Human Rights House Foundation

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Image: Hillary Clinton in Sarajevo 
Copyright: dw-world.de

Hillary Clinton calls BH political leaders to overcome ethnic divisions

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Sarajevo last week where she held meetings with members of the tripartite presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) calling them to overcome ethnic divisions that recent elections yet again confirmed, and gave a speech to students of Sarajevo University regarding their role in the process of BiH’s accession to EU.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

The aim of Hillary Clinton’s visit was to encourage political management of BiH to start the work on strengthening central state institutions in order to enable the country's entry into the European Union (EU), since the recent elections showed that inter-ethnic divisions are still present, which makes a huge obstacle for any progress related to BiH’s accession to the EU.

The U.S. Secretary of State told political leaders in BiH that the priority should be their membership to the EU and that this aim will have to bring implementation of the necessary constitutional reforms.

Washington hopes for the formation of unique government in BiH

As stated Deputy Secretary of State, James Steinberg, ‘’the State Department sees some positive trends at the political scene in BiH’’, and they are hoping of post-election establishment of governmental institutions, which will be able to make important decisions in regards to country's Euro-Atlantic integration.

"This is a chance to form a new government and an opportunity to move forward the progressive forces, to seize the process of government formation, that interrelate and define strategy. We encourage all parties to reflect on how a future government can contribute to a better future for their people, " said Steinberg for the Voice of America referring to the occasion of Hillary Clinton’s visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The public is particularly interested in what will be the U.S. position regarding the talks on constitutional changes in Bosnia. Steinberg himself has been a part of the US-European duo of the so-called Butmir initiative, which tried to persuade BiH leaders of the necessity to compromise on the new constitutional arrangements in BiH.

Speech to students in Sarajevo

During her visit to BiH last week, Hillary Clinton also addressed to students of Sarajevo University, stressing in her speech the necessity of constitutional changes, which cannot be imposed from the outside but should be an agreement of local leaders to create more efficient government. She said that Bosnia's future lies in integration in the EU and NATO, and that people in BiH should "overcome the past to looking for a better future", calling the students of BiH to take an active role in this process.

She reminded students of the fact that neighboring countries have already made concrete steps to the EU direction, because "they know that, by integration, there is no better way to achieve sustainable economic growth and long-term political stability."

However, western reporters have estimated that Clinton’s visit to Sarajevo, has little chance to make BiH political leaders agree on necessary reforms. These estimations are based on the recent global election results held on October 3, where voters in the Serbian entity, Republika Srpska (RS), supported overwhelmingly political forces which are strongly nationalistic.

These political forces coming from RS entity reject a higher degree of integration of the entities of government in the unique power of the BiH authorities and as an alternative offer a referendum on separation of RS - which is unacceptable for the U.S.

Clinton opened a new U.S. embassy in Sarajevo

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton officially opened on Tuesday the new building of the American Embassy in Sarajevo. She noted that the new U.S. embassy building is a powerful testimony to the U.S. commitment to Bosnia, as well as a permanent symbol of the values that these two countries share.

The opening ceremony of the new building was attended by a large number of invitees from the public and political life in BiH, and the diplomatic corps in BiH country. The new building in Sarajevo is the eighth largest U.S. embassy in Europe.

U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, used the opportunity to emphasize America's support for internal reforms and European integration in the region. Such an agenda of her visit has been interpreted among analysts as a return of America's growing presence in the region after a ten-year "break".

After her visit to Sarajevo, Hillary Clinton also visited other major cities in the region, Belgrade and Pristina, and continued her journey to Brussels where she met the European high representative for foreign policy Katharine Estonia.

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