His Excellency Branko Neskovic says that his sons, Dusan and Luka, are particularly excited about his appointment as Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Ambassador to the UK: “The two boys, aged 15 and 13, are fascinated by the James Bond movies!” Mr Neskovic also says that since his family arrived one sunny day in August, his wife has grown very fond of Notting Hill and Kensington. As for himself, he prefers a quiet walk along the river Thames, ideally to be followed by a relaxing glass of fine malt whisky.
Mr Neskovic attended university in Sarajevo and graduated with a degree in economics. This was followed by an MA in International Relations, for which he studied in Banja Luka, the second largest city in the country. It was during this period that he developed a life-long interest in the geopolitics of the Balkans. “In the geopolitical map of the world, there are numerous areas of special importance that are of interest to regional and global powers, which can play a role in far larger political events – the Balkans is particularly interesting in this regard.”
As a young man, Mr Neskovic travelled widely with what he characterises as “an open mind,” developing his knowledge of other cultures and environments, and all the while constantly “expanding [his] horizons.” The starting point for his curiosity in the world was economics, but during his peregrinations he gained fresh perspectives on geography, philosophy and art. “My travels gave me new knowledge and many new friends, as well as expanding my perception of the world in which we live,” he says, adding, “it has been a very useful experience for the work that I am doing today.”
Between 2006 and 2011, Mr Neskovic served as Bosnia and Herzegovina’s first Ambassador to Romania. He much enjoyed his time in the country, and it was during this period that he says many doors were opened and relations between the two countries were put on a firm footing, with particular emphasis on regional cooperation. Next, Neskovic served as the Deputy Director of Procurement and Finance in the Council and Ministers (2011-13). And most recently, he was back in the Foreign Ministry, serving as Ambassador at Large.
Mr Neskovic has also received extensive exposure to politics during his career, with two stints working in the government of the Republika Srpska, first as an advisor to the Minister of Transport and later as the Prime Minister’s Chief of Cabinet during two electoral terms. “I gained important knowledge of how the state functions; and how to coordinate the work of governments, parliaments and local communities,” he says. Mr Neskovic describes the experience as invaluable but adds that it was his most difficult job so far.
With regards to his new role as Ambassador to the UK, Mr Neskovic says that he will approach his work “with the principles of openness and equality.” He has a wide range of plans for his term, which include securing UK support for EU membership, easing the visa regime for citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as working towards the appointment of an Honorary Consul for Bosnia to the UK. Mr Neskovic also sees room for improving economic relations, particularly in light of EU moves towards greater integration of the Western Balkans, and accordingly he intends to organise trade shows and reciprocal visits between the two countries.
Mr Neskovic describes the Balkans as the meeting point of three major religions (Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Islam), and says that this presents a number of challenges for the region. Calling it, “one of the most sensitive crisis areas in the world,” he says that “the development of a market economy, representative and state institutions, as well as improving social relations and civil society is vital in order to reduce antagonism and encourage the processes of modernisation and integration.” But despite the difficulties of the region, Mr Neskovic emphasises its great attractions: “Bosnia and Herzegovina is a beautiful country with wonderful and hospitable people.”
Mr Neskovic gave this interview just after presenting his credentials to The Queen, which he said was a highlight of his career. “Every diplomat wants to feel like I do today, because although London is a challenging destination, to serve here has always been the unspoken wish and dream for all of us.”