Two weeks ago, you visited with US Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Deborah Mennuti. Also last month, the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a nomination hearing for President Biden’s nominee for Ambassador, Michael Murphy. Reflecting on this year, with a new Administration in Washington, how would you assess American engagement with Bosnia and Herzegovina?
The long lasting and strong strategic friendship is painting the overall relationship between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the United States of America. Latest engagement from DC prove this administration is more engaged in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the entire Western Balkans Region. Field visits by Mr. Escobar and Mr. Palmer, and the announced visit by Mr. Chollet, are just a few examples.
The most visible engagements by the Washington administration are the strategic partnerships. This includes unshaken support to our NATO path, development aid, and support in overcoming the current deepest political crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina. From the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords, mediation in reaching consensus among Bosnia and Herzegovina stakeholders on much needed Constitutional / Election Law amendments was necessary.
From London, Arminka Helic, a member of the House of Lords, and Anthony Mangnall, a Member of Parliament, had a thought-provoking column in Politico. Amongst other assertions, they wrote, “Western policy must take into account that crises and tensions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Montenegro are all connected and that relying on Serbia as a pillar of stability in the Western Balkans is, sadly, a misguided policy.” What has British engagement been over the last year and to what extent would you accept their premise of “crises and tensions” in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
At this point I would not comment on the individual position and subjective feelings, but what I can see is that the UK official position on Bosnia and Herzegovina is closely coordinated with US and EU partners. That is to respect a simple formula from the 1995 Dayton Peace Accord:
3 Constitutive people (Bosniaks, Serbs, Croats and other citizens who live in B&H)
2 Entities (Federation of B&H and Republic of Srpska) and
1 State (Bosnia and Herzegovina).
By respecting this formula, we have lived more than 26 years in peace. If the foundations of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which were endorsed by the US, UK, EU and others back in Dayton remain intact, we don’t have to worry about peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the entire Western Balkans. With neighbors we have to build bridges of cooperation in order to speed up the process of becoming an EU member. We do this by building resilience to the third factors, boosting the economy, strengthening the rule of law, eradicating corruption, increasing energy independence, protecting the environment and reducing the carbon footprint. This will leave the next generation a better arranged region.
On one thing I can agree. Yes, we need to talk about the Western Balkans, but on the topics mentioned above.
US Congresswoman Claudia Tenney of the Foreign Affairs Committee recently met with Željke Cvijanović. Do you have plans to visit Washington and to what extent have you engaged with American elected officials?
Yes I do. The removal of Covid restrictions and arranging meetings with elected officials would allow me to personally engage in my double capacity. As Deputy Foreign Minister, but also as Chair of Bosnia and Herzegovina Committee for Cooperation with NATO. The US made significant effort in supporting and strengthening the security sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina by supporting the Open Door policy of the NATO and mediating talks for amendments of Electoral law in Bosnia and Herzegovina….so many topics to cross notes with our US partners. Looking forward to it!
In March, US Ambassador Eric Nelson joined you in Neum. In his remarks, he made clear, “The United States will continue to support BiH’s reform priorities guided by the BiH-led Reform Program process. NATO’s focus in BiH is on a strong partnership, and the door to membership remains open. Any future decision to invite BiH to join the Alliance would be taken based on consensus among all Allies and within BiH’s government.” We are now eight months later. Another NATO ministerial meeting has recently occurred. What concrete momentum has there been in the “process”?
As stated earlier, the US is one of the strongest advocates and supporters of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s NATO path. I firmly believe that the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina is within NATO and the EU. We need to emphasize the values promoted by these two organizations in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Just yesterday, I visited with Brussels’ NATO DSG Mr. Goana and engaged with some Head of Mission of allied Countries. I think that we will witness very soon a continuation of discussion within NATO on Western Balkans and Bosnia and Herzegovina. For my country, it is of paramount importance that all decisions of integration, to NATO, EU, or any regional initiatives or organizations, are based on consensus within state institutions and among constitutive people.
Photo Credit: StartBIH