Town Hall at the National Theater in Sarajevo With Students and Civil Society Representatives
Secretary of State
MS. DAGUDA: Ladies and gentlemen. Good morning and welcome to this special event. Let me introduce myself. My name is Aida Daguda and I am director of Civil Society Promotion Center, Bosnian organization existing since 1996. I’m honored to open this great event today and to welcome U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who set aside the majority of her time available during visit to Bosnia to talk to representatives of civil society, youth activists, youth entrepreneurs, and students from the following institutions: American University in Bosnia-Herzegovina; First, Second, and Third Gymnasium; Sarajevo School of Science and Technology; faculties of political science, law, philosophy, and economics at the University of Sarajevo; University of East Sarajevo; International University of Sarajevo; Medressas in Tuzla, Travnik, Sarajevo, and Veliko Cajno; Catholic faculty of theology; and Sarajevo Graduate School of Business.This great audience can for sure contribute in forging a future together, which is a theme of today’s event. Therefore, we are eager to hear messages of our honored guest in that regard, how we can unleash hidden potential of our society and bring some much needed positive changes. Madam Secretary has proven that women have the right and the power to make a difference and change the world. She is also a 21st century diplomat connecting directly with people, especially young people around the world. We would like to see from our politicians more of that political wisdom. Please join me in welcoming the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much. And it’s wonderful to be here. I’m looking forward to our conversation and I thank Aida for that introduction and for the work that she is doing on behalf of civil society promotion here. I actually met her last year in my office in the State Department and am very pleased to see her again today.
I also want to thank Sasa Delic who you will hear from in a minute who’s going to be moderating our conversation. I want to thank all of the university leaders, deans, presidents, rectors for being here and especially for the students who are here. And I am very pleased to be in this historic theater and I thank Dr. Goyer and all who have responsibility for the National Theater.
This is my second visit to Sarajevo, my third to Bosnia-Herzegovina, and I am here with a very simple message, that the United States believes in the future of this country and believes in the potential of the young people. And I want to hear directly from you, because this city is close to the hearts of millions of Americans who followed the events of the 1990s and worked and prayed for peace. And here I am back in Sarajevo just a few weeks before the 15th anniversary of the Dayton Accords, which helped to end the war and establish a framework for a lasting peace.
This theater is a fitting place for our meeting. It has been here over the decades that artists and writers and intellectuals and citizens and activists have gathered to share ideas and put forth their own opinions about the best way forward, to tell their stories. And what I hope is that you, as the future leaders of Bosnia-Herzegovina, will have a story that is compelling and positive, that not only paints a vision of the future, but helps to realize that. I want to hear firsthand about your concerns and your questions, but let me just offer a few thoughts.
The Balkans are a critical part of Europe – dynamic and resilient, rich in history and culture. I’m well aware that the history, also, is filled with pain and conflict. But the people of the Balkans have worked very hard to move beyond that violence and to re-imagine and then rebuild a different pathway.
When I first came here in 1996, shortly after the Dayton Accords had been signed, people were just beginning to put their lives back together. For many years, simple acts like sending your children to school or holding a job, keeping warm, talking to neighbors had posed serious risks. And so the task that lie ahead was a formidable one.
But I see, after 15 years, an enormous amount of progress. I see unmistakable proof that the people here, just as people in Croatia, in Kosovo, Serbia, are trying to move forward and not remain chained to the past. Just look around this room. Many of you are university or high school students. Some of you have studied or traveled abroad. Some of you have come to the United States as Aida has. Others of you are working to support your families. You represent different backgrounds, different ethnicities, different religions, and yet you are here today in this National Theater sitting side by side to have a conversation about your shared future in the center of a city at peace.
So the progress is encouraging, but it is far from complete. Yes, people can now go to work and children can go to school, but there are not enough good jobs. Hatreds have eased, but nationalism persists. And the promise of greater stability and opportunity represented by integration into Europe still remains out of reach.
Now, these problems are not unique to this country. They exist to some degree in the entire region. But in my conversations here in Sarajevo with leaders as well as in Belgrade and Pristina, I have the same message. I will reinforce that message and I hope it will be heard not just by leaders, but by the people they represent. Now is the time to build on the gains that have been made in recent years. Now is the time to strengthen democratic institutions, to deepen peace between neighbors, and to create the conditions for long-term political, economic, and social progress.
Now, for Serbia and Kosovo this means, among other things, making their upcoming dialogue a success by engaging sincerely and creatively to resolve their differences once and for all.
And here in Bosnia and Herzegovina it means bolstering your commitment to a sovereign state, one that delivers results for all of its citizens by passing reforms that will improve key services, attract more foreign investment, make government more effective and accountable. These reforms are needed for their own sake, but they are also needed if your country is to fulfill the goal of becoming part of the European Union and NATO.
Your neighbors have already taken strides in that direction because they know there is no better way to achieve sustained economic growth and long-term political stability than by integrating with Europe. The European parliament just passed overwhelmingly visa liberalization for Bosnia and Herzegovina. And I believe now is the time for the citizens of this country to make your voices heard following up on the results of your election. Because although much of the work must be done by your government, leaders listen to people and each of you has a role to play in being sure your voice is part of this dialogue.
Young people have a tremendous stake. I’m hoping that you will play an active political role, although I’m well aware that you have other activities on your minds – studying, working, starting families; those are all high priorities. But we have to look at what will work for you in the future. It may seem easier to let others take the lead. It may even seem impossible to see any progress, giving rise to cynicism. But I urge you to remember the hard times that your families in this country have already endured and the toughness and the talents that carried you through.
If you channel those strengths now into the difficult but rewarding work of shaping the future you will inherit, you will be the beneficiaries. The more engaged you are, the more you demand of your leaders, the more you can contribute to political, economic, and social progress that leads to prosperity and opportunity for you. And while you do this, you can count on the United States to be your partner. Our support for you, our support for the Balkans is a cornerstone of our foreign policy. But it also represents a deep commitment by the American people.
Over the years, we have sent thousands of American soldiers to help keep the peace. We’ve invested roughly one and a half billion dollars to help you rebuild your infrastructure, strengthen public institutions, improve education, and foster economic development. We have provided approximately $300 million every year to help the western Balkan countries meet EU and NATO requirements. And we have invested years of intense persistent diplomacy to resolve conflicts and maintain stability.
After I leave here today, I will cut the ribbon on the new United States Embassy compound here in Sarajevo. It’s a beautiful facility and I hope you all have an opportunity to visit there someday. And running alongside that compound is a street that, as of today, will bear a new name: the Robert Frasure Street.
Ambassador Robert Frasure was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Balkans in the United States State Department in the months leading up to the Dayton Accords. His work here on the ground helped to make that agreement possible, helped to end the violence and the conflict. Just a few months before it was finalized, he was killed in a car accident on Mount Igman along with two other U.S. officials – Joseph Kruzel and Nelson Drew.
Ambassador Frasure believed deeply in the cause of peace and he died in the course of pursuing it. His wife, Katharina, and his daughters, Virginia and Sarah, and his son-in-law, Garrett, are here with us today. They traveled here not only for the naming of the new street, but by their presence to demonstrate a continuing commitment of their family representing millions of other Americans to this cause of peace that we care so deeply about.
The bonds between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the United States have been forged through harsh trials and historic triumphs and today we remain committed. This is not only an official position that I convey to you on behalf of my government, but it is very deeply personal to me as well. My husband, former President Bill Clinton, and I feel very strongly that you can succeed – despite all the odds, despite all the political problems, despite the history that pits one group against another, that you can succeed. We are optimistic about that. And I hope that today you see that future that we believe in for you, a future where you’re part of Europe, you’re part of the transatlantic community, and you’re part of a nation that is working together to improve the lives of all of the people.
No country can do this for you. You have to do it for yourselves. But the United States will be with you every step of the way. Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: Madam Secretary of State, very welcome, once again, to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Thank you for this wonderful speech.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, good morning, everyone, and welcome to the town hall meeting with Secretary Clinton. And you are all – actually we are all here because Secretary Clinton wants to meet not only the current leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also the future leaders of this country, which means all 400 of you.
Of course, there are thousands of young and smart people in this country who are – who have knowledge and who are able to shape the future of this country and, unfortunately, this theater is not large enough for them all so they asked many of them to submit their questions on Facebook. Many of them are friends with U.S. Embassy Sarajevo – hoping it will increase in number.
So before we give floor to your questions, here is a question from our friend from Facebook. (Inaudible) from Banja Luka, (inaudible) Secretary, asks: What shall be the main focus of your strategy in assisting Bosnia-Herzegovina in its future development?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you for that question. And I think our main focus is to work with your leaders and work with civil society as you make the tough decisions about your own future. We know there has to be constitutional reform. We know there have to be economic reforms, and we cannot do those for you. That is the responsibility of your leaders and your citizens. But what we want to do is make it clear you’re not alone; that the United States is very much willing and standing by ready to help you as you make these difficult decisions.
And I think that a lot of what I’m hearing from people who are from Bosnia and Herzegovina or are long-time observers is that a lot of progress was made the last 15 years, which was exhausting. It was difficult. And that’s all understandable. And now there needs to be what we would call a second wind, where people do not get discouraged, where they do not give up, where they do not accept the status quo, where they do not retreat into their own communities and have nothing to do with the other. And that’s what I’m here to really convey – a strong message following this election, which had a very good turnout. And people voted, I believe, to see progress made, and we want to help you do that.
MODERATOR: I have another Facebook friend question. It’s from (inaudible). She’s native Bosnian who is – who was able, actually, to study in the United States, thanks to the State Department program. And her question is: In light of last week’s elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina, will the U.S. policy in Bosnia change?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Our policy will remain the same; that we are hoping to support the progress that must be made here in this country. What we hope is that with the election there will be some new thinking, some new opportunities to break impasses to try to resolve problems that have not yet been addressed.
But I do want to reinforce the message that the United States stands by you. Even though I think your future lies in Europe and in NATO, and so you will naturally look toward Europe and look toward the EU, we don’t want you ever to believe that the United States is not committed to helping you achieve that future. We don’t have a vote in the European Union, but we hope that someday we can see Bosnia and Herzegovina become a member of the European Union.
And as the Secretary of State, I argued very strongly at the last NATO meeting in Tallinn, Estonia to grant what’s called MAP, the Membership Action Plan, to Bosnia and Herzegovina – even though there are hurdles to be overcome – because I wanted to demonstrate unequivocally that the United States wants to see you in NATO.
Now, there are some, I know, who wonder whether – is that a good idea or not. But look to the future. If you look at Europe today, a whole Europe, and think about the conflicts in Europe of the last century and think of how France and Germany are now fully cooperative, working together, how the United Kingdom and Germany, how Germany and Israel have normal relations, you can see that even though it is difficult to overcome the past, it is essential in today’s world. In this century we cannot be dragged down by what was done to our grandparents or our great-grandparents or, even in this case, to our parents or ourselves if we want to have a better future. So our position remains the same, but we feel some sense of urgency to support the changes that only you can make.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Secretary Clinton. Those were the questions from our Facebook friends. Now, ladies and gentlemen, feel free to ask your questions. Yes, the gentleman over there.
QUESTION: Your Excellency, my name is (inaudible) from (inaudible) Information Agency Bosnia-Herzegovina. First of all, thank you for your visit and U.S. presence in Bosnia. I think it’s very relevant and important for our country.
My question is one hypothetical. After these elections, what if we have politician with strong legitimacy, but with some separation and secession plans, (inaudible) blocking state institutions and putting this country more close to Moldova, divided Cypress or a divided Georgia; plus having in mind that he or she’s financially independent and sees international community and maybe your role more as an enemy than a partner? So what we can expect from United States with concrete measures, directions if such scenario happens? And I’m saying that especially because, when I saw Mr. Biden last time when he was here, we had huge expectations, but when he left, unfortunately, I think nothing had happened.
Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, answering your hypothetical – (laughter) – we support all of Bosnia-Herzegovina being part of a democratic, multiethnic state. And we do not support any secession or threats of secession from anyone because we think it is a losing proposition and it does not in any way reflect what our analysis has concluded, which is that Bosnia-Herzegovina together is much stronger, more able, and more likely to move toward an integrated European future than if it is coming apart. So we do not support and do not believe anyone should support any talk of separation.
We do recognize that there are problems that have to be overcome between the entities in order for the state to function better. When I supported the MAP, the so-called plan for membership in NATO, I said we have to solve some of these lingering problems, like what property belongs to the state and what property belongs to an entity.
And I believe strongly that leaders must take responsibility for resolving this. You have come too far, you have too much to lose if you cannot overcome these differences. So I just met with the tri-presidency and we discussed very frankly these kinds of remaining challenges. Underlying these problems, you know better than I, there is lingering mistrust and suspicion of one another. And I can only hope that more is done by civil society and by the government to break down that mistrust and overcome that suspicion. I worry that it’s just human nature, having gone through such a traumatic experience, to draw back and to become separate from the other communities.
I come from a country that is the most pluralistic in the world. That doesn’t mean we all love each other. That doesn’t mean that we all spend our time overcoming lingering cultural or historical or religious or ethnic problems. But it means that every single day, the vast majority of us go about our business without trying to make that situation difficult.
So I represented New York in the United States Senate. New York City is the most diverse city in the world. I have lost track of how many languages are spoken, how many religions are practiced. But we have a government that does not permit any one from impinging on the rights or from acting as though they can be a government unto themselves.
And I think Bosnia-Herzegovina is the most pluralistic place in Europe. And so it’s not only for your own future, but it’s to set that example to be in Europe a real signal that, yes, people from different backgrounds can live together as you once did. So yes, we are very much opposed to any efforts at secession, any efforts at separation, and more than that, we think it is not in the self-interest of those who advocate such action.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. The next question, the lady over there, please.
QUESTION: Hello, everybody. It’s an honor, Ms. Clinton. My name is (inaudible) and my question revolves around just that, on what we should do here in order to get more women into office, since that’s a huge problem where men hold all major positions and we are never even had women come close holding any of these high positions, let alone be president. So my question to you would be: How should we handle this and how do you think we should fight this in order to see more successful women high up like yourself here in Bosnia? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it won’t surprise you to hear that I’m very strong believer in women playing an active role in the public life of their country. And so for me, it just makes sense because women are half the population and have an enormous amount of talent and much to contribute. Many of you who are students in the universities and the high schools here are working hard to achieve your own personal goals. And I would like to see you given more opportunities to contribute to the future of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
So I think there are several things. One is a program that Aida knows called Vital Voices, which I helped to start about 15 years ago in the United States, brings women from Sarajevo or from other places in the world to learn some of the skills that are required to be in public life, because it is harder for women. I will certainly admit that. So you do need to have skills. You need to acquire the understanding of how to participate in a democracy or a bureaucracy, so that you’re fully prepared so that there cannot be any question whatsoever of your readiness to serve.
And then I think there’s no substitute for getting out there and trying. I have been involved in the political life of my country for a very long time, both with my husband and on my own. And I know how challenging it can be to be a woman in public life, but it’s also very rewarding. And we need more women in your country and elsewhere. So I would urge you to keep preparing yourself, educating yourself, learning how the system works, and being persistent – being persistent in your bureaucracies and being persistent in the parties, the political parties, and then even running for election.
In my own experience, I’ve run for election three times. I’ve won twice and lost once. And you do it out in public. It’s sometimes is very difficult because the expectations for women are still different than they are for men in these positions. But I think it’s important. So I would urge any young woman here who wants to play a part in the future of your country in the public life to do so.
But secondly, there are many ways to serve; serving in the private sector, helping to create jobs and economic opportunity by starting businesses, working in businesses, that’s also a great contribution. And in civil society, which is an equally important partner for any democracy. So starting NGOs, as Aida has, to help bring more women into the public arena.
So there are many different ways to serve, and I think it’s important that this country utilizes the talent of every one of its young people, men and women, to help build that better future.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. We’ll move on to this side, the lady over there in the white dress. Yes.
QUESTION: (Inaudible). My name is (inaudible) and I am fourth year of high school in Mostar. I speak in front of young people involved in the organization Civitas. Today, they are telling us that we will not have civic education in our schools anymore, and I don’t know how new generation will develop skills that they need so they could know how to participate.
So my question is: How important for the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina that all students have civic education and that they are educated on how to participate? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. It’s a very important question. I believe strongly in civic education and I think it’s particularly important in a pluralistic society like yours, where you do need to not only be informed about your history but about the way a democracy works, the way the institutions should be governed, what you should expect of your leaders, because I know very well that trying to get more effective, accountable government is critically important for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
So I think civic education is essential. I would also suggest that there needs to be more sharing of educational experiences among young people from different ethnic backgrounds. Many of you were very young when the war ended; you don’t remember what it was like when people lived together, when there were neighborhood streets where Croats, Bosniacs, and Serbs all were together, where they attended each other’s weddings, where they went to funerals together, where they were part of the same community. So I think that needs to be reintroduced. And I’m not saying it would be easy, but I think it’s essential.
We have seen in other countries that have come through periods of conflict that civic education, particularly including real-life experiences, where you can go from your medressa to the gymnasium from the university to a community center where you can begin to talk to each other as fellow human beings and try to overcome the vestiges of the past, can change minds, and maybe more importantly, change hearts.
So I hope that at the national level there is a commitment to civic education, and I hope at the civil society level there is a commitment to bringing people together across some of the lines that divide. Because, again, pluralism is not easy. A multiethnic democracy is not easy. But you have a chance to do it in a way that has never been done in Europe, and we stand ready to help. We have a lot of experience in my country with civic education, with getting people who are black and white or Hispanic or Asian or come from entirely different backgrounds to work together, to go to school together, to listen to each other. And we would be more than willing to share some of that experience with you.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Yes, the gentleman over there in the glasses.
QUESTION: Hi, I’m (inaudible). I’m a student of Sarajevo School of Science and Technology. Allow me to say how happy and joyful I am because you are here today with us. And my question would be: It’s obvious that we do have three nation – three ethnic groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and you said that we must build democracy, we must build democratic institutions, and I would most definitely agree with you. But how is that possible where one side, one nation, one ethnic group opposing to that idea, actually threatens the mere existence of Bosnia and Herzegovina?
And one hypothetical question, if I may. What would happen to an American senator or an American governor which is acting most disrespectful toward American flag or American statute or American nation? Why I am asking this is because we do have prime minister of Republika Srpska here, a very important figure, who is acting very disrespectful toward Bosnian flag, toward Bosnian nation statute, insignia, and soon. So – and most definitely no kind of a sanction is put upon him. And will you encourage international community or high representative to put any kind of sanction upon him? Thank you very much. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: You started by asking what happens in our country. You know, our country fought a civil war. Our country had many different challenges to its authority over time. And it is something that has to be overcome, and I do think that one of the best ways of changing the approach taken by leaders is to work to change the attitudes of the people that those leaders represent. That’s why I think moving toward the European Union and NATO as a means of unifying the nation makes so much sense.
Certainly, the United States has spoken out and will continue to speak out against anyone who undermines the progress and stability of Bosnia and Herzegovina. But ultimately, the decisions about moving forward have to be made internally. Outside pressure, outside criticism has a role to play, but it’s been my experience in working with many nations coming out of conflict over the years that eventually people have to sit down and work it out themselves.
Now, how do you do that? Well, I think you have to do it on two levels. You have to do it on, yes, the leader level, and that’s what I spoke to the tri-presidency about today. And I was very, very clear that there have to be actions taken that move the country toward greater stability, not destabilizing the country, but it also has to happen at what we call the grassroots level, the sort of citizen level up. And I don’t know what is already going on here, but I think there needs to be an organized effort to try to bring people together to sit in the same table.
And let me give you two examples. I did a lot of work in Northern Ireland, which had what were called the Troubles, where the Protestant and the Catholic communities did not want to live together and spent time fighting each other and killing each other. And I remember holding a meeting in Belfast in Northern Ireland, oh probably 12, 13 years ago, and I invited women – again, to go to the women’s point – I invited Catholic women and Protestant women to come and meet me together. Those women had never, ever sat down with a woman from the other community before.
And I began asking them, “What do you fear? What are your fears?” Because so often, it’s fear that drives people to make decisions that are disruptive. And one woman, a Protestant woman, said, “I’m afraid every morning when my husband goes to work he will not come back home because he will be killed.” And a Catholic woman said, “I’m afraid when my son goes out at night he will not come home because he will be killed.”
And I said, “Listen to each other. You have the same fears. You have to work together to overcome the danger and the conflict.” And over the years, because they were forced to sit together – and not just the leaders, because very often the leaders respond to a minority of their population. We have a saying, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” The people who are the most extreme in any community speak the loudest, get the most angry, and politicians sometimes gravitate to respond to that instead of trying to be statesmanlike.
So yes, you have to work with the leaders, but what we did was to create many groups where people began coming together to work on issues. If you don’t have a job, that’s not, in Northern Ireland, a Catholic or a Protestant issue and it’s not here a Bosniac, Serb, or Croat issue; it’s an economic issue, and you need more economic opportunities for everyone.
So I think the outside can criticize, and will, and maybe even try to take some actions that might or might not make a difference, but ultimately, leaders and citizens have to figure out how you overcome this. And you therefore have to be able and willing to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. So those Northern Ireland women and men who, like you, are not really of different ethnicities but are of different religions, which so defines your life and so defines who you are historically, they finally decided they could have a better future working together than arguing and fighting and killing each other.
So the killing has stopped here, but the cooperation has not taken hold across those lines to the extent it needs to. So we are more than willing to work with groups here, to work with universities and schools, to come up with ideas where we get people to have to talk together. I’m not saying it’s an answer to everything, but I don’t see any answer without it being a part of what you do. And I hope that with the new government coming in, with some of the statements that I’ve heard from some of those who have been recently elected, we have a chance to really work on this together. And I pledge to you that we will.
MODERATOR: Thank you for this message. Yes, the lady in the red skirt, please.
QUESTION: Thank you. My name is (inaudible) and I am the student of the American University in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I have a question about what advice can you give to young Bosnians here who suffered through the past war about segregations in our rural educational system? It’s really a bad issue. What advice can you give to young Bosnians how to make our country more stronger and how to integrate our country without having those segregations in our educational system? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s a question that I think really deserves a lot of thought from your educational leaders and others as well. If you are so segregated during your school years that you do not have any interaction with people from another community, it’s very hard to get the country as integrated as it needs to be.
Now, people can not only do a better job of creating educational experiences, particularly at the university level, but additional extracurricular experiences like what I was just referring to. Look for ways for young people to interact across these lines and come up with organizations that bring people together around their interests, bring people together around some goal that is set. And we’ve seen where this can be very helpful.
I’ll give you another example from Northern Ireland. We brought people together around something very simple, building a playground in an area between two communities that were literally walled off from each other, getting people from the Irish Catholic and the Protestant (inaudible) community to work together to build this playground. It sounds very simple, but it’s those little things that can begin to break down barriers. So then when mothers and fathers brought their children to play, they had to interact with each other.
I think that there is a long list of ideas that we can work with you on that we can offer to you. But again, it has to be done by you. I mean, the United States can hope for your future, but we cannot make it. That is up to you. But we can share with you ideas of what we’ve seen work, in fact, what we’ve seen work in my own country. You know the history of the United States. We had slavery, we fought a civil war, then we had many decades where black people were not given their rights, where if they moved into a neighborhood people would burn crosses on their lawn, or would move out so that they wouldn’t have to live next door to a person who was black.
So we know how hard this is, but I can only tell you that steady, relentless effort works. So now we have an African American president. We have someone who could never have been elected in my country just a short while ago. And I ran against him, as you know. I tried to beat him. (Laughter.) And he won, and then when he won, he asked me to work with him. Now, in many countries, that would still seem like such a strange idea. If you’re in a political contest, it should be a zero-sum game, winner takes all. But that’s not how we see it, and I’m often asked how could I go to work for President Obama after trying to defeat him. And the answer is simple: we both love our country. And at some point, that has to be the mindset that develops here. And it comes from small steps, not just big ones but small, many hundreds of thousands of small steps. And I hope that you will think about this and I hope you will let our ambassador know how we can help you, because we have lots of ideas from our own experience in our own country.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Lady – yes. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Hi, my name is (inaudible), Sarajevo Graduate School of Economics and Business. And since you said how the ambassador can help you, I have a specific question. So I want to know how the U.S. Embassy – would it be possible for the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo to work as a link, as a mediator, between our public universities and universities in the States. Because it’s very important to increase the number of incoming and outgoing students, and we have two problems. First one was a brain drain. We have a lot of young people who do get the international experience and never come back, so we need to do something to get them back here. For example, I also had the opportunity to study in the States and I came back.
And the second question is: What is the United States doing to change the perception, negative perception the world has since (inaudible) Bosnia and Herzegovina because – yes, for example, I mentioned the link between the universities because yesterday, for example, we had preliminary discussions with Duke University, but it would be much easier if we had the U.S. Embassy for the first contact and we’ll do the rest of the work. We just need the Embassy to be the first contact and to get the students coming to Bosnia and going abroad.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Great idea, and we will do it. Ambassador – write that down. (Laughter.) We will definitely do that. (Applause.) And I will go even further. I will assign someone in the State Department to work with the ambassador and to work with our universities in the United States, because I think you’re absolutely right; we need more interactions between our universities, we need more exchanges, we need more programs that we can share. So we will definitely follow up on that.
And secondly, I think – I don’t think people have a negative view of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I think that they are holding their breath. I think that there is a very positive feeling about what you overcame and the progress of the last 15 years. But as we would say, the jury seems to be out. Are you going to make the right decisions or, as the gentleman in the back asked, have problems that lead to more distrust, more division, and more paralysis. Obviously, I’m here because I’m betting that you’re going to make the right decisions, and we want to help you do that. So I think that the attitude, at least in the United States, towards your country is positive but unsure about what comes next and how best to help.
We know that there are some big problems that many countries have that you’re fighting, corruption being one. Corruption is a big cancer in so many societies. I want to attract more American businesses to Bosnia and Herzegovina. In order to do that, they have to believe that it’s a good climate to do business. So we’ve got to cut through all the red tape. You’ve got to make it easier for people here in the country as well as coming from outside. There are so many ways of doing that and one thing that I would just underscore, and it comes from Sasa’s questions from Facebook, with technology today, you can streamline government services, you can hold leaders accountable, you can share information about what’s working and what’s not working in ways that my generation could not. Again, just a few examples.
In a society as closed as Syria, technology is forcing it open. Just in the last month, students began complaining about teachers who didn’t show up and teachers who were physically abusive in the classroom. And all the teachers work for the state. Nobody listened to the students. So the students began recording it and putting it on YouTube. And all of a sudden, the government paid attention.
Or in Colombia, which has had a running battle with the drug traffickers and the insurgents called FARC, many people killed, kidnapped, terrible abuses, a young man called for a huge rally. He did it all on the internet, called for young people to come and demonstrate against the drug traffickers. Thousands and thousands of people showed up. So you actually have more power because of technology than previous generations did, and using that technology to improve accountability, to report corruption, to streamline government, to cross divided lines. Like suppose you started Facebook sites where people of the different backgrounds here would actually talk to each other in an honest conversation, not sugar coating it, but saying I need to understand why you feel this way, or why can’t you participate more constructively in a positive future? There are lots of things you can do right now without waiting to be finished with your education, without waiting to be part of the government or the political-economic leadership.
So I think that your question is a good one because you can help change the attitude about Bosnia and Herzegovina within the country and around the world by using technology.
MODERATOR: And before we move to the next question, we’ve seen some new ideas here from young people and so many questions. How encouraging do you see it is for the future of the country?
SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s so encouraging. It’s incredibly encouraging to me. I mean, I do these events around the world and this is one of the best group of questions that I’ve ever had. And I think it just goes to prove what I happen to believe, that this country has unlimited potential.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. The next question, lady, please.
QUESTION: First of all, it’s a pleasure to have you here, Lady Secretary. My name is (inaudible) and I’m a State alumni. I was representing my country, Bosnia and Herzegovina, two years ago in the Ben Franklin Summer Institute which brought together youth from 45 countries all over Eurasia and United States to foster positive relationships between us. And so we had various ethnical, national, and religious groups there.
Since the program is time limited, I was wondering would the American Government be interested in supporting or creating more programs, more similar programs which would gather youth from every single continent, so not only Eurasia and United States, so that they can have a chance to experience something like that? Because that was easily the best experience I’ve ever had. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Could I ask you a question before you sit down? When you say it was the best experience, what did you learn from it? Why do you think it would be important for the United States to support it or programs like it?
QUESTION: Main thing that we learned was to choose tolerance over intolerance, to work with each other to respect everyone equally. I mean, we have – we had participants from Kosovo and from Serbia at the same time, and they didn’t care about the issues that their countries are going through because they realized, okay, we are friends, we can have a dialogue, we can interact together; it’s not a problem if you really want to do it. So I think that’s the main thing that we learned there.
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s a great phrase: Choose tolerance over intolerance. I will remember that. And I will follow up on what you’ve said, because I agree with you. Programs like this, which is what I have been suggesting, the United States can help support and we will do so. And I can’t speak to the specific program, but programs like that where young people have a chance to interact with each other, listen to each other, learn from each other, and as you say, choose tolerance over intolerance, is a high priority of mine. So we will work on that.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: So now I have all this homework from you. (Laughter.)
MODERATOR: The young lady over there, please.
QUESTION: I apologize, but first of all I’ll have to go back to what you said about President Obama and yourself. You said that you like or you love the same state, and I have to say that, unfortunately, this is the major problem that we have. Our politicians, more often than not, prefer other countries over our own country. So for the – I just had to comment on that. And my question for the sake of my children and for the sake of all future generations is: Do you see a Bosnia and Herzegovina with one single president and a less complication administration?
MODERATOR: Thank you, lady, but I didn’t hear your name, please.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first of all, speaking for myself, I would like to see constitutional reform in Bosnia-Herzegovina that would lead to a more effective and functioning government. Remember, the current framework was created to end a war, and it did so. And for that, I think we should all be grateful. But now, with 15 years of experience, I do think constitutional reform would be beneficial. But again, it’s not something that can be imposed from the outside; it has to be generated from the leaders and the people here.
But as to your first question – yes, it is true that we both love our country, but I think it’s also fair to say that in different parts of our own history, not only could Barack Obama not have been elected president, I would not have been permitted to vote. My own mother was born before women could vote in the United States, so we had to overcome a lot of these obstacles in our own history. And that is what I’m really urging each of you to think through, because there isn’t any obstacle that cannot be overcome if people of goodwill are attempting to do so. So that in the future, your children will have the feeling that they are part of one nation, and that in that nation exists diversity.
That’s what I – one of the reasons I love my own country so much, because it is so diverse. I can walk down the street in New York and I can see people from everywhere. And those people work hard every day to live their own lives and get along with each other. Now, sometimes, something terrible happens – some crime is committed, some discrimination occurs – but we have systems now in place that we didn’t have 100 years ago or even 50 years ago. We now have systems in place to guard against that and to hold people accountable. So that’s what I hope you can move toward, because I do believe it will benefit each of the individuals in Bosnia-Herzegovina. And I think the sum of the parts is greater than the individual parts, but that takes a lot of work. And so I hope that your children will certainly appreciate and enjoy that.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Now it seems that we have time only for one more question. Gentleman, yes.
SECRETARY CLINTON: So many hands, I’ll have to come back. (Laughter.) We’ll have to do a progress report.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Here, I’ll take both of them really quickly. Both men are standing. I’ll take both. Okay?
QUESTION: Okay. I am (inaudible). I’m a high school student. As you surely know, our educational system is on a low level. The United States and many countries have helped Bosnia in these past 15 years to encourage students and educational system, but that was not so effective. I want to know if United States have a new, stronger plan that will encourage students to stay in Bosnia and build a career exactly in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
As you know – as you probably know, the constitution of (inaudible) in our colleges is 99 percent theory and 1 percent practical work, so we need more practical work. Is the – has the United States any plan to encourage students and get our educational system better than it is right now?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We are prepared to help in any way. And I think the – that educational change and economic change go hand-in-hand, because, as you point out, when some people graduate from the university there are no jobs, and without the jobs, then people are going to leave. And you will have more opportunities to leave as you move closer to Europe. Visa liberalization will give you more opportunities to travel, obviously. So we want to support both educational reforms and economic reforms.
And as to your point about practical training, again, we are more than happy to work with your gymnasiums, your colleges, your universities, all of your educational institutions, to see how we could help on that as well. But I think that you’ve got to look at education and the economy together, because many of you are very fluent in English, which I’m quite impressed by, and that means you can go anywhere in the world, just about. So what you need are jobs that will take advantage of your education. So we have to look at both education and economic reform together.
QUESTION: Hillary Clinton, I am (inaudible) from the American University in Bosnia-Herzegovina. And in my university I go to classes with Serbian students, Croatian students, and Bosnian students, and I see all of them as my close friends and I fully agree with you that this country should be united. I see this flag over there that stands proudly next to the United States flag and I fully support this flag, and I love my country.
And I’ve heard you say several times, though, that you are against – strongly against secession, and I fully agree with this. I believe that we should be united as one nation. But I have – I’m a bit curious, though, about the opposing view that the United States seems to have with Kosovo and Serbia. I’m curious how does – how is it not possible that these two different ethnic groups cannot unite under one flag or cannot become one country the same way that all of us are one country and the same way that all of us used to be an even greater country more than two decades ago. So could you please say to us now your opinions and your country’s opinion on this? Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, and thanks for what you said about your educational experience at the American University. We’re very proud of the American University here in Sarajevo.
I think that if you have the interest, it would be worth reading at least the digest or the findings of the International Court of Justice ruling on Kosovo, because it was a unique situation recognized by the United Nations Security Council as leaving open the door for independence. And I think it’s a 10,000-page order. So I have not read 10,000 pages, but I’ve read the analysis of it.
I am a recovering lawyer, we say. I used to be a lawyer and a law professor in another life. And the factual basis for that decision is very well founded. And there is nothing in the experience here that is any way comparable. So although people may have those feelings, there is no historical or legal or international basis for any decision to separate in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
So I think that it is – it’s a completely fair question and I would, because of your interest, recommend that you look at the opinion because the judges in the International Court of Justice were very clear in going through all of the factors that lead to their decision. Those factors don’t exist here with the Republic of Srpska; it just is not a comparable situation.
I will add, however, that when I go to Belgrade and Pristina later in this trip, I am going to be strongly making similar points that I’ve made: They have to work better together; they have to resolve their differences; they have to have a more cooperative relationship. So even though, Kosovo has now been legally declared an independent state that doesn’t mean that there should not be continuing efforts to overcome differences between Kosovo and Serbia.
I am personally very encouraged by the actions that the Serbian Government has been taking which demonstrate a commitment toward European Union membership, which I think Serbia is an excellent candidate for. And with Kosovo, they have to do some more internal work to improve their own governance and improve their own economy.
So the entire Balkans has a lot of work to do. And yet, I think that work is doable and the United States stands ready to help. But I have to say, as much as I want to see progress in Serbia and Croatia, which is moving as well very quickly – Kosovo – I am particularly hopeful and very committed to what you’re doing here in Bosnia-Herzegovina because what you are trying to do is really hard. And it can only be achieved if everyone at every level of society is committed to the enterprise.
But I’m not just saying this because I have this hope and this aspiration, this vision for what you can do. It’s because I believe, based on all of the analysis that I have done, that a united nation under that flag can be an incredibly powerful presence in Europe. Your diversity will be your strength. Your pluralism will be your ticket to greater opportunity. You will attract more investment, more people will be intrigued by and wish to study and work and invest in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
So if you can overcome the remnants of divisiveness, there is no limit to your future. If you cannot, then I fear you will find yourself in a state of paralysis and any attempt to be a separate country will fall because there will be no recognition, there will be no willingness to work with that entity, but a united Bosnia-Herzegovina will have a tremendous future. And that’s my hope for you and I am anxious to assist you in doing so.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you all for taking part in this very important event. Good bye. (Applause.)