Reopen Canadian Embassy in Sarajevo

March 20, 2017.

The Honourable Chrystia Freeland
Minister of Foreign Affairs

Dear Minister of Foreign Affairs,

The Embassy of Canada in Sarajevo officially closed on August 1, 2009. The decision to close the Embassy of Canada in Sarajevo was made in early 2009 and was verbally announced to the Ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Ottawa in May of 2009. Official Diplomatic Note about the closure of the Embassy of Canada in Sarajevo was never delivered. The Government of Canada justified this surprising decision with a statement about a serious examination of Canada’s current diplomatic representations abroad which was announced via a news release on the Embassy’s web page.

The news release further mentioned that the Government of Canada continually monitors its representations abroad and periodically shifts resources to meet Canada’s needs in an ever-changing world. The same explanation for the closure of diplomatic representation was provided on the Embassy of Canada’s website in Cambodia. No further details were provided regarding the closures of the two Embassies.

Canadians seeking emergency assistance while in BiH are advised to call an Ottawa – based emergency number or to contact the Embassy of Canada in Budapest, Hungary. A consulate was being scheduled to open in Sarajevo in near future but never happened. The Foreign Affairs Department left the impression that everything was done in a hasty manner with no careful examination or a thought-out strategy on how to continue any further kind of diplomatic and consular representation of Canada in BiH. The clear proof for this can be found in the same worded explanation which was announced for the closure of the embassy of Canada in BiH and for the closure of the Embassy of Canada in Cambodia as well.

The wider Canadian diplomatic community and all Canadians are being left to conclude that the Embassy of Canada in Sarajevo was closed primarily due to ideological, narrow and parochial reasons of Harper-driven foreign policy and his foreign service administration. Canada set up an Embassy in Sarajevo in 1996 after the war which ravaged the multicultural being of BiH ended. Canada then became a member of the Executive Board of Peace Implementation Council (PIC) in Bosnia and Herzegovina established by the UNSC to monitor country progress in reaching some of the security and governance goals outlined in the Dayton Peace Agreement of 1995.

The Embassy of Canada in Sarajevo closed in the midst of BiH’s struggle from its violent past and in the most decisive moments for the future of Dayton Peace Accord as one of the then most successful agreements undertaken by Western and NATO Alliance. The sudden closure of the Embassy occurred despite the fact that the biggest and most successful Canadian military forces in peace activities in history of Canada were in BiH. Since 1992, more than 40 thousand Canadian soldiers served in BiH in various peace missions, including UNPROFOR, IFOR, SFOR, and EUFOR. Canadian former CIDA implemented more than 120 projects in BiH whose value amounted to more than 140 million CAD.

Since the closure of the Embassy, BiH has requested on numerous occasions for the opening of any kind of Canadian presence, such as consular help for Canadians in BiH, but always failed due to the absence of serious interest on Canada’s side. The first official request for the re-opening of the Embassy of Canada in BiH was made during the official visit of the Delegation of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of BiH led by the current Foreign Minister Mr. Igor Crnadak who met with Foreign Minister Stephane Dion on July 16, 2017.

Minister Dion promised that Canada in line with the new Liberal policy of opening Canada to the world will seriously reconsider the issue of re-opening the Canadian Embassy in Sarajevo. Minister Dion also made the promise that to start Canada will open an Honorary Consulate in Sarajevo soon. Since then, nothing too encouraging has been done to enhance the diplomatic profile of Canada in BiH. Canada is still only a member of PIC without an Embassy or a Consulate in Sarajevo.

We wish to remind you that more than 100,000 BiH citizens live in Canada and most of them are now very well established and precious members of the wider Canadian community. As Canadians, they are very much concerned during their visitations to BiH that there are no diplomatic or consular representations of Canada in BiH.

Based on the above, we are urging you to seriously reconsider the issue of re-opening the Embassy of Canada in BiH.

With respect,

On behalf of the Canadian Bosnian Community
Professor Emir Ramic
Chairman of the Institute for Research of Genocide Canada