Remarks With Bosnian Presidency Chairman Bakir Izetbegovic and EU High Representative Lady Catherine Ashton

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
October 30, 2012

MODERATOR: (In Bosnian.)


SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you President Izetbegovic and (inaudible). Sorry, I was thanking the Presidents for welcoming me back to Sarajevo. It is wonderful to be here again. I was here two years ago, and at that time, I expressed the commitment of the United States of America to a stable, prosperous, democratic, and multiethnic Bosnia-Herzegovina. We remain deeply committed to that goal, and I am pleased to be here with the High Representative Cathy Ashton, because it’s important that we convey a united message to the people of this country.

The United States shares with the European Union a vision of a peaceful, stable, prosperous Bosnia-Herzegovina that is fully integrated into the Euro-Atlantic institutions. We believe that joining the European Union and NATO offers this country, especially the young people of this country, the best path to lasting stability and prosperity. We have no doubt that Bosnia-Herzegovina belongs in Europe. And we also believe strongly that the young people, some of whom I was privileged to meet with two years ago, deserve that kind of future.

Now since my visit in 2010, there has been some progress toward these goals. Last month’s local elections showed the strength of the people’s commitment to their own future. Free and fair elections, including voting rights for internally displaced people and returnees, are a key element of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s future as a member of the EU and of the Euro-Atlantic Alliance.

We are here today to urge that all of the leaders of this country find common ground and act in the interests of the people. Obstacles that the country faced when I was last here still remain. Key reforms have not yet been made. Party differences stand in the way of shared progress. Now, as I know very well, coming from a political background in the United States, political compromise is rarely easy, but it is absolutely necessary. And so we hope that that compromise, which demonstrates brave and courageous leadership, can be made in order to move the country forward.

In addition, it is totally unacceptable that, 17 years after the war ended, some still question Bosnia-Herzegovina’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Such talk is a distraction from the problems facing the country and serves only to undermine the goal of European integration. The Dayton Accords must be respected and preserved, period.

The choice to make the necessary reforms and move beyond narrow political interests does not, however, belong to either the United States or the European Union. It belongs to you, the people and leaders of Bosnia-Herzegovina. And as I conveyed in our meetings today, that future must be shaped by you, but the United States stands with the people in urging that the leaders do the business of the people and move forward.

The United States is very proud of our relationship with Bosnia and Herzegovina. We were your partner through the Dayton process, we worked together to repair infrastructure destroyed by war, to bring to justice those who committed war crimes, to honor the victims, including those who died in the genocide at Srebrenica so they will never be forgotten and the lessons can be learned that this will never, ever happen again. We are invested in your future success.

So we are here today to urge leaders to put aside their political differences, put aside the rhetoric of dissolution, secession, denial of what tragically happened in the war, for the sake of the future of the young people of this country. That is the solemn obligation of any leader in the world today. And we call on all, particularly the people, to demonstrate your commitment to tolerance, diversity, and inclusiveness. That is the path to a multiethnic, democratic Bosnia-Herzegovina that is a member of the European Union, a member of NATO, a part of Europe that is whole, democratic, and free. That is the future that we know the people of this country want, and the United States will continue to work with you to achieve it. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Ms. Clinton. Ms. Ashton, the floor.

HIGH REPRESENTATIVE ASHTON: Thank you very much President Izetbegovic, Madam Secretary, Hillary, everyone. It’s a great delight to be back in this fabulous city of Sarajevo, and to do so with Secretary Clinton to underline our strong joint commitment to the future of Bosnia-Herzegovina. We want to see a united, stable, prosperous, multiethnic country that takes its rightful place in the European and transatlantic structures. I want to be clear that there’s no doubt amongst the 27 member-states of the European Union that your future is in the European Union. I want to underline that European Union perspective to say that it’s real and it has unanimous support.

I’m also here to say that action is required from the country’s political leaders to make that European Union future real, to achieve what the overwhelming majority of citizens here want. It’s important to look beyond the domestic divisions, the political rivalries, and the vested interest. Otherwise, this country risks being left behind by other countries in the region who are making strong progress towards the European Union. I believe people here want the real pressing challenges – the economy, jobs, the rule of law – to be addressed. There’s no time to waste on unproductive debates, such as those which question the statehood of this country.

Today, I’ve encouraged the presidency to work together with all political forces to achieve quick and concrete progress on the EU agenda. I believe the first priority is to put into effect the European Court of Human Right’s ruling on the Sejdic-Finci case. That will allow the EU to put into force our stabilization and association agreement and for Bosnia-Herzegovina to take further steps in EU integration, including a credible membership application.

In June 2012, the political leaders here agreed a roadmap to implement the key requirements and move this country towards Europe. This roadmap remains key to show the commitment to EU integration, and we want to see effective and determined action from the authorities. Of course, we’re ready to provide any help, and you will have our continued support and advice on your journey to the European Union. We want this country – we want Bosnia-Herzegovina – to succeed. Most importantly, we know it can. Thank you.

MODERATOR: (In Bosnian.)

QUESTION: (In Bosnian.)

HIGH REPRESENTATIVE ASHTON: Well, you’re right. The purpose of our visit is to show the united approach of the EU and the United States of America and the importance we attach to this country and its future and its success. We’ve outlined in our discussion with the Presidents the elements that we believe need to happen in order for the country to move forward. They’re well known in terms of dealing with the immediate issues and also of recognizing the importance of political leadership to take the country forward. And we really hope that the message that will go out from this meeting is the strength of our support, but also the urgency of our action.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first let me say that our goals are exactly the same. We want to see Bosnia-Herzegovina move toward the multiethnic, stable, prosperous democracy anchored in Europe and the Euro-Atlantic Alliance that is reflected in every report about the views and aspirations of the people yourselves.

Secondly, I can speak on behalf of NATO and can reiterate what the President said. There was an agreement last March about a way forward that would give you MAP, the action plan for membership. The constitutional court has clarified any remaining legal doubt about how to resolve the state property issue. Therefore, if there can be final decision coming out of the presidency in November, I will personally go to the NATO Ministerial in Brussels in December to push for MAP to be given to you.

We also strongly support the EU roadmap that Cathy Ashton has spoken to. So there is absolute unity in our goals. We want to see you in NATO, and we want to see you in the EU. But we have been – I will be honest with you – frustrated that your leadership has not, fairly, in our view, reflected the aspirations of the great majority of your people to move quickly toward NATO and EU.

So yes, is there a political crisis? There is. And that political crisis can only be resolved by leadership. Are there some structural issues that need to be addressed through constitutional reform? Yes, there are. Dayton was intended to end the war and begin the process of state building. We want to see the necessary constitutional changes that would give you greater flexibility and functionality, decided upon by the leaders and the people of the country.

But we’re here today with an unequivocal strong message: We are united in our goals to see you in NATO and EU as quickly as you possibly can, and we worry that if you do not make progress, you will be left behind in the rest of the region. We leave here and go to Belgrade. Belgrade is on the path for Serbia to become a member of the EU. We will then go to Pristina. Kosovo is on the path for a lot of positive changes. You’ve already seen Croatia go into the EU. You’ve got other neighbors who are making progress. This country has more potential than anyone if you will do what is necessary. That is our message.

MODERATOR: Thank you. (In Bosnian.) We will take one more question.

QUESTION: Yes. Brad Clapper from Associated Press. Sorry for being unable to rise. (Laughter). Lady Ashton, a month ago in New York, you were instructed or asked by the Security Council members and the P-5+1 to reach out to Iran’s nuclear negotiator Jalili and then with the hopes of restarting the P-5+1 negotiations. I wanted to ask you where you are in the process and where you see the space for a possible agreement in the future. And Madam Secretary, your thoughts on that process and where you see the possible area for convergence, and if you have any reactions to Ukraine’s elections as well. Thank you.

HIGH REPRESENTATIVE ASHTON: As you know, in New York, I was feeding back to the P-5+1/E-3+3 ministers on the discussions I’d been having with Dr. Jalili, who is the chief negotiator for the Iranians, on how to move forward. It is, as you know, my view that we have a twin-track approach of pressure and negotiation. The pressure you’ll have seen most recently in new rounds of sanctions from the European Union, and we continue to try and find ways to move forward on our negotiations.

Over the weekend, there was a contact between my deputy and Dr. Jalili’s deputy, and I will be making contact with Dr. Jalili in the near future. And I will continue to do everything I possibly can to move these negotiations forward, and I am pleased to do so with the full support of the ministers from the P-5+1/E-3+3, which is enormously important if we’re to make the progress I’d like to make.

MODERATOR: Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Let me just add that we so appreciate Cathy’s leadership in a unified P-5+1 approach, our dual-track approach, as she mentioned. So our message to Iran is clear: The window remains open to resolve the international community’s concerns about your nuclear program diplomatically and to relieve your isolation, but that window cannot remain open indefinitely. Therefore, we hope that there can be serious, good-faith negotiations commenced soon.

Regarding Ukraine, we share the view of the OSCE monitors that Sunday’s elections constituted a step backward for Ukrainian democracy. It was a step backward from the parliamentary elections and the 2010 presidential election. And we reiterate our deep concern that the politically motivated convictions of opposition leaders, including former Prime Minister Tymoshenko, prevented them from running and standing in these elections, and we call upon the Government of Ukraine to put an immediate end to the selective prosecution and detention of political opponents.

Like the rest of Europe, the people of Ukraine deserve so much better. They deserve to live in a country with strong democratic institutions, that respects the rule of law, and these elections did not advance those goals. So the United States remains committed to the people of Ukraine. We want to work with them to strengthen their democracy, sovereignty, and independence of their state, as we have for more than 20 years. And we call upon the leadership to stop the backward slide that Ukraine is in and start, once again, living up to the aspirations of the Ukrainian people, and the United States will stand with them as they do.

MODERATOR: Excellencies, thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, press conference is over. Thank you very much.

PRN: 2012/T73-07