The US sees Bosnia and its politicians who continue to use nationalist rhetoric to exacerbate the divisions among peoples as a serious concern. The key to resolving the major issues in the country is tackling corruption and strengthening the rule of law, said Deputy Assistant Secretary at U.S. State Department Matthew Palmer.
"Bosnia and Herzegovina remains a serious concern for the US. We see corrupt politicians continuing to use nationalist rhetoric to exacerbate divisions among three constituent peoples,” Palmer said at the annual Belgrade Security Forum on Friday. “Young people and successful professionals are leaving the country in large numbers because they see no future for themselves and for Bosnia. With this exodus the economy suffers even more, as does the quality of life for the citizens of this country.”
According to Bosnia’s Constitution, which is the Annex four of the Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the war in Bosnia (1992 – 1995), the country consists of semi-autonomous two entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovine (FBiH) entity mostly dominated by Bosniaks and Croats, and the Republika Srpska (RS) entity, dominated by Serbs. To the north of the country, there is also the District of Brcko which is not dominated by either of the three constituent peoples.
According to Palmer, the key to reversing this situation in the country is also a major challenge across the region, which is tackling the problem of corruption.
“The US is working with local partners to strengthen rule of law, judicial independence and political accountability in order to combat this scourge and pierce the culture of impunity. By sanctioning individuals such as Nikola Spiric for stealing from taxpayers through abuse of public office, the US is demonstrating its commitment to the region and to average citizens,” he added.
In September this year, the US State Department said it had banned Bosnian Serb lawmaker Nikola Spiric and members of his immediate family from entering the US over Spiric's alleged “involvement in significant corruption.”
Spiric is the Deputy Leader of thenationalist Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), the party in power in RS entity, and a lawmaker in the state-level House of Representatives.
"We hope the next government forms quickly and focuses on economic reforms, specifically – privatisation, the rule of law and anti-corruption reform," Palmer said as he talked about US plans to continue cooperating with Bosnian officials after the October general election.
“It is essential that the next government improves the credibility and transparency of elections. It’s also high time to resolve the electoral impasse in Mostar, where citizens have been denied the right to elect their leaders for more than a decade.”
The City of Mostar has not held the local election since 2008, as the local political leaders were unable to agree on the form in which the election should be held since the Constitutional Court ruled that some provisions of the Election Law concerning the election in the city are incompatible with the Constitution and should be changed.
Palmer noted that the US believes full integration into the EU and Euro-Atlantic structures is the best guarantee for the secure and stable future for Bosnia and the wider region.
“Let me be clear – as a guarantor of the Dayton Peace Agreement, the US remains firmly committed to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia. We will take a strong stand against anyone working to undermine Dayton institutions. When we see Dayton and the Dayton system threatened, we will act,” the Deputy Assistant Secretary at U.S. State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs said.
The US official added that the US sees a thriving and prosperous Western Balkans integrated into Western institutions. Stability is not a birth right, he noted, and it must be earned through hard work and committent to change. Everyone should work together to help each other move forward.
"The US stands ready to assist, not as an act of charity but because it is within our interest and yours. Stronger western Balkans makes for stronger Europe and a stronger transatlantic partnership," Palmer concluded.