In our work on meeting Bosnia and Herzegovina’s obligations under the EU’s Third Energy Package, we will use the “1+1+1” cooperation format, which has been backed by the entities’ ministers. I insist on this model because I firmly believe it is necessary to establish a bolder and more intense communication between all levels of government, says Staša Košarac, BiH’s new Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations.
In an interview with Balkan Green Energy News, he also talked about priorities in his work and steps BiH intends to take in order to prevent the disposal of nuclear waste at Trgovska Gora.
Košarac, who was appointed in December, also announced the Trebinje Energy Summit – SET 2020, which will be held on March 5 and 6.
What will be the main priorities in the ministry’s work when it comes to energy? What is it that you will have to address immediately in this area?
Energy can be the driver of economic development in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), given that it is one of the most important sectors, with vast potentials for new investment. This is evidenced by data we receive from the relevant entity ministries in charge of this sector.
That’s why I believe it is necessary to give the entities’ governments and power utilities a free hand to develop their investment plans for the energy sector. The ministry has the coordinating role and, as the minister in charge of this area, I am fully committed to promoting cooperation between all levels of government in BiH.
The entities’ governments and power utilities should be given a free hand to develop investment plans for the energy sector
When it comes to the energy sector, the ministry I am heading is responsible for obligations stemming from the Energy Community Treaty and the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with the European Union (EU), where I will also insist on the abovementioned cooperation model, as well as foreign trade, where it’s important to highlight electricity trade as one of the notable resources.
Everything else is under the remit of the entities, including a very important element – the independent system operator (NOS BiH) and state electricity transmission operator Elektroprenos BiH.
Following your meeting with BiH Federal Minister of Energy, Mining and Industry Nermin Džindić, it was announced that you and the relevant entity ministers will meet with Energy Community representatives to discuss the requirements of the Third Energy Package. What are your expectations from this meeting?
I’ve already mentioned the model of cooperation with entity ministers, the so-called “1 +1 +1” format. I’ve insisted on it ever since I took over as minister because I firmly believe it is necessary to establish a bolder and more intense communication between all levels of government in BiH.
Entity ministers support “1 + 1 + 1” cooperation format
I have recently had meetings with Republika Srpska’s Minister of Industry, Energy and Mining Petar Đokić and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s (FBiH) Minister of Energy, Mining and Industry Nermin Džindić. I am pleased that the entity ministers supported the “1 +1 +1” cooperation format, and that it was deemed particularly good.
A meeting with Energy Community representatives will take place after the Trebinje Energy Summit
One of the conclusions from these meetings is that we need to hold a joint meeting with Energy Community representatives, which will take place in the coming period, following the Trebinje Energy Summit.
The transposition of the Third Energy Package requires the adoption of certain laws, such as laws on electricity and natural gas regulator, electricity transmission, and the electricity market in BiH. When could these regulations be adopted? Are there any obstacles to their adoption?
When I took over as minister, I found the Third Energy Package requirements as an entirely open issue. It is well known that the Third Energy Package comprises a set of directives concerning electricity and natural gas. It involves the passage of laws on an electricity and natural gas regulator, electricity transmission, and the electricity market in BiH, as well as a law on setting up an electricity transmission system operator (TSO) in BiH.
However, an agreement on these legislative solutions has not yet been reached. That’s why I have passed a decision on establishing a new working group which, together with the relevant ministries from Republika Srpska and the Federation of BiH, will work on these issues, fully respecting the authority of the entities when it comes to electricity and gas.
I will not allow any solution that would involve the transfer of authority from the entities to the BiH level
So, my position is absolutely clear – I will not allow any solution that would involve the transfer of authority from the entities to the BiH level, nor will any bills enter the legislative procedure without prior agreement between the entities’ governments and the Council of Ministers of BiH, and even the BiH Parliamentary Assembly, if necessary.
I expect that the relevant ministries will submit nominations for working group members over the coming period, and that they will be formed during March, so that we can move towards the adoption of the necessary legislative solutions based on clearly defined procedures.
There are five points of contention that need to be ironed out
Information that I have been receiving from the relevant institutions indicate that there are five points of contention that need to be ironed out. I am aware that it will be necessary to invest a lot of effort and time when it comes to meeting the requirements of the Energy Community, but I believe that maximum effort at all levels will lead to solutions.
You said that energy is one of the key economic sectors in BiH. How can the ministry help realize its full potential in order to ensure economic development and create new jobs?
The ministry I’m heading is in charge of the obligations from the Energy Community Treaty and the Stabilization and Association Agreement, as well as foreign trade. All the other issues are under the remit of the entities, which means that full responsibility is on state power utilities Elektroprivreda Republike Srpske (ERS), Elektroprivreda BiH (EPBiH), and Elektroprivreda HZ HB (EPHZBH).
The first Trebinje Energy Summit – SET 2020 will be held in March. What are your expectations from this gathering?
It was with great pleasure that I accepted the invitation to take part in the Energy Summit in Trebinje, a city I often visit. This event is one of the best initiatives, and it is particularly important that it has a regional scope, which opens the possibility for it to become a regional forum for discussion on the development of the energy sector.
It is particularly important that SET 2020 is a regional event
The Energy Summit in Trebinje, the seat of ERS, is a good opportunity to exchange views on topics that are important for the future of the energy sector and the course of action going forward. That’s why I believe that the topics, panel discussions, and conclusions will be meaningful and beneficial to everyone dealing with energy.
The summit will also be an opportunity to exchange ideas and good practices from around the region, but also to promote the good policies of ERS as well as the BiH energy sector in order to compare the local experience and strategic directions with those in countries of the region.
All the BiH institutions, as well as the public, are against building a disposal site for nuclear and radioactive waste at Trgovska Gora in Croatia. What does the ministry intend to do in order to protect the interests of BiH citizens?
A disposal site for nuclear and radioactive waste at Trgovska Gora would pose a direct threat to some 300,000 people. This alarming fact has prompted me to put this issue high on the list of priorities. We must protect our citizens’ health as well as the environment.
A disposal site for nuclear and radioactive waste at Trgovska Gora would pose a direct threat to some 300,000 people
If waste were to be disposed so close to the border, as much as two-thirds of its adverse impacts would be directed towards BiH, and only a third towards Croatia. We don’t have the luxury of sitting on our hands, because people expect us to come up with solutions, particularly given the fact that the previous Council of Ministers of BiH treated this problem with indolence.
Ever since I took over as minister, I have been dealing with the issue of Trgovska Gora actively. I must say that we have managed to escalate this issue for the first time to a sufficiently high level in the EU institutions. That was our first concrete measure in dealing with this problem.
We have managed to escalate this issue for the first time to a sufficiently high level in the EU
During a recent visit to Brussels, I took an opportunity to discuss Trgovska Gora with Director-General for EU Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Christian Danielsson and Director General for Energy of the European Commission Ditte Juul-Jørgensen.
They assured me that the European Commission will put additional efforts into resolving the disputed issue and that they will propose it as a topic for the agenda of the upcoming EU-Western Balkans summit in Zagreb, Croatia.
At home, I have initiated a series of one-on-one meetings, as well as a joint meeting with the entities’ ministers in charge of the environment, members of parliamentary caucus the Greens Club, representatives of the Regulatory Agency for Radiation and Nuclear Safety of BiH, and heads of municipalities in the Una river basin.
A unanimous position is that Croatia’s plan is absolutely unacceptable.
A unanimous position is that Croatia’s plan to dispose of radioactive and nuclear waste at Trgovska Gora is absolutely unacceptable. One of the conclusions from the meeting is that a legal and expert team should be formed to actively deal with this problem.
The next step is to involve BiH’s diplomatic and consular network, and I discussed this matter earlier this week with Minister of Foreign Affairs of BiH Bisera Turković. She backed my demand for a more active and more engaged approach by diplomatic representatives of BiH on the issue of Trgovska Gora.
Over the coming period, we will focus on meetings and discussions with representatives or Croatia, but also the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). I hope this issue will be resolved through diplomacy in the spirit of good neighbourly relations.