As prepared for delivery
President Josipovic, Prime Minister Kosor, honored guests, thank you for inviting me to speak in the wonderful city of Dubrovnik. I am very pleased to be here, with Senator Begich, to participate in this important event.
I know that a number of my colleagues, including former Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg and Assistant Secretary Phil Gordon, have found this forum a unique opportunity to engage with regional leaders and I look forward to discussions with colleagues throughout the next two days. Even as we face so many challenges elsewhere in the world, the Obama Administration has a particular and enduring attachment to the Balkans, and the United States remains deeply committed to helping this region achieve our common goals.
I am especially glad to have the opportunity to celebrate with you 20 years of Croatian independence and your tremendous June 30th success in meeting the requirements to accede to the European Union. You, the leadership and people of Croatia, deserve enormous credit for meeting the exacting criteria of the European Union. The United States has supported you through every step of this process and I hope you will not mind if we take some pride in your accomplishment.
I’d also like to congratulate the European Commission for its vision, patience and persistence in opening the doors of the EU to the countries of the Western Balkans and assisting them through the process. Croatia will soon be the newest member of the EU, but we eagerly await the day when the remaining countries of the region are able to join as well and we stand ready to assist them. Drawing on its successful experience, Croatia can and I am sure will play a special role in supporting the efforts of neighboring countries to join the EU and NATO.
All of the countries of the Western Balkans have committed themselves to the European project. All are agreed that European and Euro-Atlantic integration represent the best path forward for the region. In our view, until the process of European integration has brought all of the countries of the region into the fold, the vision of a Europe whole, free, democratic and at peace will remain unrealized. Whether you are a NATO member, a NATO candidate, or a member of Partnership for Peace, we look forward to partnering with you in addressing the full range of security challenges that the twenty-first century presents. On that note, we thank Croatia for your contributions to our common struggle in the world’s most challenging battlefield, Afghanistan.
Croatia’s success demonstrates that progress that can be made, albeit with hard work and sacrifice, to advance the interests of the region’s citizens. The momentum that comes with this transition for Croatia should be encouraged and cultivated throughout the region. It will be important for Croatia to continue working with neighbors to resolve outstanding regional issues such as missing persons, refugees and disputed boundaries. In Croatia’s current success, I think we can all see future opportunities for this region.
Another important lesson is that this success was reached only after Croatia and Slovenia found a way to address a contentious bilateral issue through negotiation and compromise. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Pahor and Prime Minister Kosor, they resolved their differences the European and the modern way, which we hope will be a model for the entire region as it moves along the path of Euro-Atlantic integration.
We also admire and support the efforts of President Josipovic and Prime Minister Kosor to reach out to former adversaries. You and your Serbian colleague President Tadic have shown great courage in making a firm commitment to resolve the issues resulting from a war that wrought terrible destruction and caused the displacement of a quarter million people. I am even more encouraged by the bold approach you have taken in the battles against corruption and organized crime. You have created a legislative and political framework that enables prosecutors to do their jobs without fear or favor, and to go after corruption at the highest levels of government. This, too, has sent a message throughout the region that the days of impunity are numbered and the balance of power is shifting in favor of the rule of law. As we know from our own experience in the United States, the fight against corruption is a never ending battle and the safeguarding of democracy requires constant vigilance. Thus we count on Croatia to maintain an undiminished commitment to the cause of reform in the years to come.
We also recognize your efforts in helping your neighbor, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Because we are deeply invested in peace and justice in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the United States strongly stands by the Dayton Agreement and we remain committed to helping Bosnia and Herzegovina succeed.
Nine months after its national elections, there is still no state government in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We are deeply disappointed, like all of you, that elected leaders continue to put personal, political, and sectarian interests above the national interest and the best interests of their citizens. The international community is prepared to help, but this effort cannot succeed unless the leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s parties display the courage to put the interests of the people ahead of their pride and their fears.
We will strongly oppose challenges to the Dayton Agreement and rhetoric that advocates Republika Srpska independence or secession for the Republika Srpska. Republika Srpska is a constituent part of Bosnia and Herzegovina and secession or independence is inconsistent with the Dayton Agreement. We support robust entities in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the decentralized government structure established in the Dayton Agreement, but moves toward or even threats of secession set back prospects for European integration and destabilize the neighborhood. We welcome efforts by the EU and Croatia to focus Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leaders on the steps needed to realize their country’s European future.
I applaud President Tadic for the impressive strides Serbia has made toward EU accession and for his efforts to reform its judiciary and combat organized crime. The recent arrest of Ratko Mladic speaks volumes about Serbia’s commitment to justice. It was individuals – not nations – who committed the horrible crimes of the 1990s, and it is individuals – not nations – who must be held accountable. We await the arrest of the last remaining at-large Yugoslav war crimes indictee, Goran Hadzic; with him facing justice in The Hague, Serbia will have met its remaining obligations to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Continued cooperation with the Tribunal, when coupled with further progress on internal reforms, will make Serbia a strong candidate for the European Union. In this regard, we applaud President Tadic’s attendance last year at the 15th anniversary ceremonies for the victims of the genocide at Srebrenica and his visit this week to Sarajevo to promote regional cooperation.
But Serbia also faces unique challenges in joining the European Union. Serbia needs to find a way to come to terms with the reality of Kosovo. It is inconsistent with EU standards for Belgrade to maintain a force of security officials within Kosovo, in violation of the UN Security Council’s resolution 1244. It is inconsistent with EU standards, and with the Central European Free Trade Agreement signed by Serbia, to prevent the export of goods from Kosovo.
The United States strongly supports the EU-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, and welcomes the first agreements reached. Both sides have indicated a willingness to discuss practical solutions that can improve the lives of everyone in Kosovo, a goal that brings benefits to the people of both Serbia and Kosovo. We applaud the recent agreements reached by Serbian and Kosovar negotiators on resolving freedom of movement and civil registry issues. The United States Government supports the view taken by a number of EU member states, that if Serbia is to advance on EU candidacy this year, the dialogue should first produce positive results – not only in the technical issues under discussion but also on issues pertaining to the north of Kosovo. Northern Kosovo cannot be allowed to develop into a frozen conflict. The people of northern Kosovo deserve to live in a place where government provides services, where their rights and property are respected and where they can build a future for their children—no matter what their ethnicity.
In order to join Croatia in its European future, Serbia should continue to join with the region in reconciling itself with its past and adapting to the present. For centuries, Serbs have lived in every corner of this Balkan Peninsula. And for centuries, dozens of other ethnic groups have lived within Serbia. Like every other state in the region, Serbia is capable of functioning as a multi-ethnic democracy, respecting the democratic and cultural rights of every ethnic group in its territory. And like every other ethnic group in the region, Serbs must be able to enjoy their democratic and cultural rights in whatever state they live, while respecting the sovereignty of that state. This is the reality of twenty-first century Europe — it is one of the founding principles of the European Union and a core element of the European zone of peace. Assertions that Serbs cannot live a free and normal life in independent Kosovo call into question the capability of the entire region, including Serbia, to function as multi-ethnic democracies.
Let’s be clear: there is simply no possible way for borders in this region to be re-drawn along ethnically clean lines. If such a process is set in motion, there is no way that it can be confined to a single boundary line in the Balkans, and there is no way that it can end peacefully. Any rhetoric calling for the partition of Kosovo and questioning the ability of people of different ethnicities to live together is harmful to regional reconciliation and will not advance Serbia’s strategic goal of European integration. Let us be equally clear that the United States stands strongly behind a commitment to multi-ethnic societies and respect for cultural rights.
This principle applies to Kosovo as well. It has a considerable way to go to realize its aspiration of EU membership, but its social and democratic progress in three years since independence has been dramatic. Kosovo’s sad recent history does not, of course, grant it automatic admission to Europe, but with our continuing support. It needs to do the hard work of nation-building. Kosovo has strengthened its democratic credentials during the past year, weathering a series of constitutional crises and emerging a stronger democracy as a result. Kosovo is tackling its economic reform agenda, but like other post-socialist societies, is struggling to wean its people off of a strong central government. Kosovo should of course match its spending to its means and we look to its leadership to continue to take the hard decisions necessary to secure the country’s economic future.
But although the hardest task falls to regional actors, outside actors, including the United States, also have important responsibilities in integrating the Western Balkans into Europe. I cannot think of a time in our diplomatic history when the United States worked so effectively with our European Union colleagues, both with the Commission and bilaterally. This is a demonstration of our commitment to a joint effort in attending to Europe’s “unfinished business” in the Balkans. As we support Europe’s post-Lisbon structures, we will continue to forge a constructive U.S.-EU partnership on the Western Balkans. Our mutual commitment to the same goal is unwavering – full participation of all the countries of the Western Balkans in European institutions.
The United States is committed to working with the region and our EU partners to develop the enormous potential and promise of the Balkans. Across the region, the United States invests politically and financially in supporting this challenging work — from events such as the Brown Forum, held here in Dubrovnik in April, that addressed ways to build economic partnerships and increase the attractiveness of the region as an investment destination, to working with political parties and civil society across Bosnia and Herzegovina as they seek to overcome debilitating differences and build consensus in their country. We will continue to do so. We believe strongly in the power that comes with regional cooperation on issues of importance to all, whether that is combating organized crime, attracting foreign investment, or improving the region’s transportation and infrastructure. We all need to do more to promote regional cooperation and integration as the cornerstones of a stronger and more prosperous future for the region.
To this end, we, as international partners with keen interests in the region, must continue our strong engagement with the region, and must be committed to maintaining our assistance to the countries of the region. So, again, I applaud Croatia on the aptly chosen topic of this summit, “Finalizing the Transition.” I look forward to the discussions that will explore how we can all work together to enhance the political, economic and civil reforms started in the region to bring all the countries of the region to their European future and much-deserved peace and prosperity. And I look forward very much to working with all of you in the months and years ahead.
Thank you very much. It really is an honor and a pleasure for me to be back in Sarajevo, particularly with so many good friends and colleagues in the room. This conference comes at a very timely moment. I am glad to see Bosnia and Herzegovina getting the high-profile attention it deserves and to be able to lend the voice and perspectives of the United States to the discussion.
Let me begin by thanking the conference hosts for having me here and for organizing this conference: The Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University SAIS, especially Executive Director Dan Hamilton, and the America-Bosnia Foundation, especially President Sasha Toperich. CTR and the America-Bosnia Foundation are uniquely equipped to put on such a conference and they have done a superb job of assembling an outstanding group of scholars and practitioners. I would also like to thank the conference sponsors, including the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo, led by Ambassador Patrick Moon, who is also here today. Indeed, it is a tribute to the importance and timeliness of this conference that in a difficult economic climate, so many internationally renowned foundations – 15 in all from the United States and Europe – have so generously contributed. Finally, let me thank Mike Haltzel, not just for organizing this conference but for his long and constant dedication to Balkans issues, first in the United States Senate and more recently in his role at SAIS.
I first visited Sarajevo in 1994, at a time when Bosnia and Herzegovina was still in the grips of the terrible war that would take the lives of over 100,000 people and displace millions of others. I don’t need to remind this audience of the horrors that took place during those dark years or of all the hard work Bosnians have done since then to rebuild this country. The United States and NATO, particularly, made an enormous investment in peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina. And with our help, but mostly as a result of your own efforts, Bosnia and Herzegovina has come a long way since.
For the United States, our commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina is an integral part of our long-standing commitment to a Europe that is whole, free, democratic, and at peace. We believe strongly in the idea that all of Europe must join the Euro-Atlantic institutions and realize the benefits of stability and prosperity. The Balkans are a critical part of Europe—historically, geographically and culturally and its future lies within the Euro-Atlantic institutions. The United States will always support an open door to the European Union and to NATO and we will always be ready to help countries to walk through that door.
As part of this commitment, we take pride in what we have done with and for the Bosnian people. And our commitment continues in the Obama Administration, as demonstrated by the persistent diplomatic attention that Bosnia and Herzegovina receives. Vice-President Biden came here on one of his very first trips as Vice President, in May 2009; Secretary of State Clinton traveled here this past October, and Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg has visited this country six times during his tenure, more than any other country in the world except Japan. Congress also takes a deep interest in developments here, as the frequent Congressional delegations to Sarajevo will attest.
Many officials in this administration have deep a personal connection with Bosnia. Our professional identities, our understanding of international diplomacy, and even our careers were forged in the crucible of the Balkans War of the 1990s. Over the years, the United States has sent tens of thousands of American soldiers and diplomats to establish and keep the peace. We’ve invested roughly 1.5 billion dollars to help rebuild, strengthen public institutions, foster better education and promote economic development. We provide $300 million a year to help Western Balkans countries meet EU and NATO requirements. We are deeply and personally invested in the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In short, we have been your friends. And friends sometimes need to speak to each other bluntly. Bosnia and Herzegovina has made great progress since the horrors of the 1990s. But it in the last four or five years, it has not moved in the right direction. There has been a dangerous rise in nationalist rhetoric. The institutions of the state and the Dayton settlement have been brazenly challenged. There have been attempts to roll back the reforms that are necessary for Bosnia and Herzegovina to join the EU and NATO. In general, Bosnian politicians have been too willing to stoke ethnic fears and to privilege their own personal political interests over the needs of the people they are supposed to represent.
If this does not stop – and again I owe it to my friends here to be blunt – then Bosnia risks being left behind, as the rest of the region moves forward.
We can already see this happening. With the help of the international community, many states in this region are making progress: Slovenia joined the EU in 2004; Albania and Croatia joined NATO in 2009; Croatia’s EU candidacy is steadily advancing, following the favorable recommendation by the European Commission just last week. Macedonia will join NATO as soon as its name dispute is resolved. Kosovo recently celebrated the 3rd year of its independence and continues to progress as a multi-ethnic democracy. Montenegro, only five years since independence, already has EU candidacy status and is a full participant in NATO’s Membership Action Plan. Serbia has applied for EU candidacy and is making progress along that path, including through the recent arrest and extradition of Ratko Mladic.
Of course, all of these countries still have a lot of work to do to realize their aspirations: Serbia and Kosovo particularly need to advance in their dialogue and to work creatively to resolve their differences before they can move much further along their path to EU membership. Throughout the Balkans, people are free from violence, but they often do not have jobs. Hatreds have eased but dangerous nationalism and prejudice persists.
So Bosnia is hardly the only country in the region to face major challenges. But whereas other countries in the region are managing to make progress, however halting, in their efforts to join Europe—Bosnia and Herzegovina is not.
To get back on the right path, Bosnia must be able to function as a state that can deliver results for all of its citizens. Reforms are needed for their own sake, but they are also necessary to meet EU requirements and the country’s international obligations. Only greater integration into Europe will provide the stability and opportunity that the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina want for their children.
Bosnia’s leaders specifically need to make progress in three areas: government formation, respect for state institutions and the Dayton Framework, and governmental reform.
The first is state-level government formation. It has been eight months since the elections and this country still does not have a state-level government. Without a broad-based coalition government, Bosnia cannot make the decisions necessary to progress on the Euro-Atlantic reform agenda.
Efforts in the parliament to start the process for appointment of Chairman of the Council of Ministers are a step in the right direction. But it is disappointing that we still have not seen a serious initiative from any political party leader to form a governing coalition.
There is no time to lose. Unless a government is formed soon, the economic consequences will be felt far and wide. Moody’s has already downgraded the country’s credit rating from “stable” to “negative” due to the stalemate. Deficit spending will result in budget shortfalls in both entities later this year, but the IMF and other international financial institutions have made clear that Bosnia and Herzegovina will not be able to access additional lending until a new state government is in place. Pensioners, veterans and other vulnerable groups whose benefits have already taken a hit will see deeper reductions.
Every day that passes without a government Bosnia and Herzegovina falls further behind its neighbors and increases the risk that Bosnia and Herzegovina will fall off the European path. In this context, it is irresponsible for any party to block formation of a government based on maximalist demands, be it a claim on a certain number of positions in the Council of Ministers or for a specific ministerial appointment. All must be prepared to compromise. Those who refuse to consider any compromise are playing into the hands of those who seek to undermine Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capacity to function as a state. I will be meeting this afternoon with some of the major party leaders and will be looking forward to hearing from the constructive ideas about how to form a state-level government in the very near future.
The responsibility to form a government that can advance the well being of the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina should supersede any personal or political concern.
Respect for State Institutions and the Dayton Framework
Second, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s politicians need to demonstrate their commitment to the Dayton Framework and their willingness to abide by the decisions of state institutions.
Like other members of the international community, the United States has repeatedly reaffirmed our support for the Dayton framework – one state, two vibrant entities, three constituent peoples – to reassure all the peoples of the country that their future is secure within Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that the goal is a more functional — not a more centralized — country, capable of meeting European integration requirements.
Similar efforts at reassurance have been made by some politicians in Sarajevo, including by President Bakir Izetbegovic, who has made conciliatory statements and offered greater flexibility on key reforms required by NATO and the EU. In return, others have intensified separatist rhetoric and sought to undermine Bosnia and Herzegovina’s state institutions and OHR.
One of the most recent challenges to the state was the April 13 decision by the RS assembly to call a referendum on High Representative decisions and on the legitimacy of the BiH Court and Prosecutor’s Office.
The RS decision to step back from a referendum has headed off an immediate crisis. I hope that the leadership in Banja Luka uses this opportunity to reevaluate its approach—the challenges made by the RS assembly to the Dayton Framework are not acceptable. They are incompatible with the goal of European integration. The leaders and the people of the RS need to decide whether they want to have a relationship with the United States and with Europe or not.
Those who think they can outwait us and our Allies on the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board are wrong. As I have already made clear, the United States has a significant personal and political investment here. We will not give up on Bosnia and Herzegovina or its people.
We will continue to defend and strengthen existing state institutions, like the BiH State Court and Prosecutors Office, which are doing critical work to combat terrorism, organized crime and to bring war criminals to justice; and the Indirect Tax Administration, which had ensured a dedicated revenue stream for the BiH government.
We will continue to promote further reforms, including of the constitution, as are necessary for a functional state and for Bosnia and Herzegovina to meet EU accession requirements. And we will stand behind the High Representative and his decisions. We will not permit the closure of the Office of the High Representative until the agreed reform agenda is completed.
We also welcome the EU’s determination to play a leading role in supporting positive change and protecting against threats to stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina. EU High Representative Ashton has named Peter Sorensen, a senior diplomat with 15 years of experience in the Balkans, to lead this EU effort. As Secretary Clinton wrote last week in an article co-authored with UK Foreign Secretary Hague, the United States “will be strongly supportive of Ambassador Sorensen, using all of the levers available to achieve progress, while working in close partnership with the Peace Implementation Council and the Office of the High Representative.”
And we will be prepared to take measures against any individuals and organizations that threaten to undermine the stability, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. All levels of government in Bosnia must accept and respect Dayton.
Finally, Bosnia and Herzegovina must move forward with the governmental reforms necessary for NATO and EU integration.
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s future lies in its integration into Europe, specifically membership in NATO and the EU. Once the state level government is formed, we expect Bosnia and Herzegovina to move forward quickly to resolve the defense property issue so that it can participate in NATO’s Membership Action Plan. The EU has made clear that Bosnia and Herzegovina must take three steps in order to be considered for candidate status: establish a serious process to change the constitution to accommodate the Sejdic-Finci decision, act on state aid provisions, and conduct a census. In addition, Bosnia and Herzegovina needs a well-functioning government at the state level that will have the power to engage effectively with Brussels and to participate effectively in the EU accession process.
We are convinced this is possible while protecting and preserving the decentralized government structures established in the Dayton constitution.
But it will require reform, including of the constitution. The most immediate change necessary to comply with basic EU human rights standards following the European Court of Human Rights ruling in the Sejdic-Finci case. And there will need to be additional changes over the longer term to ensure the state has sufficient functionality and decision-making capacity to comply with EU and NATO standards. Although the EU accession process will be difficult, it is the only viable alternative for this country. Threats to abandon the process or not participate are incompatible with the needs of the people.
Reform is also imperative in the entities. The Federation has far more government than it can afford. Years of mismanagement, corruption and political infighting by the previous government have exacerbated the problem. Last year the government had to adopt emergency austerity measures just to avoid bankruptcy and the new Federation government still faces serious funding issues. The most recent EU progress report singled out the Federation in particular as being incompatible with EU accession criteria.
The new Federation government has gotten off to a good start. It has a fresh opportunity to make progress on privatizations, which have languished for years due to corruption and political infighting, as well as on education and economic reforms.
We regret that the HDZ parties declined to accept a compromise that would have included them in the coalition. No political party can claim the exclusive right to represent an entire ethnic group.
But we also recognize the concerns of those citizens who feel that the new government does not include representatives that they elected or who are committed to representing their interests.
It is incumbent upon the new government to demonstrate that it is acting in the interests of all of the entity’s citizens. It is understandable that Bosnian Croats, as the least numerous of the three constituent peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina, are concerned about their status within the Federation. But redrawing new internal boundaries to add a new entity or other layers of complexity to an already overly complicated government is unrealistic. We welcome recent steps by HDZ parties to participate actively in the Federation parliament.
The Republika Srpska faces its own serious economic challenges. The entity has exhausted all of its reserves from the RS telecom and oil refinery privatizations and now faces a $500 million deficit. Last year the RS economy grew at an anemic 1 percent. The forecast for this year is not much better. Provocative political rhetoric and attacks on the independence of the state judiciary is driving away foreign investment, which is a tenth of what it was just three years ago. The Republika Srspka would be much better off if its leaders focused more improving the economy and thus on serving the needs of the citizens rather than on promoting greater division within the country. A positive step would be to discuss with the Federation ways to harmonize their regulations and to promote inter-entity economic cooperation.
The Path to Europe
These steps together constitute a path toward Europe. If Bosnia and Herzegovina’s politicians make the necessary choices and compromises, we will be there to help with resources and political support. As Secretary Clinton said here in October, “The bonds between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the United States have been forged through harsh trials and historic triumphs and today we remain committed.”
But you should understand that our commitment will mean little if Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot summon the will to help itself. We stand ready to advise, assist and support, but we cannot do it alone. We need partners who share this vision and who are prepared to compromise for the greater good.
The people of Bosnia and Herzegovina deserve better; they deserve a Euro-Atlantic future. The young people of this country, particularly, want and deserve to join the European mainstream, to travel and work abroad, and to take advantage of all that the modern world has to offer. There are courageous actors in this country, many of whom are represented at this conference, who understand what needs to be done. Each of you has responsibility to work in interests of all Bosnians and Herzegovinians, to work across ethnic lines, and to avoid feeding ethnic fears. We are confident that, in so doing, you can overcome your divisions and build a European state, just like so many other Europeans before you.
No one can do this for you. But I can tell you that if you try, the United States will be with you every step of the way.
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Elaine. I’m delighted to be here. As some of you may know, I have a longstanding association with the Kokkalis Program, and I have a great deal of respect for the work the program does here at Harvard. In fact, one of the core goals of the program, the integration of Southeastern Europe into Europe as a whole, is precisely what I want to talk about today. This is a region that is vital to Europe’s future and for that reason it is the focus of continued and intensive engagement by the Obama Administration.
Obviously, Southeastern Europe is not an issue that dominates the headlines the way Afghanistan or Iran does – or indeed as it did in the 1990s when the Balkans were beset by war. But I want to be absolutely clear that the ongoing stabilization and integration into Europe of the area from the Adriatic to the Black Sea is an important focus of this Administration’s foreign policy agenda. And I want to begin my remarks by explaining how and why Southeastern Europe fits into our broader conception of European security.
Secretary Clinton gave a speech last month in Paris in which she laid out the principles that animate the Administration’s approach to European security. One of the core themes she emphasized was our commitment to the indivisibility of security – the view that there cannot be security for part of Europe without there being security for all of Europe. This is a clear lesson from history. She also made clear that, contrary to speculation in some quarters that the United States is preoccupied with other regions, Europe is an essential partner of the United States and our own security and well-being requires a strong and secure Europe.
As we consider this Administration’s strategic objectives with respect to Europe, we are pursuing three main goals. First, we seek to work with Europe on the whole range of global challenges that we face together. And on issues as diverse and important as Afghanistan, Iran, and restoring the global economy, we have shown that we are working together closely and productively.
Second, we have sought to restore more constructive relations with Russia. That means we want to cooperate where our interests converge, while still being honest and firm about issues where we disagree. We are proud of the progress we have made together in the last year in negotiating a follow-on to the START Treaty, working to help stabilize Afghanistan, establishing a binational Presidential Commission, and dealing with the nuclear challenges posed by Iran and North Korea.
Finally, we seek to complete the historic work of building a democratic, prosperous, unified, and secure Europe. The last two decades have witnessed extraordinary success as the newly free nations of Central and Eastern Europe have joined the European project. But it is a project that is not yet finished. To fully achieve European – and therefore American – security, it must extend to all countries across the continent.
Which brings me to this Administration’s specific approach to engagement with Southeastern Europe. We have a vision of a democratic, peaceful, and prosperous region and we believe the path to achieving this vision for Southeastern Europe is through integration into Europe’s political and economic institutions.
Perhaps the best way to understand the logic of this approach is to briefly consider the troubled history of this part of Europe. Think about what Southeastern Europe looked like at both the beginning and end of the twentieth century. The Balkan wars preceding World War I and those of the 1990s saw the region racked by ethnic rivalry, hyper-nationalism, and bloody interstate war. These conflicts demonstrate the stakes of politics in the region – for the citizens who live there and for outside powers that were inevitably drawn in. Though the experience of the 1990s differs in many ways from that of pre-World War I Europe, I think it is fair to say that the fundamental problem that lay behind this history of conflict was the mismatch between geopolitical and ethnic boundaries and the absence of adequate political mechanisms to deal with this mismatch. What this difficult history teaches us is that attempts to resolve this contradiction through force are doomed to foster only further conflict and violence.
Other parts of Europe have faced these same challenges, and the experience of Western Europe after World War II and Eastern Europe after the Cold War demonstrates that there is another and better way: the path of political and economic integration. The solution lies in transnational cooperation and institutions that guarantee the rights of citizens, promote economic freedom, ensure the inviolability of borders, and provide a reliable forum for the peaceful resolution of disputes. Moreover, the opportunity for political engagement that crosses national borders reduces the salience and pressure of ethnic and regional disputes within nations. That is the promise of the project of European integration: the peaceful resolution of disputes through a common political enterprise and shared wealth and opportunity through a common market. The lesson of the 1990s is that significant portions of Southeastern Europe did not share in this experience and we saw the tragic human consequences. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, our work is not yet done: we want to extend this vision to Southeastern Europe and fully integrate it into the zone of democracy, stability, and prosperity on the continent.
The progress we’ve seen in Europe over the last six decades owes to the hard work of generations of Europeans bolstered by the sustained engagement of the United States. Two institutions, above all, have acted as the twin pillars of European freedom and prosperity: NATO and the European Union. They have offered security and economic opportunity to the nations of Europe, underpinned by a commitment to democracy. They began as essentially Western European clubs and eventually enlarged to encompass almost the whole of the continent. The United States wants to work with our European partners to bring Southeastern Europe fully into these institutions. But the responsibility for bringing that outcome about does not lie with the United States. European countries and institutions of course have an essential role to play in engaging with the region in a strategic and sustained manner. But the responsibility ultimately lies with the countries of the region themselves who must do the hard political work of reform and reconciliation.
When we look at Southeastern Europe today, many of the same challenges that have bedeviled the region throughout the last century still exist: finding ways to protect minority rights and to create stable, multiethnic politics. But there has been tremendous progress as well. The Balkans are a case in point. When I was last in government, in the late 1990s during the Clinton administration, war in Bosnia was still a fresh memory and Kosovo was consumed by violence and ethnic “cleansing.” Today, following a decade of hard work, we have witnessed dramatic political and social transitions. With Montenegro’s peaceful separation from Serbia in 2006 and Kosovo’s declaration of independence in 2008, the final chapter in the breakup of the former Yugoslavia was closed. Now the nations of the Balkans are on the path toward integration into Europe’s community of political and economic freedom. Nearly every country in the Balkans has taken steps toward EU membership. Croatia has moved forward in its EU accession negotiations, Macedonia is a candidate, and Serbia and Albania have submitted membership applications. The European Union has an indispensable role to play in encouraging these countries’ commitment to reform by speaking with one voice on enlargement and by providing a clear path to membership. The countries of the region are also well on their way to integration with NATO. Croatia and Albania became members of NATO in 2009. Macedonia is on NATO’s doorstep and will receive an invitation to join as soon as the dispute with Greece over its name is resolved. At the end of last year, Montenegro embarked on a Membership Action Plan and Bosnia will do the same when it completes the necessary reforms.
The dramatic changes in the U.S. relationship with Serbia in the last decade are another example of the progress we have made. Just over ten years ago, the United States was bombing targets in Serbia. Last year, Vice President Biden traveled to Belgrade and delivered the message that the United States was ready to turn the page on this troubled recent past and wants to be a partner with Serbia. Serbia, in turn, is now led by the most democratic and pro-European government it has ever had. We support Serbia’s EU candidacy and the door to NATO membership for Serbia is open, if and when it is ready. While we have agreed to disagree on Kosovo, we should work together to improve the lives of Serbs and other minorities, and Serbia needs to do its part to ensure stability in Kosovo as a responsible EU aspirant. I sincerely believe that, with good will on both sides, U.S.-Serbian relations could be a model of productive partnership by the end of this Administration’s first term.
This record of change in the Balkans demonstrates what is possible but also what remains to be done. So let me turn to some of the remaining challenges in the Balkans, as well as what Cyprus, Greece, and Turkey can do to contribute to the full integration of all of Southeastern Europe into the institutions of Euro-Atlantic unity.
Beginning with Bosnia, the progress that we have seen since the mid-1990s has slowed recently and we must not allow it to stop. For the better part of the last three years Bosnia’s political leaders have not demonstrated the political will necessary to advance the reforms that their country needs. They have been stuck in a vicious cycle where narrow ethnic and short-term personal political interests have trumped long-term objectives that would benefit all of Bosnia’s communities. In an effort to break this corrosive dynamic, last October the United States and the EU started intensive consultations with political party leaders in Bosnia to encourage them to take the steps necessary to move Bosnia forward. These talks, led by Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg, became known as the Butmir process, named for the base near Sarajevo where the talks took place. The goal of this initiative was to reach consensus among the parties to improve the functioning of the Bosnian state so as to position Bosnia for EU candidacy and the NATO membership process. It was not an attempt to radically change the structures created by the Dayton Accords, to create a centralized state, or to alter Bosnia’s two-entity structure. Unfortunately, the parties so far have not been willing to agree on how to proceed. The United States remains engaged and willing to help Bosnia move forward. We also look forward to working closely with the EU and High Representative Ashton, who is in the region this week. The EU and the United States have not always been on the same page with respect to the Balkans but the intensive joint diplomacy of recent months have shown how closely our visions are aligned, something which is essential for progress in the region. Ultimately, however, the burden of achieving Bosnia’s aspirations rests on Bosnia’s political leaders, and their willingness to compromise for the greater good. If they fail to do so, it is they who will have to explain to their voters why Bosnia’s neighbors are moving ahead with visa-free travel to Europe, EU candidacy, and NATO integration, while Bosnia is left behind.
Kosovo provides a hopeful example of how much can be achieved in a short time by cooperative and committed political leadership. Kosovo is in fact celebrating the second anniversary of its independence today. The country has made tremendous progress in solidifying its democracy, promoting reconciliation, and playing a constructive role in regional and international economic cooperation. Sixty-five countries from all around the world have now recognized Kosovo as a sovereign and independent state. It is now a member of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Although the International Court of Justice has yet to render its advisory opinion on Kosovo’s declaration of independence, the United States will remain committed to Kosovo’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Kosovo’s independence is irreversible. Kosovo’s young democracy is also growing with recent successful elections. In the period leading up to the vote, the government of Kosovo made an important effort to ensure Kosovo Serb participation, which contributed crucially to the positive nature of the process.
There is, however, still a lot of work to do. The important task of decentralizing government must continue – there must be ongoing outreach to Kosovo’s Serb communities, particularly in northern Kosovo, and protection of Serb cultural and religious sites. Municipalities need support as they exercise new functions and provide services to citizens. Getting decentralization right will ensure people have access to government services throughout the country and that Kosovo provides a prosperous future for all of its citizens. On the economic front, the government must implement the reforms necessary for the private sector to grow. We are working closely with the Kosovo government, the EU, and other international partners to implement these reforms, fight corruption and organized crime, and move forward on privatization projects. Finally, the rule of law is a high priority for international assistance to Kosovo – because it is the key to success in other areas. Kosovo will need to pass and implement a series of critical laws that will modernize Kosovo’s judicial process and update its legal codes. With these reforms in place, Kosovo can continue its steady progress toward fulfilling its promise as Europe’s newest country.
There is a role for regional powers, in particular Greece and Turkey, to play as well in the development and political integration of Southeastern Europe. The Balkans are Greece’s immediate neighborhood and Athens has played an important leadership role in the region commensurate with its influence as one of the region’s largest investors. The 2003 Thessaloniki Summit, which took place under Greece’s EU Presidency, provided a historic boost to the EU aspirations of the Balkan countries and provided a roadmap for the region’s integration into Europe. We applaud the effective role Greece played during 2009 as the OSCE’s Chair-in-Office and welcome the role Greece is continuing to play in integrating the Balkans. The Greek vision of achieving the full integration of the Balkans into Europe by 2014, one hundred years after the start of World War I, is an admirable goal. A remaining challenge is the dispute between Greece and Macedonia over the latter’s name, which is an obstacle to Macedonia’s EU and NATO integration. We understand that this is a difficult issue but now is the time for courageous political leadership that will resolve this issue and promote the political stability and economic prospects of Southeastern Europe.
Cyprus is another example of an issue where regional leadership is necessary for progress. Though not strictly a matter of Greek-Turkish bilateral relations, both Greece and Turkey can play important and constructive roles in urging the Cypriot parties toward a lasting solution to their differences. The United States continues to support the Cypriot-led negotiations under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General. Both sides have put considerable effort into these negotiations and Cypriot leaders should seize the opportunity these talks offer for a just and lasting settlement that reunifies Cyprus into a bi-zonal and bi-communal federation. The notable progress that Greece and Turkey have made in their own bilateral relations in the last decade, and especially the reinvigorated dialogue in recent months between Prime Ministers Papandreou and Erdogan, provides a hopeful and instructive example of the power of personal diplomacy and we look forward to supporting both countries as they continue to strengthen their relationship.
Turkey itself is an example of the case for the further integration of Southeastern Europe into Europe’s institutions. It is of course a very different situation than that of the Balkans: Turkey has been a valued and active member of NATO for decades and its candidacy for EU membership is already in the negotiation phase. While we recognize that the decision is not ours, we continue to strongly support Turkey’s accession to the European Union and urge Turkey to continue progress on the democratic and political reforms necessary for membership. These reforms not only further Turkey’s EU accession bid, but they also democratize and modernize Turkey. Important gestures like reopening the Halki Seminary and further movement on Turkey’s “democratic opening” to the Kurds, as well as progress on Cyprus, will also propel Turkey’s EU prospects forward.
As President Obama has said, these reforms, and Turkey’s eventual accession, are good for Turkey and good for the EU. They will cement Turkey’s place in Europe and ensure the continued vitality and strength of the EU itself. To achieve these goals, Turkey and the EU should in our view jump-start the accession process by working closely together to meet the remaining requirements of EU membership. The EU for its part can ensure that this forward momentum continues by making clear that it is fully committed to engaging Turkey’s bid for membership as the country meets reform goals.
Let me close by saying that I think this discussion of the challenges remaining in Southeastern Europe today reveals two things. First, some of the same fault lines of ethnicity, language, and religion that have caused so much strife in the region over centuries still exist. We are fortunate that they do not burn as intensely today as they have in the past. But they are still there. The second lesson is that there is a clear solution for meeting and overcoming these historic obstacles: the path of economic and political integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions.
The United States is committed to the progress and prosperity of Southeastern Europe and the nations of the region have an engaged and interested partner in the Obama Administration. The EU plays an essential role in the region’s development and clear and consistent political engagement from the organization could make the difference between success and failure. After all, the stability of Southeastern Europe is first and foremost a European interest. But the ultimate responsibility lies with national leaders – in the Balkans, in Cyprus, in Greece, and in Turkey – who must make the bold political choices that will produce real change. We will stand with them. The choices are hard. But the goal is worth the effort: an ever more democratic, peaceful, and prosperous region, fully integrated into Europe and the Euro-Atlantic community.