“After making capital investments in infrastructure projects, we’re currently focusing on developing small and medium-sized enterprises and enterprise zones in the Cazin area”
Interviewed by: Elma Zećo
Nermin Ogrešević has been serving as the administrative head of Cazin for 16 years. Even though various changes took place during this period, the initial commitment is still imperative: provide the best living conditions for the people of Cazin, which is a difficult road to take in a fragile country such as B&H.
– The economy and economic development are the main engines of any community development, so that was the basis of all our projects from inception. After making capital investments in infrastructure projects, we’re currently focusing on developing small and medium-sized enterprises and enterprise zones in the Cazin area. All that we’ve done in Cazin in the meantime is part of what a large team of people, and certainly the people of Cazin, have done together, says Nermin Ogrešević, Mayor of Cazin, at the beginning of the interview.
Serious Work and Challenge
You became mayor at a very young age—when you were 32 years old. What was your motive to run for mayor, and were you a little apprehensive when you took office?
– We should always strive to do as many good and useful deeds in life as we possibly can, not only for our own sakes, but for the sake of future generations too. Was it because of the war experience that I have, the strong desire to change the community for the better, the genuine love of the place that I come from, or because of my young age, I don’t recall having any real apprehensions when I started out as mayor. There was simply no time for feeling uneasy or for scheming. Being the mayor of Cazin has been a serious and challenging position for me from the beginning, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Looking back, in your opinion, what were the key aspects to moving forward with the city’s development?
– Managing the completion of the construction works at various locations in what used to be a municipality, and what is now a city, certainly. The moment when all the neighbourhoods in Cazin’s 23 local communities—that’s how many there are—finally had a water supply network, a functioning power grid, asphalted local roads and public utility services in place, the existing concept of development changed drastically. Other activities followed, of course, such as redevelopment of the urban parts of Cazin, which changed the look of the city and added to the overall impression people now have of the people of Cazin. For instance, that’s the added value investors particularly like to highlight. The third stage of development, aimed at boosting the local economy, was setting up the first Enterprise Zone. These were some of the key aspects to moving forward with the city’s development, but I reckon it’s important to note that we’re working on it every day and we’ll keep moving forward.
Ratkovac Enterprise Zone is known as Cazin’s project for the future. Why is it worth investing in Cazin and how do you plan to attract potential investors?
– Ratkovac Enterprise Zone is the first zone the City of Cazin can offer to domestic and foreign investors. It spans across 50 hectares of land, and what makes it special is that it’s got, among other things, excellent transport links with the rest of the country, and that it’s near the key entry points for business activity in the Central European market. Namely, Cazin is close to the borders of the European Union, and this is a major advantage in business. In addition, our investment incentives include a 100% subsidy for administrative fees and connections to the city’s water supply and sewerage networks, and a 50% construction land rent and development subsidy. Infrastructure in the Ratkovac Enterprise Zone is in place and it’s the most affordable business zone in the region by all parameters. The first investors we have are German, and the fact that they already agreed to export 100% of their products in the next seven years speaks volumes of their plans for the future. We expect new European investors to join us by the end of the year, but a few domestic enterprises are already here. Even though many business processes have been slowed down this year, I believe that the Ratkovac Enterprise Zone will become the most affordable and the highest quality enterprise zone in the region.
The City of Cazin is also renowned for its sport events and festivities. How exploited is its tourism potential?
– As is the case across B&H, Cazin’s tourism potential has, so far, been underexploited, and I’d say that we’re still at an early stage of development in that sense, but we’ve got specific plans. We’ve got a few important annual events that have become somewhat of a tradition, and we’ve got a growing number of large sporting events too. With our natural resources, which are indeed rich and interesting, as well as with the entrepreneurial mindset and cheerful spirit of our people, I’m positive that our tourism will flourish. As a local community, our plans for the tourism industry are part of our overall economic development plans for Cazin.
The city of Cazin has been situated at the crossroads that lead from Bihać towards Velika Kladuša, in the heart of the proud Krajina, since ancient times.
There is No Place Quite Like Home
You personally also love playing sports. You exercise regularly, and you also partake in the Cazin Marathon. Do you generally find it important to think about living a healthy lifestyle?
– While this won’t come as new to you, I’ll point out that the pace of life in today’s society is much faster than in the past, and you can’t stay healthy without regularly incorporating exercise into your life and maintaining a healthy diet. I’ve always loved playing sports, so regular CrossFit exercises, occasional football games, seasonal hikes, etc. are important and mean a great deal to me. I’m always delighted to run the Cazin Marathon, and was extremely sorry, just like my fellow runners, to hear that this year’s edition of the run had been cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
You love travelling; and yet, your professional commitments prevent you from travelling to distant locations. What’s your typical holiday like?
– I do love travelling, but I’m afraid I’ll have to leave it at that, because apart from travelling for business, I neither had the time nor the opportunity to travel much. I’m the type of man who loves his family, his home and his homeland above all things, so I don’t complain about not travelling. Each moment spent with them is the only true holiday for me.
Is there a place in Cazin each and every Bosnian and Herzegovinian should visit?
– First of all, each and every Bosnian and Herzegovinian should be familiar with all urban areas and important landmarks in the country. It’s a small country really, and for most people in this part of B&H it goes without saying that we should explore each corner of our homeland at some point in our lives. That’s why we’re astonished to hear that some people, and, quite often, intellectuals, say that they’ve never been to the Krajina Region or to Cazin. The people in this area are known for their friendliness and generous hospitality. Any visitor will feel it in Cazin, and, thus, visit its numerous landmarks. We’ve got quite a few of those. Cazin’s a unique area rich in wonderful natural landscapes which boasts an interesting history—at every step of the way, you’ll see or hear something about Cazin that you’ve never heard before.
Do you have a motto in life that you try to live by?
– My faith and continuous work is what defines me, for sure. That’s how I start the day, how I make decisions and how I ponder the future.
Is there something that can always uplift your spirits?
– Human kindness and audacity, definitely. Kind-hearted and audacious people create a positive energy around them, which in turn brings success. The more generous and audacious people there are, the better. That’s the way to make a difference. I believe we need to provide more opportunity in Bosnia and Herzegovina for these people’s voices to be heard.