POLITICS

Statement Delivered by Deputy Assistant Secretary Phillip Reeker at the meeting with PIC Steering Board

Philip_ReekerUS Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Philip Reeker delivered a statement to the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers at the meeting of the Political Directors of the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board on May 22, 2013.

During my four day visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina, I met with students, NGO leaders, business representatives, colleagues from the international community, and political and government officials. Three days ago, in a speech at AUBiH, I reassured Bosnian citizens of the U.S. commitment to this country and made sure they know that the U.S. understands where the problems lie in BiH. Our objective is not only to point out the problems but to call on leadership directly to be accountable. Below is the message I delivered to the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers at the May 22 opening session of the Political Directors of the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board.

Your coalition was formed with a platform based on Euro-Atlantic integration. Yet since the passage of the census and state aid laws over 15 months ago, your government has not completed a single concrete action to meet EU or NATO integration requirements. That integration process is crucial to economic growth.

While BiH stagnates, the rest of the region is moving forward.

There are two separate issues blocking this country’s path forward on integration: defense property and Sejdic-Finci. Both issues are stuck because of obstruction of individual parties and individual politicians. When then-Secretary of State Clinton and High Representative Ashton visited Sarajevo in October last year, they implored you to resolve these issues as soon as possible to re-open your path toward Euro-Atlantic integration.

If you are serious about integration into NATO and the EU, these obstacles are not insurmountable. Indeed, the lack of any sustained efforts by your government to find solutions has led all of our capitals to question your seriousness.

There are three proposals – two of which are nearly identical – in parliament, any of which would satisfy the ECHR requirements on Sejdic-Finci. Will your parties support bringing them to a vote?

On defense property, it is time for your coalition to decide whether to pass legislation along the lines of the March 9, 2012, political agreement, which all of the parties in the governing coalition still claim to support. If not, registration of defense properties to the state of BiH can simply proceed on the basis of existing law.

The issue of the single identification number is a good example of the RS once again challenging a state competency and suggesting they can act alone. It is not true that this is about failure of Federation parties to adopt required changes to law – RS is asking for much broader changes than the BiH constitutional court required. Their action – along with the Brcko District – to issue numbers unilaterally could call into question the security of BiH-issued travel documents. Colleagues in Washington are reviewing this to determine whether it has consequences for travel of BiH citizens to the U.S.

We still want to see BiH in the EU and NATO. We continue to believe that is the only realistic path to stability and prosperity for all BiH citizens. But we cannot lower the bar any further, nor can we take the decisions necessary to overcome these obstacles for you.

There is still time to begin to turn things around and make 2013 a positive year. You can demonstrate to your citizens real leadership and let them measure your seriousness before the 2014 elections. But you need to act now.

(Office of Public Affairs of the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo)

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