where I grew up. And, of course, here in the region, in which I have familial relations too. In BiH I don’t have only one favourite place, but many places that I find dear! I love those winding roads through the countryside. I am fascinated by vistas that you come upon after certain curves: always something new, surprising and often stunning!
Where do you go from Sarajevo?
– First I go back to Berlin. I already feel happy that I will stroll again through the Brandenburg Gate, or observe how the City-West developed – an area around Zoo station has been completely renovated. Berlin has a lot to offer: high culture and small scene, intellectual ideas and leisure, top gastronomy and Currywurst – a little bit of everything!