Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The United States welcomes the EU and NATO coordinated plan to reintroduce normal customs controls at Kosovo’s northern border crossing points with Serbia, which have remained interrupted since the attacks on the gates in early 2008. We strongly welcome steps being taken to restore a fully functioning customs regime throughout Kosovo under Kosovo law, which should be the goal of the international community and all member states here today.
Let us be clear, Kosovo is a sovereign country and even those participating States which have yet to recognize Kosovo’s independence must acknowledge that Kosovo is a separate and single customs territory under UNSCR 1244, recognized as such by the EU as well. The presence of Kosovo customs officers at the gates is fully in accordance with international law. Planning for these arrangements was carried out in full coordination with the international missions, EULEX and KFOR, which are acting completely in accord with their mandates. The reopening of the crossings and implementation of the customs stamp agreement reached through the EU-facilitated dialogue on September 2 is also being done in full coordination with the international community. It is misleading to assert than any steps being taken are “unilateral” in nature, or to draw false comparisons to the events of July 25. Kosovo customs officers will be present at the gates alongside EULEX, just as they were present alongside UNMIK in 2008 at the gates before they were burned.
The free movement of people and goods is in Kosovo’s and Serbia’s interests – and in keeping with each country’s EU aspirations. The arrangements offer strong opportunities to both sides to benefit from two-way trade, which was interrupted by Serbia in 2008, and to combat smuggling across the border. It is in everyone’s interest to see the development of transparent, professional and effective border control mechanisms.
The United States has serious concerns about the inflammatory rhetoric coming from certain participating States, which could potentially incite violence in Kosovo, putting at risk civilians and international personnel on the ground. This is unacceptable. In this context, we underscore again the need to bring to justice those responsible for the killing of the Kosovo police officer in July and the arson attack at the border gate. The Permanent Council must be clear that threats of violence are counter-productive to peace and stability in the region. Again, we urge restraint and caution on the part of all parties and encourage all actors to use their influence to foster calm on the ground. The United States greatly appreciates the work of the EU, KFOR and OMIK. We call on all member states to support the work of these missions in Kosovo as they exercise their responsibilities.
We also encourage the Governments of Serbia and Kosovo to focus on utilizing the EU-facilitated dialogue to resolve issues of practical concern that impact the lives of people in the region, and to strive to continue building on the notable progress achieved in the dialogue to date.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Assistant Secretary Gordon’s Press Availability Following the MOU Signing Ceremony With the Kosovo Prime Minister
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Prime Minister thank you so much for those kind words and for this warm welcome. I’m really pleased to be back in Pristina. This is my fourth visit to Kosovo since I became Assistant Secretary two years ago. And I hope you’ll see that as a sign of my continued commitment to and engagement with this country. In addition to those four visits here, I’ve had the chance to meet the Prime Minister on a number of other occasions in Washington and elsewhere and I appreciate our ongoing dialogue. In those two years since I’ve been in my current position and had these regular visits to Kosovo, I’ve seen enormous progress in this country towards the stable democracy and country based on the rule of law that the Prime Minister referred to. Before my excellent meeting with the Prime Minister, I met with your new President, and I congratulated her on her election and told her that it was not only a success for her personally but for this country to demonstrate that it is based on a constitution and that this young democracy can confront political challenges as we all do and emerge from the other side having shown that it’s committed to constitutional order, democracy and the rule of law. I just had an excellent lengthy meeting with the Prime Minister and we discussed a number of issues of common concern.
First and foremost I reiterated our strong support for Kosovo’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence. That is something that the United States has been clear about and I want to continue to be clear about it here. We talked about the importance of Rule of Law – again something the Prime Minister just mentioned. Kosovo needs to be seen as a country that is committed to fighting corruption; that is committed to strengthening its democracy. Its image in the world is continuing to get better and better based on the steps that have been taken to demonstrate that it is committed to these common values that it shares with the United States. We also discussed the dialogue with Serbia which is something the United States has encouraged and strongly supports. It’s important to see these two countries sitting down at a table and talking about their differences. We have encouraged both sides to be practical and pragmatic. Our vision for this region is one in which both Kosovo and Serbia move down the path towards European integration, and for that to happen the two countries need to agree on in the first instance, practical matters that improve the lives of all people in both countries and I think that is what the dialogue is about.
I was pleased to sign the Memorandum of Understanding with the Prime Minister, a further sign of the practical cooperation between our two countries in critical areas, like education, among others. As you all may know, I am on a trip throughout the Balkans this week. I’ve been in Bosnia and Serbia, I’ll be in Croatia later tonight and I hope that people see that as a further sign of our commitment to this entire region. We want to see all of the Balkans enter Euro-Atlantic institutions. And that certainly includes our great friend and partner Kosovo. Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Mr. Gordon, lately a lot was discussed about the partition of Kosovo, even the state of Serbia, the President of Serbia stated for the Serbian media that for the partition of Kosovo there should be discussions carried with Albania. What is your comment?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: We in the United States have been very clear about the issue of partition. We are not contemplating it. We are against it. We don’t think it would be practical. We don’t think it would be in anyone’s interest. Partition would have regional consequences that we think would be negative for the entire region. We’ve been absolutely clear about our commitment to Kosovo’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. There are ways in the modern world to ensure that all citizens of a country — whatever their ethnicity — are able to have a strong voice in their own government, have their rights and security protected. Every country in the Balkans, indeed practically every country in the world, has ethnic minorities on one size or another. And in most of our democracies we have found ways of accommodating their interests, concerns, without redrawing borders. And just to be absolutely clear, a Balkan region based on drawing borders around every ethnic group would be a recipe for disaster. It’s not something we support. There are better and other ways to make sure that all of Kosovo’s citizens are accommodated in the Kosovo democracy.
QUESTION: You have been calling on Serbia and Kosovo; you’ve been pressing on both sides to reach agreement in these talks. Can you be more specific, what is this agreement about? We know it’s about practical issues, but what kind of practical issues would you like to see included in this agreement?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Well, I don’t think it’s for me to sit here and tell either country what they need to do. I’m encouraged to see that they have identified a set of issues that they are willing to talk about and try to make progress on and I think many people are familiar with that list of issues. The United States’ role in this process is not to tell the two parties what they need to discuss or even what the compromises need to be but to just support and encourage the process. As I said I’m encouraged that they are doing that directly. Ultimately the two sides need to agree.
QUESTION: Mr. Gordon, as is already known the European Union has established a task force on investigating the allegations from the Dick Marty report. What is the role of the U.S. in this Task Force and when do you expect that all allegations to be clarified. Mr. Prime Minister, if you could also comment on it?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: We‘ve been clear that we take these allegations seriously. Such allegations deserve to be investigated and we have said that we support a full investigation. Precisely the U.S. role in any investigation is not yet determined because the task force isn’t fully set up. We are engaged in talks with the EU about how we can be most helpful. We think that EULEX is well-placed to conduct such an investigation and we want to see these allegations investigated fully. War crimes anywhere are serious issues and regardless of who the victims are, justice should be done and the facts should be known and that’s why we’re strongly supportive. We’ve encouraged all countries in the region to cooperate with the investigation once it is underway and we are gratified of the assurances we’ve have from all the parties we’ve discussed with that they intend to fully cooperate in the investigation so that all the facts are known.
QUESTION: Is it going to take time?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: To do any investigation seriously requires a certain amount of time. The allegation should be investigated promptly. They should also be investigated properly. So let’s support an international process to put together a serious group that can do the job right and inevitably if you’re going to do a thorough job, it will take some time but the important thing is that it be done properly and professionally.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Maybe before I take any questions, just to get a few basics out there. To start by saying how pleased I am to be back in Kosovo on my fourth visit to the country since I became Assistant Secretary a little bit over two years ago. I am this week on a tour throughout the Balkans. I’ve been in Bosnia for a couple of days; I was in Belgrade yesterday; I’m going to Zagreb tonight. And I think that’s a reflection of our deep engagement in the Balkans, our deep engagement with Kosovo. I have been pleased on this visit to observe the progress this country has made over the course of those four visits in the past couple of years on a number of key issues that we care a lot about. The development of this country’s democracy based on rule of law. I met with the President this morning and I congratulated her on her election, and noted that that’s a success not just for her but for this young democracy — demonstrating that even as it goes through political changes, it can cope with those changes. And that’s a success. The success of a democracy isn’t one vote one time; it’s democratic transitions. And that was a really positive thing. I met with the Prime Minister as well. I met with the full economic team which was encouraging to see how focused the government is on economic issues because I’m convinced that building a successful, free-market economy is really a key to Kosovo’s success. So, we discussed economic issues. We discussed rule of law. We discussed foreign policy and in particular, the dialogue with Serbia which is something that the United States supports. And I was encouraged to hear how seriously the government takes that as well. So, those are some of the basics to have out there, and with that, I look forward to all of your questions.
QUESTION: Mr. Gordon, Thank you. Nice to see you as always. That brings hope to this region. I am going to pass the question about the dialogue; already we got an answer earlier today at the press conference, but, let’s go again to old ideas of division of Kosova. You said earlier that, you were very clear on that issue but, could you be more precise and clear about that question. Is there any chance that division of Kosovo be on the table in the next – near future?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I’m not sure how much clearer I could be. I said earlier that it’s not something that we are considering, would consider or will consider. And I gave a number of reasons why it’s not in our interest, or anybody’s interest. As I underscored earlier, the idea that states should be built on one ethnic group is an outmoded idea. It’s not consistent with the 21st century, it’s not consistent with Europe, it’s certainly not consistent with the Balkans. And so we don’t support it and we don’t plan to support it. There are other ways to make sure that all of the citizens of Kosovo have their rights and security protected. And we encourage the country to explore those ways and make sure that all citizens of the country feel included; but, partition is not the way to go.
QUESTION: I run a TV show “Slobodno Srpski” so, it wouldn’t be fair from my show to speak – a little joke since my English is very bad so, due to that fact. We know that you support the investigations on the allegations reported by Dick Marty. I am interested to know, if the allegations will be confirmed, will the U.S. policy towards Kosovo change, in any way?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Well, let me reiterate, to be absolutely clear. We take these allegations seriously. They are serious charges, and they should be fully and absolutely investigated and followed to their logical and legal conclusion. It’s not possible at this point to speculate on what conclusion that will be or what implications that would have for the government. But I’ll be very clear — the investigation needs to be full, fair and thorough, and then conclusions drawn. But I think it’s premature and makes no sense to speculate about any implications prior to the investigation taking place.
QUESTION: Actually I will start with economy. How do you think it my reflect on the economy of Kosovo and the future reports with the International Community, due to the fact that we lost the deal with the International Monetary Fund. How do you think, this will reflect?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Well, as I mentioned, I had lunch today with the Prime Minister and the full economic team and I took that as a sign of their understanding that a successful economy is really the key to the future of this country. We had limited time and it could have been used to discuss any number of issues but it was clearly the Government’s choice to spend some time focused on the economy and the role of private investment and the free market and — this gets me to your question — the role of the international financial institutions. And, I underscored and I think the Government agreed that it is important to work with the IMF and that doing so would facilitate further support from international financial institutions and World Bank support and then in turn private investors. So, there is no question that a country like Kosovo needs support from international financial institutions which are looking very carefully at the books and at the budget and I was pleased to hear the Government recognize that point.
QUESTION: The U.S.A. has made it very clear that – you said to Besim that Kosovo’s division is very dangerous and it is not on the table – but what can be done to have authority in the Northern part of Kosovo. As we know the North is the weakest part of Kosovo. It is a black spot, if you can say. So, what can be done? We have parallel structures there from Serbia, and nothing has changed, it’s getting worse. What can concretely be done? Do you have any advice on this?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: That’s a very good question. I think several things need to be done and I acknowledge that it’s a major issue in which the status quo is a problem and needs to be changed. I think several things are important in that regard. One is, our diplomatic strategy for the region that includes Serbia moving down the path to European Union membership. And I think our position has been clear, I think the position of key EU member states is clear that for Serbia to move down that path, which it says it wants and it really does, that it needs to come to terms with Kosovo and deal with the situation in the North. And that’s the only way forward. And I think that the European Union is clear with Serbia that needs to happen and that will help make progress on the question on the North. I think success in the South is critical to dealing with the situation in the North. When we talk about the economy, the more Kosovo becomes a thriving, prosperous, free country, the more all of its citizens will want to be part of that success. And that will help the situation in the North and I think then the Government needs to continue to reach-out and demonstrate to all of the citizens in the North — whatever ethnicity — that they are genuinely a part of the country, that the country plans to invest there, that it respects their cultural rights and self-governance rights and security. And I think all of those things happening at the same time will help advance the situation. You know, we all wish there were some magic wand to wave or some power that could be quickly wielded to impose full sovereignty, territorial integrity and clarity on the situation but that’s not the reality. So I think instead, patient working along these other lines is the way to bring about success for everybody.
QUESTION: There are European sources which say that maybe a specials status or something will be given to the North, which means the police and justice system will function [inaudible] of Kosovo, but with their own municipality. Is this something that U.S. would accept?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: When it comes to issues like special status, the devil is always in the details. There are a lot of different – I mean, every region is special in its own way and there are different regimes and different degrees of autonomy and self-determination and self-governance in lots of regions in lots of different countries. So, you have to be careful with words when you say we’ll support this or that. Already I think Pristina has recognized that there should be a significant degree of devolution and it doesn’t need to be centralized state and people in different municipalities should have a strong degree of say over how they govern themselves. You know, just like in lots of countries, the United States has significant power devolved to the states as well, but it’s one country and has one foreign policy and one membership in international organizations. So I would stick with that. Every region is special in its own way and it’s for the people of the region and the country as a whole to determine exactly how much devolution is appropriate and necessary but, it shouldn’t be impossible to develop a plan that makes them feel included and want to be part of Kosovo.
QUESTION: Sir I am going to interconnect with the concerns on the North, you made it clear what Pristina should do, to what extend do you think Belgrade is controlling the north and should it be held accountable for the limbo in any way? Should its entrance be conditioned to the EU with resolving those issues in the North?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I don’t think that there is any doubt that Belgrade has significant influence on the North. Clearly it’s not only Belgrade that is controlling the North. There is a strong view of a number of people in the North itself so it would be wrong to attribute it solely to some outside force. But clearly I don’t think Belgrade even tries to hide the fact that it plays a major role in the North. In terms of holding it accountable, I think that you know, when the European Union says that Belgrade and Serbia needs to deal with Kosovo before it can enter the European Union, that’s a way of holding it accountable – if that’s the right phrase – it’s a way of saying that the status quo is not acceptable. Changes to the status quo need to be made. Belgrade‘s role or political role or financial role in the North is part of that status quo that needs to be changed in order for membership to move forward.
QUESTION: Until when relations between Serbia and United States can successfully develop having in mind agreement to disagree when it comes to the status of Kosovo?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: We have tried to demonstrate that we want a better relationship with Serbia that should not be held hostage to the single issue of Kosovo. When Vice President Biden came here very early under the Obama administration, he recognized that U.S. – Serbian relations haven’t been fully developed. He made absolutely clear that we were not putting aside our views on Kosovo. That we strongly support Kosovo’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence and we were going to stand by Kosovo – that we are a friend of Kosovo. But we also wanted a better relationship with Serbia and thought and think that having a better relationship with Serbia would facilitate everything we are trying to achieve in the region. We have advanced down some paths in a better bilateral relationship with Serbia, but we’ve done so without subordinating our strong and clear views on Kosovo and they understand what those views are and they are not going to change in the interest of better relations with Serbia. But we want good relations with all countries in the region and Kosovo should as well. Kosovo will benefit from a Serbia that has good relations with the United States, from a Serbia that is moving towards European Union membership. That’s our vision for the entire region and it requires us to have good and strong and friendly relations with all the countries in the region. That’s what we want.
QUESTION: Let’s talk a little bit about U.S troop presence in Kosovo, there has been some many rumors that U.S military Camp Bondsteel will be closed as a part of NATO troop reduction in Kosovo [inaudible]. Any details on this issue? [inaudible]
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: As you know the number of troops in Kosovo has been gradually reduced over the years as the security situation has permitted. We don’t think that we are yet to the point where they can be reduced further or be removed entirely so it will depend very much on the security situation. Our assessment at present is that a U.S. presence and a KFOR presence remains necessary. We would like to get to the point where it is not necessary, but we are also going to be very cautious about any premature withdrawals. Of course there is pressure on our budgets and our troop presence all over the world because there are a lot of demands on American military forces and it is a costly investment to keep them here, but it is also one that remains important and we are determined to ensure that the presence remains appropriate as long as it is necessary.
QUESTION: Lately, some politicians in Kosovo are promoting the idea of unification of Kosovo to Albania. What do you think about that idea and if that mission is possible?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: What I said about the territorial integrity in response to question about partition of Kosovo applies across the board and throughout the Balkans. The current borders of the states in the region should be respected, shouldn’t be changed and that applies whether you are Albanian, or Serb or anything else, so that’s a longer way of saying no.
QUESTION: I will continue with economy, you were discussing progress in Kosovo and we cannot achieve economy and political stability in Kosovo. You mentioned that what Pristina said and our Prime Minister said that and the group of experts said but what was your advice to achieve economical stability in Kosovo?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I think I mentioned some of the key principles. I mean obviously I didn’t come with a detailed economic plan in my pocket to present to the Government of Kosovo. But some of the key principles of a heavy focus on the private sector and private investment. We think that’s a key recipe for economic success and again, that seemed to be consistent with what the government is doing — attracting private investors. To do that you need rule of law and a priority on anti-corruption because nobody’s going to invest if there’s not a way of protecting those investments. And I heard about plans to ensure the protection of investments. And you need to make sure that corruption isn’t going to swallow up the investment that you make. I mentioned the international financial institutions, and a degree of fiscal responsibility that is enough to get support from those institutions. I think those are some of the core principles that I underscored as important for Kosovo’s economic success. And as I said, they seem to be consistent with what the government has in mind.
QUESTION: I would like to focus on Kosovo recognition from all over the world. I think this year we have just two recognitions and we are desperately [inaudible]. Kosovo desperately needs more recognitions to be [inaudible]. So, how is USA helping Kosovo’s government and do you think Kosovo’s government is doing the right thing? And is the dialogue with Serbia in a way, if we can say so, contributing not to have new recognitions, many people are waiting [inaudible].
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I discussed this question extensively with the Prime Minister, with the President, and a few days ago when I met in Sarajevo with the Foreign Minister, as well, who is undertaking a global tour, in part, to promote recognition of Kosovo which is something we strongly support. I think I mentioned earlier that we’ve been disappointed at the pace in new recognitions since the ICJ opinion which was clearly in Kosovo’s favor. It made clear that nothing in international law said that Kosovo’s independence was inconsistent with international law. And a lot of countries had been telling us that they would be prepared to recognize once the ICJ weighed in. And then the ICJ weighed in and they didn’t recognize or, they haven’t yet in many cases. And so we’ve been continuing to encourage them to do so. And I told my interlocutors today that we remain prepared to do so. The dialogue shouldn’t be an excuse not to recognize Kosovo. We’ve made clear not only that we do, but the reasons why we think Kosovo should have been – should be recognized. The vast majority of EU member states and countries in the region recognize Kosovo. So I don’t have any further advice for the government. I think it’s doing the right thing. We talked about the linkage between recognition and some of these other issues that we are talking about. In other words, if Kosovo is developing its democracy, underscoring rule of law, and developing a free market economy, the recognitions will come. Kosovo’s image in the world is relevant to that question. And the more people can come to see Kosovo as a growing democracy, I think the more recognitions the country will get.
QUESTION: On the dialogue, Pristina and [inaudible] there have been calls from both capitals for more transparency on the subjects discussed and eventually on the agreements that they will agree upon. How much is the U.S. involved in these talks?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: It is an EU-mediated dialogue. If you’ll recall the origin of this, which was it came out of the UN agreement following the ICJ opinion. The agreement was to have an EU-mediated dialogue. And that’s what it is; and that’s why it takes place in Brussels. And it’s largely in the hands of the European Union. We will be helpful where we can be. And when they invite us to sit in, we’re happy to do so, and happy to help facilitate if we have a particular expertise in any of the particular areas they might be discussing, whether it’s electricity or telecoms or customs. We have a lot of knowledgeable people who can help. But we’re not in the lead; we’re not a formal part of the process. We talk to both sides. We talk to both sides before and after the Brussels meeting to encourage them to move forward in practical ways. And that’s the role we’re playing. We’re just trying to be helpful. Ultimately, it has to be an agreement between the two countries. It’s for them to decide which issues to discuss. It’s for them to decide what’s acceptable to them or not.
QUESTION: How many times have they invited you to sit in?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I think there have been four rounds of the dialogue so far. I think that an American has been present at most or all of them. But my, what I said was, it’s an EU-mediated dialogue and they can invite others to sit in when appropriate. If it turns out we’re appropriate every time, that’s terrific. If it turns out we’re not necessary sometime, that’s ok too. If it turns out someone else can be useful, they should invite somebody else as well.
QUESTION: About rule of law when will institutions in Pristina be without people suspected of crimes, war crimes and whether they are obstacles for integration in this region.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I’m sorry, would you please repeat the question.
QUESTION: When is institutions will be without the people suspected of crimes — organized crimes and corruption and war crimes. And whether they represent an obstacle for integration in this region.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Which institutions are you talking about?
QUESTION: All different kinds of institutions, like we may start from Central Bank. Many of my colleagues will, he’s suspended, but he’s still part of the bank as far as I know [inaudible].
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I’m not familiar with the case so I don’t want to address that.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Is that it? Okay, thanks, everybody.
QUESTION: I would start from Ratko Mladic. He’s the most wanted Hague fugitive, is finally in Hague. What does it mean in your opinion for the process of reconciliation in our region?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: First of all I would say from a U.S. point of view the arrest of Ratko Mladic was a very welcome development, something we have been waiting for for a long time, something that was overdue, and something that we supported actively with the government of Serbia, so we were delighted to see that outcome.
What it means in Bosnia and Herzegovina is really up to the people of this country to determine. Hopefully coming to terms with the past and bringing Mr. Mladic to justice will foster the process of reconciliation that is really necessary for this country to move forward toward the future.
QUESTION: Serbian analysts claim that your country and the European Union are together testing Boris Tadic in relation to three cases — Kosovo, Ratko Mladic and Milorad Dodik. The first two tests Tadic obviously passed. What is going to happen with the Dodik test?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I’m not sure I would entirely share the thesis that the first two tests are entirely passed and Dodik is in a different category. On the question of Kosovo, we do believe that the government of Boris Tadic has made a fundamental decision to join the European Union. What remains to happen is for that same government to understand that coming to terms with Kosovo in some way is a necessary part of that decision. So we are encouraged that a dialogue is taking place. It is a positive thing. They’re sitting down at the table for the first time and talking about real issues. But I would say very clearly that more needs to be done. I don’t think that the countries of the European Union are prepared to take in a country into the EU or even move down that path until there is some clarity, until there’s some control over the border of what would be the European Union. So I just want to be very clear on that point.
We very much welcomed the arrest and the activities of the government of Serbia in finding Ratko Mladic but no one should think that that entirely satisfies the process of EU membership.
Obviously that’s not a call for the United States, but it is our strongly held view and we believe it’s the view of European countries as well.
On the question of Serbia, Tadic, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Dodik, I obviously can’t comment on or know the entirety of the relationship or what advice President Tadic might be giving Mr. Dodik. I think the official position of the government of Serbia, that it respects the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is a positive one, it’s one that we share and we’ve heard Serbian leaders say that publicly many times. So we welcome that.
We would rather see a more clear line that Mr. Dodik needs to take actions that demonstrate his own support for the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as a functioning state.
QUESTION: Recently we heard different positions between your country and the European Union, exactly when it was about the actions of the arrests and the cancellation of referendum. I am actually interested to hear the following, whether the United States are changing their course of action or the European Union is not sufficiently consulting about the policy with your country, and I mean concretely about Ms. Ashton and her visit to Banja Luka.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: We actually consult very closely with the EU on the full range of issues in the Balkans including the question of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the issue most recently of the April 13 proposed referendum and conclusions.
I am in personally regular touch with Mr.Lajcak. Secretary Clinton and Catherine Ashton talk about Bosnia very frequently. I think we took the same position in response to the April 13 proposals. Both of us very quickly came out and made clear that we thought this was unacceptable, to be direct about it, but that it wasn’t within the RS competencies to put forward such a proposal and such conclusions and that it was a violation of the Dayton Peace Agreement. So I think we were on exactly the same page when it came to responding to that.
In the meantime we consulted closely on how to respond. The European Union then got the assurances that you’re talking about,about pulling back the referendum and the conclusions. I think what we’re focused on now is that what the assurances that Mr. Dodik seems to have given to the EU are upheld. So it is true we continue to have questions and we’ll continue to insist on what was our original position which is that the referendum shouldn’t happen and that the conclusions need to be withdrawn.
We hope that the assurances that the EU received from Republika Srpska leadership are upheld, but we’ll be watching it very carefully to make sure that they are and we will continue to consult very closely with the EU.
We both realize, that is to say Washington and Brussels, the United States and the European Union, that we can only succeed in this together. If we allow the parties to divide us or if we take different positions then we are less likely to succeed. I think it has been one of the pacts of our administration to try to do this together with the EU. I’ll remind you that in the first months of the administration when Vice President Biden came here, he came here together with Javier Solana, Baroness Ashton’s predecessor as our representative, that was a demonstration, if you will, a signal, that we were trying to send, that we’ve tried to send ever since. Whereas we may have been divided at times in the past on Balkan issues, the United States and the European Union are determined to stay together in helping.
QUESTION: The same day when the decision on the referendum was canceled, Mr. Dodik declared that Bosnia and Herzegovina is going to dissolve. He didn’t say that it has to happen during his mandate, but it will happen. He also claimed that he has great support of a major part of European countries. He excluded United States and Great Britain. He also claimed that you will have to make some concessions, I am quoting Mr. Dodik, quoting what he said on Serbian TV. So will the United States allow that to happen?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I think we’ve been pretty clear not just in recent weeks and months, but years, about our unwavering support for the Dayton Peace Agreement and the institutions of Dayton and the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. We have not for a minute waivered on that issue and we won’t in the future either.
It doesn’t work for us to imagine scenarios of secession or partition. I also think, I’m surprised to hear any notion of European countries having a different view. As I mentioned a minute ago, we’re in very close touch with our European partners and I’ve never heard any of them suggest that they could live with any form of secession or partition of this country. I think that’s just analytically mistaken to imagine that any of us aren’t committed to maintaining Bosnia and Herzegovina as a country.
Within that of course we are committed to two vibrant entities that have a very significant degree of self-government, that are not threatened in any way by some notion of a dominant or unitary state, and I think that anyone realistically looking at the positions of those who support Dayton and Bosnia and Herzegovina would understand that no one is trying to impose such a vision on the entities. What we are trying to do is help those entities work together in a way that serves all of the people of the country and those who suggest a different path of the future I would argue are not acting in the interests of those of the country.
QUESTION: Your country was engaged on the April package, then attempt with Butmir package also failed. I listen to Mr. Biden recently. He was also talking about two vibrant entities. Have you given up the more functional Bosnia and Herzegovina? Actually does the United States intend to have another maybe engagement related to the changes of the Dayton constitution? And if it’s not a problem, could you tell me what are the messages you are bringing from your country?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Sure. Just on the question of a more functional state, this is an issue for the people of the country. We can and will help and we haven’t given up because we think it’s in the interest of the people to have a more functioning government, a more functioning government would facilitate the country’s path to European Union membership, to NATO membership, which we believe would benefit all of the citizens of the country.
Ultimately we can’t want it more than the people of the country themselves. So it’s not really a question of whether the United States is going to give up on or move forward with such an agenda. We are available to help the people of this country produce a more functioning government. If they or their political leaders don’t want to do that there’s only so much we can do. What I can say, and this will be one of the messages of my speech tomorrow, is that the rest of the region is moving forward also with our help and support. In our view Europe won’t be complete until the Balkans is fully integrated into European institutions. Countries have made some progress. Obviously Slovenia a number of years ago joining the EU, Albania and Croatia joining NATO. Serbia has taken a step forward with the Mladic arrest and other steps, a dialogue with Kosovo. Macedonia will join NATO when the name dispute is resolved. Montenegro is taking some positive steps. So Bosnia and Herzegovina will be left behind if its leaders are more focused on preserving their own personal gains or perpetuating ethnic divisions as opposed to pursuing a more functional state. So we’re not going to walk away from that. Indeed part of my message in being here in our commitment to the country and our continued readiness after having invested so much over the past 15 years and more to do so. But obviously we need the help of the parties and ultimately the responsibility rests with the leaders of the country more than with us.
QUESTION: I have just another question, whether that responsibility in Bosnia and Herzegovina will be actually considered to be of the actors who are generating the crisis or it’s going to be equal distribution? Why am I asking you this? You know that for 15 years Bosnia and Herzegovina has been a very divided country and with traces of war still present and it seems it’s not just that Croatia and Serbia who have completely different systems and structures thanks to their engagement in Bosnia and Herzegovina are ahead of Bosnia and Herzegovina when it comes to their path to European Union accession.
What am I asking you? I’m asking you can Bosnia and Herzegovina remain within the jaws of political wills which are the obstructions to its progress? Will the IC, international community, identify the ones who are to be blamed and start acting differently?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: As a general principle, we’re not going to take sides, so to speak. I don’t think it would be helpful for the United States to decide which side we’re on, back one side over another. It wouldn’t work. The country can only move forward when there’s agreement of all of the parties to do so.
So that’s not something that we’re thinking about. That said, when there are specific violations of previous agreements and if those violations are put forward by one side as opposed to another, we’ll be clear and blunt about that as we have been. And in cases of the most recent challenges to the state, it’s been clear who it is we’re talking about and when we’ve talked about consequences or measures we might take in response to that and our strong support for OHR as necessary in using Bonn powers to prevent that, we don’t hesitate.
But I don’t think it would be helpful for us to pick and choose and decide which side we’re on. Ultimately all of the elements in this country are going to have to sink or swim together.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Thank you.
On February 23, 2011, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) convicted former Assistant Minister of the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs Vlastimir Djordjevic of crimes against humanity and war crimes in 1999, including for the murder of over 724 and the forced deportation of at least 200,000 Kosovo Albanians. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who perished during this conflict.
The United States strongly supports the ICTY’s investigation into allegations of war crimes committed by both sides during and after the Kosovo conflict. The pursuit of justice is a human necessity for victims of atrocities, in the Western Balkans and around the world.
The United States is deeply committed to effective action to bring to justice, in accordance with international standards of fair process, those responsible for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. We commend the representatives and staff of the ICTY for their continued hard work to ensure that perpetrators of these atrocities are brought to justice.