Chairman Smith, Co-Chairman Cardin, Members of the Commission: Thank you very much for inviting me here today to discuss our agenda for the OSCE. Let me also take this opportunity to thank the excellent Helsinki Commission staff members who have worked long, hard, and in cooperation with their State colleagues to safeguard the principles and commitments of the OSCE, and to hold participating States to account.
I will focus my remarks today on the OSCE in the aftermath of the December, 2010 Astana Summit. I will begin by looking at our core foreign policy goals for the OSCE, reviewing the achievements of Astana and looking forward to the OSCE’s Ministerial meeting in Vilnius this December.
OSCE: Shared Values, Inconsistent Implementation
Nowhere does the United States have better or more valuable partners than in Europe. The U.S. and Europe share common values, our economies are intertwined, and our militaries work together to address common security challenges. U.S. bilateral engagement with our European partners is complemented by our work together in key multilateral regional institutions. Our engagement with NATO Allies – including operational military cooperation – on the full gamut of security issues has no equivalent anywhere else in the world. Through the OSCE we are able to engage on such U.S. priorities as advancing human rights and fundamental freedoms, building democratic institutions in the Western Balkans, combating trafficking in persons, as well as North Africa and Afghanistan, to name just a few. In this age of a tight budget and many demands, multilateral approaches often present a more effective alternative to unilateral engagement.
The OSCE was founded on the principle of comprehensive security, that is, the conviction that true security has an economic and environmental dimension and a human dimension, in addition to the political-military dimension. As the world’s largest regional security organization with membership that stretches from Vancouver to Vladivostok, with partners in Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa, the OSCE has unmatched scope to advance this concept and strengthen security across all three dimensions and increasingly beyond the OSCE region itself.
Today the principles and commitments enshrined in the founding document of the OSCE – the Helsinki Final Act – are facing serious challenges from both inside and outside the organization. From within, there is uneven application of the Helsinki principles, and I regret to say that there are OSCE participating States where journalists can find it too dangerous to report the news, where political activists are beaten and incarcerated, where religious and minority groups, such as the Roma, continue to face persecution, and where economic growth is stifled by endemic corruption. Regional crises and transnational threats are proliferating. Efforts to resolve the protracted conflicts in Georgia, Moldova, and Nagorno-Karabakh continue to face frustrating obstacles. The OSCE’s inability to reach consensus on ways to address these issues is increasingly identified by critics as evidence of the organization’s ineffectiveness.
This Commission – and your able staff – know well the reasons why OSCE decision-making is complicated and how easy it is for one nation to use the organization’s consensus rule to prevent timely and effective action in a situation of crisis. Russia’s determination to limit the role of OSCE in Georgia, for example, has diminished possibilities for international engagement in this region where transparency and confidence-building are sorely needed.
Problems like these make headlines, but they offer only a partial picture of the role OSCE plays in Europe today. The OSCE has deepened and strengthened European and Eurasian security through initiatives to enhance rule of law, provide for free and fair elections, develop an independent media, respect the rights of minority groups, and improve the ability of citizens to exercise their fundamental freedoms. The OSCE’s Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE’s field missions have been at the forefront in assisting OSCE participating States to strengthen their democracy and thereby their security.
In concert with those bodies, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, the High Commissioner for National Minorities, the Representative on Freedom of the Media, and the Chairmanship’s Special Representatives on Tolerance and Gender Issues make for a powerful set of instruments to help participating States live up to their commitments and thus bring security to the region.
The OSCE has made tremendous strides toward building a zone of prosperity and stability that stretches from western Canada to the Russian Far East. Although it is at times stymied by a lack of sustained political will and attempts by some participating States to constrain its flexibility, the OSCE nonetheless remains uniquely positioned to build confidence, promote good governance, and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe and Eurasia.
Moving Forward from Astana
At the Astana Summit last December – the first OSCE Summit in eleven years – the 56 participating States issued the Astana Commemorative Declaration – a strong reaffirmation of the Helsinki principles and commitments and the entire OSCE acquis. This included the first-ever explicit affirmation by the former Soviet states of the declaration originally made in the OSCE’s 1991 Moscow Document that makes human rights conditions in individual OSCE participating States matters of “direct and legitimate concern” to all of them. The final document also tasked future OSCE Chairmanships to build on efforts last year to develop an action plan to address a range of common challenges that notably include the protracted conflicts, conflict prevention and crisis response, counter-narcotics, counterterrorism, issues facing media freedom, anti-Semitism, treatment of minorities such as the Roma and Sinti, and trafficking in persons to name a few.
The Astana Summit also underscored the vital role that civil society plays in the OSCE region, as numerous human rights activists from some of the OSCE region’s most embattled corners engaged constructively with government delegations and provided input to the work of the Summit. With strong U.S. support, NGOs and civil society representatives participated in the final three days of the Human Dimension portion of the Review Conference preceding the Summit, as well as in a civil society forum and an independently organized parallel NGO conference. Secretary Clinton also held a vibrant, standing-room only town hall event at Eurasian University with NGO and civil society representatives.
The Astana Summit opened a new chapter for the OSCE. It provided renewed impetus for action to make the OSCE space – including the Central Asian space –even more democratic, prosperous, and secure for our citizens. The Administration has remained deeply engaged in the work of the OSCE across all three dimensions. We are seeking ways to sustain the momentum that was generated – in both government and civil society networks – by the Astana Summit.
In 2010 and 2011, crises in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan demonstrated the ongoing need for the OSCE to hold its membership to the highest standards of human rights performance and comprehensive security. The tragic case in Russia of Sergey Magnitsky, a lawyer who died in pre-trial detention, is most illustrative of the problems facing the judiciaries of too many member states, and a problem that we are seeking to address in close consultation with Senator Cardin and others on this committee.
We will continue to press for greater implementation of OSCE commitments in Europe. The Arab Spring has shown us vividly the link between democracy and security, and we will look for opportunities to offer OSCE expertise in democratic transition and institution building to the countries of North Africa and to the OSCE’s other partners, such as Afghanistan.
Soon after the Astana Summit, Belarus presented the first challenge for the OSCE as its government launched a sustained, brutal crackdown against opposition politicians and activists, civil society, and independent media after a flawed presidential election. Since then, we have worked closely with the Lithuanian Chairman-in-Office, the EU, and like-minded OSCE participating States to manage and address these issues. Despite rhetoric that it was willing to cooperate with the OSCE, Belarus refused to extend the mandate of the OSCE Office in Minsk, claiming that the Office’s mandate had been completed. At the government’s insistence, the OSCE office in Minsk officially closed in March. In stark contrast to the stunning events unfolding during the Arab Spring in Northern Africa, Belarus seems to have entered a prolonged winter of backpedaling on human rights and fundamental freedoms.
In response, we joined with 13 other participating States to invoke the Moscow Mechanism, a tool established in the 1991 Moscow Document that allows for special rapporteur missions to address concerns about the implementation of human rights commitments. Together we appointed a rapporteur to investigate the crackdown by the Government of Belarus against opposition candidates, civil society representatives and journalists, and the mass arrests that followed the December 19 presidential election. Though Belarus refused to cooperate, the rapporteur was able to conduct his fact-finding mission and reported back with a number of constructive recommendations that holds the Government of Belarus accountable for its failure to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, prohibiting torture, and upholding the rule of law. We continue to work to ensure that the OSCE and the international community focus on the concerns raised in the report.
Dramatic developments in OSCE’s partner states have captured headlines. Working closely with the Lithuanian Chair, we have supported engagement with Tunisia and Egypt in order to offer OSCE expertise to nascent democracies emerging in North Africa. We are taking a realistic, pragmatic approach offering advice and guidance on issues such as democratic elections and human rights monitoring. Assistance could come through sharing of materials such as handbooks and guidelines, visits by subject matter experts, and participation in OSCE meetings, conferences, seminars, as well as specific projects – either in the OSCE region or in the Partner State. At the request of Egyptian activists, ODIHR is already organizing a workshop for Egyptian civil society on international standards and tools of election observation, in advance of Egypt’s November parliamentary elections.
Goals for Vilnius
In December, the OSCE will meet in Vilnius, Lithuania at the level of foreign ministers to review results achieved since Astana and take decisions for future work. The United States is working with like-minded partners to achieve specific results in all three dimensions:
In the political-military dimension, we want to agree on a substantial update of the Vienna Document, which will be reissued at Vilnius for the first time since 1999. Building on the existing measures, we are re-examining how data exchange, notification, observation, and possibly other measures can offer greater security and transparency in light of today’s smaller post-Cold War military establishments. Our effort to update the Vienna Document is part of our broader commitment to improve military transparency in Europe and ensure arms control and the confidence and security building measures regime are relevant to the challenges of the 21st century. U.S. efforts to find a way forward on the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty are separate from this work on Vienna Document, but they are motivated by some of the same goals and concerns: we want to achieve greater military transparency and cooperation on conventional forces in Europe as a route to increased confidence and trust.
In the economic-environmental dimension, we want to endorse greater economic transparency, good governance and anti-corruption measures, as well as identify ways to better empower women in the economic sphere. Citizens must be able to trust their governments to develop economic and environmental resources in a responsible and equitable manner. We hope that at Vilnius all OSCE members will endorse the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative endorsed by the G-8 in Deauville, and agree on goals and best practices to promote the economic empowerment of women.
In the human dimension, we hope to take the Helsinki Final Act into the digital age. We are seeking consensus on a declaration that would explicitly acknowledge that human rights and fundamental freedoms can apply to online activity as they do to offline activity. This includes, in particular the freedoms of expression, assembly, and association. Even more urgent is the need to reaffirm and strengthen governments’ commitment to the protection of journalists. Both of these goals address priority issues for both the OSCE Representative on the Freedom of Media and the Lithuanian Chairmanship.
We also want to see the OSCE give greater attention to Central Asia, including addressing longstanding challenges to democracy and human rights in that region. The OSCE can and should assist Kyrgyzstan’s fledgling parliamentary democracy and play a greater role in helping stabilize and secure Afghanistan, particularly in the area of border management.
Of course, we envision that the Vilnius Ministerial will be an opportunity for OSCE Ministers to declare formally our support for Mediterranean Partners, such as Egypt and Tunisia, and offer to assist them in democratic institution building and electoral reform.
Finally, the OSCE must continue to play a direct role in resolving the protracted conflicts in Georgia, Moldova, and Nagorno-Karabakh. As the 2008 war in Georgia showed, these conflicts hold the devastating potential to destabilize security in the OSCE region, and their resolution must remain a high priority for the OSCE and all its member states. We intend to use the meeting in Vilnius to highlight progress made on each of these conflicts this year and the challenges that remain to be addressed. This is difficult and frustrating work. But OSCE is one of a handful of international institutions that has the political standing to engage on the protracted conflicts, and it has the ability to shine a light on the human and security situation in these regions. Impartial, comprehensive, accurate reporting is not something to be feared or avoided, and that is what OSCE is ideally suited to deliver, if it can get unhindered, status-neutral access to regions of conflict. If the OSCE’s role is undermined, the international community is diminished; the United States will stand firmly against that. We will continue to push hard to improve the OSCE’s ability to respond to crises in a fast and effective manner, including preventing the development of new conflicts in the OSCE area.
OSCE Moving Forward
We all know that a consensus-based organization with 56 participating States sometimes moves in baby steps when we want to see larger and faster strides. We can take comfort that whether the OSCE is working to eliminate rocket fuel in Ukraine, advocating for journalists and bloggers in Azerbaijan, or developing a multi-ethnic police force in Serbia and Kyrgyzstan, those small steps can result in impressive progress over time, and thus deserve our sustained attention.
The OSCE enables its participating States to address issues of concern in a forum which allows for a full and open debate. The issues can seem intractable but exchanging words beats the alternative of exchanging bullets. We have had bullets exchanged in the OSCE space in the last three years and that is something the OSCE participating States need to eliminate in the future. The potential of the OSCE has not yet been fulfilled – and therein lies its promise for the future.
The Helsinki Commission – you, the Commissioners, and the experts on your staff – play a vital role in ensuring that the participating States keep the promises they made at Helsinki. With your support, the United States will continue to play a leading role at the OSCE, to strengthen and build upon the progress the participating States have made over the past 35 years, and bring us closer to a truly stable, secure, and prosperous OSCE region.
I am happy to take your questions at this time.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Distinguished Members of the Commission: I appreciate your calling this timely hearing on the work of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as we plan for the December Ministerial Meeting in Vilnius and beyond. I have the privilege of working for a former Helsinki Commissioner, Secretary Clinton, and it is my honor to serve as the Helsinki Commissioner for the Department of State. The Commission’s efforts help strengthen my hand and that of my State Department colleagues as we work with other governments, civil society advocates, and the private sector to defend and advance human rights and democratic government across the OSCE region.
Mr. Chairman, I would ask the Commission to consider my testimony today in conjunction with that of Assistant Secretaries Gordon and Vershbow. If I may, I will direct my comments today in particular to the OSCE’s Human Dimension – the principles that animate it, the challenges that confront it, and what all of us can and must do to defend and advance it. As the only regional forum with a membership that stretches from Vancouver to Vladivostok, the OSCE constitutes a vital platform for raising concerns about human rights and democratic governance in key countries of concern, such as Belarus, Russia and Uzbekistan.
A Pioneering Process, Then and Now
The Helsinki process was launched 36 years ago next week, in the midst of a Cold War and in a different century. The past twenty years since the end of Soviet Communism have seen profound changes in the OSCE region and the world. With them came an opportunity for the participating States to increase in number, establish and develop the OSCE as an organization, and, most significantly, agree to ground breaking commitments in the areas of human rights and democratic governance. These commitments remain a global high water mark. The OSCE has not been merely a reflection of the great post-Soviet geopolitical changes. The OSCE’s comprehensive concept of linking security among states to respect for human rights within states, and the citizens monitoring movements that the Helsinki process inspired, helped create and shape the new reality in Europe and Eurasia.
And I would submit, Mr. Chairman, that the OSCE’s comprehensive approach to security, the human and democratic values at the core of the Helsinki process, and its recognition of the vital role and contributions of civil society — remain inspiring and innovative concepts in this new century, not just to men and women within the OSCE region, but to people around the world.
Time and again, most recently in North Africa and the Middle East, we see that governments’ respect for human rights and their responsiveness to the aspirations of their citizens are essential to security, stability and peace. The OSCE, and the civil society groups associated with the Helsinki process, can make useful contributions of experience and expertise to our partner Mediterranean States undergoing transformations. Even as we speak, OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) is holding its first workshop for Egyptian civil society representatives interested in election monitoring in support of the Arab Spring.
The Enduring Importance of Implementation
As Assistant Secretary Gordon noted, the participating States at the Astana Summit last December, including those that joined the OSCE in the post-Soviet period, reaffirmed in the Summit’s Commemorative Declaration the principles of Helsinki and all the commitments made to date. They also reaffirmed that human rights are not solely a domestic issue, but also a matter of “direct and legitimate” interest to other States. Secretary Clinton, Assistant Secretary Gordon, Ambassador Kelly and his outstanding delegation, and I worked intensively with like-minded counterparts to ensure that the Commemorative Declaration was strong and unequivocal. I believe that we succeeded.
But we all agree that reaffirmation is not enough. We must continue to address serious problems of implementation within OSCE participating States, through our bilateral diplomacy and through the OSCE and other multilateral organizations.
All countries, including our own, have room for improvement in living up to our OSCE commitments and all have a responsibility to do so. That said, the work and resources of the OSCE should focus most on the areas where implementation remains weakest and where humarn rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals and democratic principles of government face the greatest challenges. This is not a reflection of political bias or double standards. It is not a matter of “East of Vienna versus West of Vienna” — as some participating States assert. The divide that concerns the OSCE is not between East and West; OSCE must address the gap between commitments and practice. Human rights are universal, but they are not universally respected in the OSCE region. That is the truth, and the OSCE must address it.
Advocates of human rights, democracy, and labor who seek to help their fellow citizens know and act upon their rights are targeted for persecution, even murder, in some participating States. Laws are wielded like political weapons against those who expose abuses or express disagreement with official policies and practices. Judicial independence and the rule of law have yet to be established or fully respected in practice. NGOs are subjected to increasing legal restrictions and burdensome administrative measures that impede their peaceful work, reflecting a disturbing global phenomenon. There are human rights and humanitarian aspects of protracted conflicts that must be addressed as essential elements of settlement and reconciliation processes.
Media – particularly independent media — are under pressure to be silent or to self-censor. For practicing their profession, journalists are victims of brutal, sometimes deadly, attacks, often carried out with complete impunity. Countries in the OSCE region are also part of a growing global trend by governments to restrict Internet Freedom, and thus the exercise of freedoms of expression, association and assembly via new media. Too many people in the OSCE region are denied the opportunity to access a range of sources of information. The Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic, who testified before you a few weeks ago, deserves special mention for raising awareness and pushing to protect journalists and an independent media throughout the OSCE space.
Democratic development is uneven across the OSCE region. Not all elections meet OSCE’s standards. Not all officials and government institutions operate in an accountable and transparent manner. The next few years will see national elections in a number of OSCE States, including my own country. The United States continues to welcome ODIHR observers and we hope our fellow participating States will do likewise. We are pleased that Russia recently has invited ODIHR to conduct a needs assessment for an elections observer mission in the lead-up to December’s parliamentary elections, and we urge Russia to extend a formal, unrestricted invitation for this observation mission once the assessment is completed. We also look to Russia to invite ODIHR to do the same for the presidential elections in 2012. Similarly, we hope that ODIHR will be invited to observe the upcoming parliamentary elections in Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Romania, Serbia, and Ukraine, and the presidential elections in Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and Turkmenistan.
Not surprisingly, participating States with serious implementation problems do not like to have their records in the spotlight, as we see so clearly demonstrated by Belarus’s refusal to extend the mandate of the OSCE Office in Minsk, its refusal to cooperate with the Moscow Mechanism Rapporteur, and now its resistance to joining consensus on the detailed agenda for the annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw. The Representative on Freedom of the Media has not been allowed to visit Belarus since the crackdown last December. Belarus rejected a fact-finding mission by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Working Group on Belarus and the Working Group’s Chair was denied a visa to observe trials of political prisoners. Such obstructionist behavior only draws more attention to Belarus’ lamentable human rights record.
The report of the OSCE’s Moscow Mechanism Rapporteur on Belarus contains a wealth of constructive recommendations, which we urge Belarus to accept so that it can increase its integration into the OSCE community, instead of deepening its isolation.
With respect to Russia, we have spoken out in the OSCE Permanent Council and other OSCE fora about the continued assaults on fundamental freedoms of the press and assembly, and the rule of law. We repeatedly have expressed our concerns about: the many unsolved cases of murdered journalists like Paul Klebnikov and human rights activists like Natalia Estemirova; corruption and impunity as exemplified by the tragic case of Sergei Magnitsky; and restrictions on freedom of assembly for members of groups like Strategy 31, the Khimki Forest Defenders, and for members of various Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender groups. We have raised our concerns about Russia’s disappointing decision to deny the opposition group PARNAS registration so that it can compete in the upcoming parliamentary elections and we urge Russian authorities to reconsider that decision.
We continue to monitor and speak out about the treatment of minorities in Russia, including the application of the so-called “law on extremism” to peaceful religious groups. We also are concerned about inter-ethnic tensions and incidents of violence between ethnic Russians and minority groups, as well as by reports of serious human rights violations in the North Caucasus, particularly in Chechnya. These reports include disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture, and retribution against those who report abuses.
Mr. Chairman, as we set our sights on the Ministerial in Vilnius, I want to emphasize that our interest in human rights and democratic development in Central Asia did not begin or end with the Astana Summit. The United States remains committed to working bilaterally and within the OSCE with the participating States of Central Asia and with civil society in that region to advance domestic democratic reforms, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law. We also will continue to work with Central Asian states to reinforce border security to counter transnational threats such as narcotics and terrorism, and to bolster security in Afghanistan, an OSCE partner. We have stressed that Kazakhstan’s legacy as the 2010 Chair of the OSCE will be determined by the continued efforts it makes, now that the spotlight has left Astana, to deliver on the pledges made there to reinvigorate comprehensive security and protect the human rights of citizens. We strongly encourage OSCE representatives, as well as high public officials from the participating States, including the Members of this Commission and Members of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, to seek opportunities to engage with the governments and citizens of Central Asian states to advance Human Dimension issues.
We have seen that such engagement can yield results. Most recently, the Government of Kyrgyzstan decriminalized libel, an issue on which the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media had persistently focused. We applaud Kyrgyzstan’s becoming the first Central Asian country and the 13th OSCE participating State to decriminalize defamation. This measure will strengthen freedom of expression in Kyrgyzstan and set an example for the rest of the OSCE community. Kyrgyzstan also deserves recognition for its support of the OSCE Academy in Bishkek, which operates according to a Memorandum of Understanding between the Kyrgyz government and the OSCE. The United States joined the Academy’s Board of Trustees in March 2011 and since its foundation in 2005 we have been strong supporters of the excellent work the Academy is doing to provide graduate studies to Central Asian and Afghan students. Coupled with the steps Kyrgyzstan has taken to ensure inquiry into the abuses committed during the June 2010 conflict, we think that the positive trajectory for Kyrgyzstan’s democratization can continue. The OSCE remains well-poised to assist.
Mr. Chairman, the comprehensive security we seek in the OSCE region, and in Central Asia particularly, will remain elusive until serious human rights problems are addressed. We will continue to press for the implementation by the Central Asian states of OSCE commitments in all three dimensions, and to offer our assistance toward that end.
For example, Uzbekistan continues to exhibit a poor record on media freedom, freedom of religion, and a wide range of human rights and fundamental freedoms. We regretted the Uzbekistan Supreme Court decision in June to close the Human Rights Watch office in Tashkent. We have raised in the OSCE and elsewhere the cases of Dilmurod Sayid, a journalist imprisoned for writing about corruption, and Maxim Popov, who remains incarcerated for working to decrease the incidence of AIDS in the country, and we will continue to advocate for fair treatment and due process in those, and similar, cases.
We also remain deeply concerned over the arrests of religious adherents, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baptists, Protestants and members of some Islamic groups in Uzbekistan. Reported raids on the homes of members of non-majority religious groups, coupled with bans on the import of some religious publications and the confiscation or destruction of religious literature, further chill the climate for religious expression.
We will continue to use the OSCE as a platform for pressing these and other human rights challenges in Uzbekistan, including ongoing reports of torture in detention and the use of child labor in the annual cotton harvest.
Mr. Chairman, looking across the OSCE, community, we see intolerance and hate crimes against religious and ethnic minorities, including Roma and Sinti. I wish to commend the essential work of OSCE’s three tolerance representatives: Rabbi Andrew Baker, on Combating Anti-Semitism, Dr. Massimo Introvigne, on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination, also focusing on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians and Members of Other Religions, and Ambassador Adil Akhmetiv, on combating Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims. I also salute the efforts of the OSCE’s Contact Point on Roman and Sinti Issues. Violence against women and assaults on individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity are widespread problems. People with disabilities experience discrimination and tend to be relegated to the margins of society. The OSCE region is both a source and a destination for human trafficking. Men, women and children are forced into servitude within its borders.
To meet all of these challenges of implementation, participating States must strengthen their political will to honor their commitments. We and other like-minded governments must work vigilantly to ensure that the capacity and integrity of ODIHR, the High Commissioner on National Minorities, and other OSCE institutions are strengthened, not weakened, and that full use is made of the OSCE’s good offices, mechanisms, and field missions. Today, for example, the High Commissioner is working to prevent ethnic tensions from boiling over again in Central Asia and to ensure that children can receive an adequate education in their language in Slovakia, Serbia, and other parts of Europe. And the field missions are standing up freedom of information and human rights ombudsmen who can defend citizens’ rights.
Let me now say a few words about the state of consensus in the OSCE and its prospects for meeting today’s human, economic, and military security challenges. It is evident that some participating States lack the political will to meet the commitments they have already made. They are often reluctant or unwilling to give their consent so that the OSCE can take timely and effective action in key areas of concern, including the persistent implementation problems.
Mr. Chairman, we have encountered such dilemmas before in OSCE’s history. During the Cold War, Human Dimension commitments made by the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries were honored more in the breach than in practice. Despite this challenge, the Helsinki process managed to advance, thanks to the moral force of Helsinki monitoring groups as well as the West’s principled, sustained diplomacy. This tenacity ultimately paid off with the emergence of the democracies of Central and Eastern Europe in the 1990s. And the need for sustained, principled efforts by governments and their citizens is equally compelling now.
Today, we must be steadfast in the face of threats from some participating States to withhold consensus or attempt to water down commitments or weaken OSCE institutions. We will creatively use the full array of existing OSCE authorities, institutions, principles, and precedents to support the efforts of today’s activists on the ground who are pressing for human rights and democratic reforms. Consensus to act on issues of human rights and democracy may be hard to reach at the State-to-State level, but there is a growing grassroots consensus among citizens of the OSCE region and regions across the globe that governments must respect human rights and give their people a meaningful role in shaping the future of their countries.
The Helsinki Process and Support for Citizen Activism
President Obama and Secretary Clinton have made support and defense of civil society a global foreign policy priority, and we see our work in OSCE as integral to that effort.
OSCE was the first regional organization to recognize the importance of civil society and provide for NGO participation in its proceedings. Secretary Clinton made a special point of holding a Town Hall with civil society groups in Astana during the OSCE Summit, and we will continue to encourage and defend NGO involvement at the Human Dimension Implementation Meetings and other expert meetings of the OSCE.
Mr. Chairman, the Commission has long championed the vital role that non-governmental organizations play in the OSCE process. I am pleased to report that my own Bureau and Ambassador Kelly have collaborated on a new effort aimed at helping connect civil society activists across the OSCE region through new technologies.
In mid-August, my bureau will be reviewing proposals for a new $500,000 program to create a demand-driven virtual network of human rights and democracy activists in the OSCE region, which we intend to launch in September. We call it Helsinki 2.0. The network would serve as a sustainable coordination platform for reinvigorating human rights advocacy in Europe and Eurasia. A virtual interface will be created to enable activists to have regular engagement with governments beyond the traditional appearances at annual OSCE meetings. We hope that this Helsinki 2.0 platform will enhance activists’ ability to network with one another and with the OSCE. This effort should help extend Helsinki’s Human Dimension and its legacy of citizen advocacy into the Digital Age.
Enduring Freedoms, New Apps
Mr. Chairman, the Commission has greatly helped to elevate the issue of Internet freedom. I very much appreciate your holding a hearing on the subject a few weeks ago, at which my Deputy, Dan Baer, testified. It is vitally important that the OSCE take a principled and pioneering stand on Internet freedom.
In the past, the Helsinki process was a major international platform for defending citizens who expressed dissenting views via samizdat and for protesting the jamming of radio broadcasts. Two decades ago, in response to efforts by the Ceausescu regime to restrict citizens’ access to Xerox machines, an explicit commitment was included in the OSCE’s Copenhagen document pledging that “no limitation will be imposed on access to, and use of, means of reproducing documents of any kind.” Today, email, social networking, and text messaging are new forms of samizdat and tools of human rights advocacy as well as indispensible tools of commerce, education, and global communications.
We applaud Lithuania for making media freedom via old and new technologies and the safety of journalists key themes of its Chairmanship. I want to emphasize that cyber issues are relevant to all three dimensions of the OSCE. As we partner with other governments, civil society, and the business sector on ways we can safeguard against very real cyber security threats, we will do so ever mindful that the measures we take must be consistent with our human dimension commitments to respect the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Mr. Chairman, as Assistant Secretary Gordon noted, the United States advanced language for inclusion in the Astana Summit Action Plan on the exercise of “Fundamental Freedoms in the Digital Age.” Since, as you know, the Astana Summit ended without the adoption of such a plan, we intend to renew our efforts to get this breakthrough language adopted at the OSCE Ministerial in Vilnius in December. OSCE’s adoption of such language would, I believe, mark the first time that any regional organization formally recognizes that respect for the full range of human rights, and fundamental freedoms must extend to the use of new technologies.
The United States looks forward to working with the Lithuanian Chair, the EU, other participating States and civil society to ensure that the OSCE sends a strong and clear message from Vilnius on Internet Freedom. If I were to distill that message into a tweet to the world, it would be: “Enduring Freedoms, New Apps.”
Promises Made, Promises to be Kept
Mr. Chairman, when he signed the Helsinki Final Act 36 years ago, President Ford famously said, “History will judge this Conference not by what we say here today, but by what we do tomorrow — not by the promises we make, but by the promises we keep.” He was right then, and his statement is even more true today.
Europe cannot be completely whole, free and at peace –
Europe and Eurasia cannot become truly integrated –
There can be no lasting security extending from Vancouver to Vladivostok –
until human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully exercised by all people who live within the OSCE community of nations.
On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I thank the Commission for its decades of principled work to ensure that the promises made in Helsinki are kept. Now I would be happy to answer your questions.
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: It’s about the political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. What is it like in your opinion, and whether it’s time for Bosnia and Herzegovina to see more engagement of the European Union and close the office of the High Rep?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: In general the political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina I wish I could say was progressing more than I can say. It has been more than eight months since an election that we hoped would really help the country turn the corner, to allow its leaders to focus on economic development and to pursue the path to the European Union. And yet in those eight months it hasn’t managed to form a government at the state level which his disappointing and frustrating, and I would think is frustrating for all of the people of the country. That’s just on the general question of the political situation.
When you talk about EU engagement and the future of the Office of the High Representative, I would say we welcome greater European Union engagement. We’re very closely in touch with the EU in terms of policy here. And the EU’s decision to strengthen its presence is a positive one. The more the international community can be engaged here the better, because we’re all committed to helping this country succeed.
That doesn’t mean, and I want to be clear about that, that we think it is time for the Office of High Representative to disappear. On the contrary, I think we’ve seen a number of occasions in recent months, most recently in April but not just then, where the role of the Office of High Representative, the ongoing necessity of that role was demonstrated. I’m here in part to underscore our continued support for the OHR. I think we’ve been very clear as the international community what conditions would have to be met before it would be time for the OHR to finish its job and unfortunately, those conditions don’t seem to be met. Until they are, we’re going to continue to give it our strong backing.
QUESTION: Can Bosnia and Herzegovina make progress on its path to European integration processes since the High Rep, his action actually represents a form of protectorate in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Is it such a state with limited capacity when it comes to decision-making and can it as such make quick progress towards European Union and European integration processes?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I don’t think anybody wants to see the Office of High Representative exist longer than necessary. Once Bosnia and Herzegovina has fulfilled the necessary conditions to transition beyond that and fulfill the conditions for European Union membership, of course an international presence of that nature would no longer be necessary. That is our goal. Nobody is seeking to perpetuate forever an international role in this country. We would all like to see that role not be necessary.
The real question is not what is ideal for the country or what is consistent with European Union membership, but does it remain necessary to have this institution in place. The international community was clear about the conditions that would have to be fulfilled. They have yet to be fulfilled. Until they are the United States is going to continue to strongly back the institution.
QUESTION: When it comes to the formation of government at the state level it has not been formed yet although it’s been eight months from the election. How much did Bosnia and Herzegovina lose because of that with regard to its international reputation and its internal reputation as a state?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I think the failure to form a state level government in eight months is a setback for the country’s international reputation. I think it is an impediment to the economic growth that the country needs. Not least because it’s an impediment to support from the International Monetary Fund. I think in turn, that is not healthy for the economy because it raises questions among international investors about the country’s future, the country’s future as a potential EU member. So it’s a setback and that’s why we’re strongly encouraging the parties and that’s why I’ll do so in my meetings with party leaders here, to find a compromise and move forward. We really do think this is something that would benefit the country as a whole in a number of important ways.
QUESTION: When we are talking about the formation of the government, the federation government was established with the intervention of OHR, of the High Rep. And it was done contrary to the decisions of the most democratic institution of Bosnia and Herzegovina which is the Central Election Commission. What is your comment about that?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I think the intervention of the international community to help bring about a government at the entity level was not a first choice but a necessary choice. Many months had gone by without a government being formed at any level, and ultimately the international community ended up playing a role that it didn’t want to play in the first place but felt it had to play in order to bring such a compromise about. It put forward what we felt was a reasonable compromise proposal that the parties themselves didn’t seem able to come to. One set of parties, the HDZ parties, chose not to go along with the compromise presented and walked away from the process which we regretted because we thought it would be important for them to be represented, but they chose not to be. So a federation level government was formed and is now functioning and helping the federation and getting things done that need to get done that aren’t done when you have an absence of a government. So that’s why the international community reluctantly stepped in and we consider the result of that, maybe the process wasn’t ideal, but the result is a legitimate legal and functioning government and we’d like to see a similarly functioning government at the state level as well.
QUESTION: The legitimate representatives, as they call themselves, of Croat people say that their election will was not respected. Would it be good for Bosnia and Herzegovina to form the government at the state level without two HDZs? HDZ, BIH and HDZ 1990, or is it better to have broader coalition? Is it better for Bosnia and Herzegovina taking into account the tasks ahead?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: It’s not for me to dictate or put forward a specific recipe of what the state level government should be. As a general rules, yes, broader is better. We’d like to see a broad coalition of parties from the entities across the country represented. That would be the best outcome all around. As I said at the federation level not having the HDZs represented was not the first choice, but it was a choice that they made when they chose not to accept the compromise that was put on the table.
So we strongly encourage the parties to talk to each other and find a way to have the broadest representation possible so there can be a government at the state level which would be in the interest of everybody in the country.
QUESTION: What do you expect from the structural dialogue which already started when it comes to judicial reform? And in your opinion, what is the judicial system in Bosnia and Herzegovina? Is that reform which we have seen so far, did it actually yield the expected results?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I think everybody would recognize that more progress needs to be made in terms of the judicial institutions of this country. That’s one of the reasons the European Union has been prepared to offer such a structural dialogue. It’s part of the EU accession process so it’s necessary for Bosnia and Herzegovina in that sense, but it’s also necessary to have a more effective and efficient and functioning judicial system. So that is a positive development. I don’t think it should be seen as a reward or punishment for anyone’s behavior or solely in terms of what the country needs to do to be on the EU track, but while clearly we believe this country needs state level judicial institutions, those institutions, there’s room for progress and the EU has a pretty strong track record in advising countries, in particular candidate countries, on measures it can take to ensure the rule of law and the fight against corruption which is absolutely essential for any country’s future.
QUESTION: So far we have heard different rumors and speculations on Dayton II. Do you think that for Bosnia and Herzegovina this new Dayton II is needed or consistent implementation, application of Bosnia and Herzegovina could also open the path to Bosnia and Herzegovina to European Union and NATO?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I think I understood you were talking about Dayton II?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I just wanted to be clear. We don’t talk about Dayton II. Anything called Dayton II would imply a major international effort to redo institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina and to rethink the basic elements of the institutions of this country. That is not what we are thinking about, it’s not anything we have proposed. We’re strongly committed to the Dayton institutions as they exist.
It is true that from time to time over the past years different ideas about constitutional reform have come up, usually in the context of EU membership, and in the context of creating a more functional state. As I’ve said, a more functional state would be in the interests of all of the people of this country and should be considered, but needs to be considered by the parties.
So we have never put forward major institutional changes. This is necessarily for the people and the leaders of the country to do. And very specifically on the issue of Dayton II it’s not something that is on our agenda.
QUESTION: What are the priority requirements Bosnia and Herzegovina should meet? Not immediately, but it was all ready to meet them yesterday. What is your opinion? What are the priorities for Bosnia and Herzegovina, priority requirements to meet so it could become a stable and prosperous state in this region which is always kind of shaky?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Again, I would underscore it’s not for me, it’s not for an outsider to say what the priorities of the country should be. I believe a number of leaders of this country have said their priority is to join Europe in the broadest sense of that term. To benefit from the same degree of stability and prosperity and democracy and openness and rule of law that the countries of the European Union benefit from. Countries, I would add, that have overcome the harshest of disputes and wars and crimes and killing realized after several of these wars, that their future was in cooperation regardless of their ethnicity or religion or borders. I think all of those countries of the European Union would tell you that learning that lesson was one of the most important things they ever did and the consequence of it now is that they are among the wealthiest countries in the world, among the most stable, among the most open.
I think that’s what, if I were a citizen of this country, my priority would be. To overcome those divisions, come to terms with the past, and focus on reconciliation and getting over ethnic divisions rather than perpetuating them. And by doing so, taking a step for my country down the road to the European institutions which would protect the country’s security and prosperity and stability.
QUESTION: In your opinion, is Bosnia and Herzegovina a safe country? Taking into consideration that there are still persons who are considered a security threat. It had an obligation to get rid of these persons 30 days after the Dayton.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Tell me more specifically what you’re referring to.
QUESTION: I’m talking about persons of Afro-Asian origin who are deeply incorporated in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s structures. They have become part of domiciled population included domiciled population into the Wahabbi movements last year. We saw the terrorist attack in Bugojno, and that’s why I’m posing this question. It’s related to these persons.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: You’re asking if Bosnia and Herzegovina is a safe country. All of our countries face security threats, face threats from extremism of different sorts. We all need to take measures and be vigilant and develop the types of institutions, judicial institutions, police forces, rule of law, in order to prevent that extremism from posing a threat to the well-being of the citizens of the country. I think that is true, as I say, across the board, and this country needs to do work in that area just like other countries do.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
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.
QUESTION: Mr. Gordon, thank you for this interview. The first question I wanted to ask you is when Mr. Biden came to Belgrade, he said that his visit was intended at resetting ties between Serbia and the United States. That message was reiterated during Mrs. Clinton’s visit to Belgrade. Do you think that the ties were reset, and how would you describe them now?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I think that the ties between our two countries are very good. The facts of these visits alone, I think, is an indicator of the intensity of the diplomatic relationship that we have. In the past, Serbia and the United States had some major differences; nobody denies that. I think the Vice President coming here was an opportunity to say, in this administration, we want to move forward together on a number of areas in which we have common interest, and we share a vision for Serbia and for the region, which is to say a Serbia that is on the path to European Union membership, strong, prosperous, stable, good relations with neighbors. We have very good dialogue with Serbia on all of these fronts. We cooperate in the security area, in counter-terrorism, anti-drug, narcotics, and these steps forward, the relationship could be better, and we are going to keep working on it. But I think it is fair to say that we have really taken a turn for a better in the bilateral relationship.
QUESTION: Some of these improvements actually are sort of low profile, some improvements have not been so broadly publicized here, like the number of our officers or cadets training in U.S. military schools, the participation of our army in joint exercises. Do you think that actually our ties are a bit better than we believe?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I think much more goes on than people are aware of. Some of these things are not so high profile and in the newspapers every day. That is why I mentioned some of the areas, I mentioned intelligence cooperation, counter-terrorism cooperation, anti-narcotics cooperation is not the sort of thing that you trumpet every day and is visible to people, but it is important to us. We know what Serbia is doing as a partner of United States on these areas, in which we share interests and values. Obviously, the arrest of Ratko Mladic was another important development, one that we strongly supported, and we are very pleased to see, and we congratulate Serbian government on that important step. So, yes, a lot of this is behind the scenes, a lot of our diplomatic encounters are behind the scenes. When I am speaking regularly to my Serbian counterparts, it is not necessarily in the newspapers, but it is a way for us to have a dialogue about things that matter to both countries.
QUESTION: You said that you see the right path for Serbia is the path towards the European Union. But even after the arrest of Ratko Mladic, some countries like the Netherlands sort of failed to ratify the next steps because they have new requirements, like the arrest of the last remaining indictee Goran Hadzic, and then already announced that they will have some more conditions. Do you think that EU is bit weary of enlargement, and that would be a problem for Serbia?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I do not think that there is any question that the bar for EU membership is very high and arguably even higher as, as you say, there is bit of enlargement fatigue in the EU. As it is gotten bigger, countries are more and more skeptical of new members and they watch very carefully which new members that come in. But I do not think that the door is closed, I do not think that the door should be closed, and I do not think that conditions for Serbia have changed or should change. It is very straightforward, the EU has tough and demanding conditions, the Commission will look very carefully at Serbia’s internal reforms to see if those conditions are met. They’ll look very carefully at cooperation on the war crimes issue, where it’s true that arresting Ratko Mladic was an important step forward, but with Hadzic out still, I don’t think it’s possible to say that that issue has entirely been dealt with. It is also the view of a number of member states and of the United States that Serbia needs to come to terms with Kosovo in one way or another before the process can move forward, simply because you can’t take in a new EU member state where there is unclarity on the border or no positive relationship with an important neighboring country. So, yes, more needs to be done, but there’s no question that the objective is one that we share with Serbia, because we believe all of the Balkans needs to be part of the European Union, and Serbia is really a critical piece of that.
QUESTION: You say it will be difficult for Serbia to join the EU with unresolved issues with a neighboring country. Serbia does not view Kosovo as a neighboring country. How much of a problem do you think it can be in the accession? Will Serbia have to recognize the independence of Kosovo in order to become an EU member? Is that the view of the United States?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Well, the European Union will determine whether full diplomatic recognition is a precondition for membership. I don’t think we’re at the point of finally answering that question yet. We know that in the meantime – the expression I used was ‘come to terms with,’ find the modus vivendi with, Kosovo. What can’t happen is for Serbia to move down this path with very serious differences over status, an absence of agreement on customs, on practical matters like electricity, telecoms, freedom of movement. It doesn’t seem to me realistic for a country to join the European Union with all of those ambiguities about Kosovo. So, first things first, start dealing with those issues, show that there’s recognition that this needs to be sorted out, and down the road it can be addressed whether full diplomatic recognition needs to happen before Serbia can join the European Union or whether there is some other way of coming to terms with the issue that satisfies the member states, but what is clear is that more work needs to be done before that process can move forward. That’s the view of the United States, and I believe it’s the view of most of the member states of the EU as well.
QUESTION: So are you saying that the U.S. diplomacy will not advocate the formal recognition of Kosovo as, you know, advise its allies in Europe to make it a precondition for further integration into Europe?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Well, certainly we want to see full recognition. We recognize Kosovo, as do more than seventy other countries around the world, including most members of the European Union. So, that is, of course, what we would like to see. I don’t think that’s realistic in the near term, and that’s why our focus for the near term is, in the first instance, to start dealing with some of the practical issues that affect the daily lives of the people between the two countries, and then, as the process moves forward, Serbia will have to, and Kosovo, will have to deal with some of the more difficult issues. But of course, in the long run, we would like to see recognition. Recognition that takes into account the interests of the ethnic Serbs who live in Kosovo, that takes into account the need to protect Serbian religious sites in Kosovo, and that provides for sound relations between what we believe are two countries.
QUESTION: When we were talking about the prospects of Serbia, you mentioned EU integration, but not Euro-Atlantic integration. Was that deliberate? Have you sensed how volatile this issue is in Serbia, so you do not mention NATO membership?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I’m fully aware of Serbian views about NATO. Our interlocutors here in Belgrade are not pressing us on the issue and we’re not pressing them. Our view of NATO is that the door is open to democracies in Europe that want to join the security alliance. We think there are many benefits in doing so in terms of integration and interoperable military forces, and we have common interests in, not only protecting our territories, but projecting security around the world. So, that’s why NATO’s door is open and countries like Serbia, other democracies in Europe that want to join, are welcome to go through the process. But, the bottom line is, it’s up to those countries, and if Serbia is not interested in joining NATO, as my understanding is right now, it’s not asking to, that’s a democratic decision and perfectly fine.
QUESTION: The advocates of Serbian membership in NATO are saying that it may be sort of a short cut toward membership in the EU. Would you connect these two things in any way?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: No, I think they are different things. We have seen some countries become part of one organization but not the other and vice versa, and that depends on their interests and the views of the organizations themselves. There’s a lot of overlap and it tends to be, and that’s why we use the phrase “Euro-Atlantic” institution, they tend to go together, and most of the countries that want to join European Union also want to join NATO, but there’s no automatic linkage between the two, and it’s up to each country which path they want to pursue.
QUESTION: Do you believe that ties between the former Yugoslav republics, or at least those who were at war during the last decade of the last century, that they are improving, and that they have improved a lot? How would you describe the relations between mainly Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I don’t think that there is any question but that they have improved a lot, and it depends what time frame you want to take. Obviously, since the war time they have improved dramatically, qualitatively; but even over the past couple of years, I think they continue to inch forward in almost every bilateral case I can think of. Relations are better this year than they were last year, and they were better last year than they were five years previously. We’ve seen a lot of interrelationships between Croatia and Serbia, Serbia and Bosnia, Croatia and Bosnia, Kosovo and others, so I am quite positive about the region longer term, and it’s been a major rebuilding process after a terrible and tragic war, but I think there’s no question that it’s moving in the right direction.
QUESTION: I read your speech in Sarajevo that you gave yesterday, and in that speech you warned that at the moment Bosnia is not moving in the right direction. Why is that and how to mend that situation?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Well, I was very direct with our friends in Bosnia, because I wanted them to understand that whereas the rest of the region actually is moving forward, sometimes in fits and starts and with steps forward and backwards, it is moving forward towards reform, economic reform, stability, relations among neighbors, and membership in Euro-Atlantic institutions. Bosnia, frankly, is not. It made decent progress for the first decade after the Dayton agreement, but in the past five or six years it has either stagnated or moved backwards. My last visit to the region was with Secretary Clinton last October, just after the Bosnian election. Here I am, eight months later, and they still haven’t even formed a state-level government. Without that they are not going to be able to tackle the issues that they need to deal with to succeed as a country and they are not going to be able to move forward on the path to European integration. Meanwhile, Croatia is moving ahead, Serbia we’d like to believe is moving ahead, others in the region are moving forward, and I think Bosnia’s political leaders need to put the country’s national interests over their narrow, or partisan, or ethnic interests if they want that country to succeed, and I think the people of Bosnia should send a message to their political leaders that that is what they want to see.
QUESTION: Do you believe that there should be a constitutional change in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and in what way should it go?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Well, first of all that’s for the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina to decide – you won’t see the United States coming forward and saying, “Here’s the constitution that you should adopt, and make these changes.” Obviously, they have to agree, or it’s not going to succeed. We do believe it’s pretty clear in the long run there needs to be some changes at a minimum to comply with European law in the European accession process, but to create a more functional state, I think, all observers will recognize that some changes need to be made, but obviously they need to be made by and with the cooperation with the people in the entities.
QUESTION: Complaining about the first attempts of constitutional change, the leadership of Republika Srpska says that the attempt is made towards too much centralized power in Bosnia. How centralized do you believe the Bosnian government should be?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Not very. It is already significantly decentralized, and I do not know anyone who’s seeking to centralize government. That’s a myth that I sometimes think is created. We want to see, we believe Bosnians need a more functional state. But, no one is trying to impose centralization. We’ve always said that the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina should have two vibrant entities where there is a very significant degree of self-government. And no central government or the Office of the High Representative is trying to impose any rules or governance or regulations on the entities. They just need a minimum of functionality and cooperation to exist as a successful country.
QUESTION: And finally, when you think of Serbia, what is the first association in your head?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Europe. Clearly Serbia is a part of Europe. That’s why we want to see it join Europe and the institutions. So that’s first, but second is Novak Djokovic, and maybe even first sometimes. I think he is a great ambassador and representative of the country.
QUESTION: I hope you’ll agree that it’s a good association, much better than you probably used to have years ago.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: It’s a very positive, and not just him, but some of the other great athletes in this country really put a positive face on Serbia’s reputation in the United States and around the world.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Welcome. Maybe I’ll just say a couple of very brief things at the beginning and then I’ll look forward to your questions.
I’m very pleased to be back in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I think you know, spoke at a conference this morning and have spent the day meeting at the tri-presidency, meeting with a number of party leaders and others, and I hope my visit will be seen as a sign of the United States’ continued engagement and interest in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We’ve invested a lot over the past years in this country and remain committed to its success, remain committed to its aspirations to join Euro-Atlantic institutions, and I wanted to express that strong support which I did publicly and to a number of the individuals that I met with.
I also came to express an interest in the formation of a state level government. I won’t hide that we in the United States are frustrated at the amount of time it has taken. The last visit I made to Bosnia and Herzegovina was with Secretary Clinton last October which was just after the elections which we hoped would quickly lead to the formation of a functional government that could start tackling the very real challenges that this country faces. Now eight months have gone by in the mean time without such a government and I wanted to talk to party leaders about their ideas for how to put such a government in place.
I was encouraged to hear that the party leaders agree that it’s not in the interest of the country to have a vacuum at that level, to not have a government, but I was disappointed at the lack of progress and encourage them to think creatively and get together in the interest of the country as a whole.
I also came and expressed the United States’ strong and ongoing support for the Dayton institutions and the Office of High Representative. There have been various challenges to those institutions in particular over the past year, and I’m including in that recent or earlier RS legislation on state property and more recently the April 13th proposed referendum and conclusions and I think we were very clear at the time that we found that proposed referendum and conclusions unacceptable and inconsistent with Dayton and that we supported the OHR in rejecting that approach. We made that clear at the time and I underscored that it remains our view that those conclusions are inconsistent with Dayton and we would continue to back the High Representative in his approach to the issue.
So those are some of the messages that I conveyed and some of the issues that I discussed. Again, the overall point is that we remain engaged and committed. We want to see Bosnia and Herzegovina as a full-fledged and thriving member of the European Union and NATO. Ultimately a lot more work needs to be done. We will stand ready to help in every way we can, but it is something that the leaders of the country and the people of the country are going to have to take responsibility for. We will be with them as they do so.
I’m happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: Today you had an opportunity to meet with several political leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Are you optimistic after these discussions that Bosnia and Herzegovina could in near future, by the end of June, agree on parliamentary majority at the state level?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I did meet with a lot of party leaders and talked about the urgency of forming a government. As I noted, I was encouraged to hear all of them committed to forming a government. They all seem to recognize that this country cannot do without a state level government, there are real issues that need to be tackled on behalf of all of the people of the country and they expressed interest in doing so which was welcome news.
I was, however, disappointed that they didn’t seem to be near a solution, that so much time has gone by without it, that they remain dug in on certain positions and inflexible which might be in the interest of their party or their ethnic group but not in the interest of the country as a whole which is precisely the approach that we’re encouraging. That is to say encouraging leaders to think about the people of the country as a whole and the success of the country as a whole and not narrow political interests. So I was disappointed in that.
I don’t want to put a timetable on it. I do think that they understand that this needs to get done. I think it would be too optimistic to say the end of June or any other near term deadline, but I can tell you that we are going to continue both to press them to do so and to offer whatever ideas we might have that would help, but ultimately the responsibility is for the leaders.
QUESTION: After the government is formed and the entities, can you tell us what the United States expects from this government? The new government is made up of old parties, the SDP is the only new party. So what does the United States expect after the formation of the government? What do they expect from the new government? The fact is that the new government is made by all the parties of which the old government was made except for SDP and that period, past period, the main characteristic was the lack of reforms implemented and needed for Euro-Atlantic path for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I think we would expect similar things from whatever government that may be formed. Again, it’s not really a question of what we expect, it’s what the country needs and what the people of the country expect, but I think we all know what the issues are. You concluded your question by referencing the European Union and that I think is near the top of anyone’s list. There are a set of measures that would be expected of any government dealing with the EU accession process, dealing with the question of a census and state aid and Sejdic-Finci and whatever the stripe or composition of the government they’re going to have to take steps to deal with those issues to move this country down the path towards the European Union.
Also in the context of joining Euro-Atlantic institutions there’s the NATO question, and a government we hope would tackle the question of fixed defense properties which, as you know, is the precondition for the Membership Action Plan process to begin which will be a very positive thing for the country.
There’s the question of a deal with the IMF for which a state level government is necessary and which would benefit the economy as a whole. I made references in my speech to slow growth and economic problems that would need to be tackled by this government.
Beyond that there are other questions of governmental reform and efforts to make the government more functional and effective. I think you could come up with a whole list of things that any government would have to tackle, but first things first, you need a government in place before any of these issues can be dealt with.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. administration, current administration, have some new proposals for Bosnia and Herzegovina when it comes to constitutional reforms? We had Butmir package of measures and it failed and recently there were certain statements in the media and certain initiatives in relation to a new conference that will be called Dayton II.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: First, just to be clear, we have no plans for anything resembling or known as Dayton II which implies a major international conference, restructuring or structuring a constitutional system and institutions. Dayton I was a set of measures to end the war and to set up a country and no reform program that I’m familiar with is being considered in Europe or the United States to do anything remotely like that. Indeed, as I said, we support the Dayton institutions that are already in place and we’re not proposing to replace it with anything. So I don’t know where that notion comes from but there’s no plan for a Dayton II.
In terms of constitutional reform or other types of reforms, I would say what I said about government formation. It’s not for the United States to come in with a plan. One of the things we’re trying to do is encourage this country to, and its leaders, to act in the interests of the country as a whole. To do that, the views of all of its constituents need to be represented. Nothing can be imposed on the different peoples and entities. Therefore you’re not going to hear the United States come up with the plan for constitutional reform. Sure, we can help, we can provide ideas, we have a lot of experience with this sort of thing, we have constitutional experts. So does the European Union. The European Union has advised a lot of transition countries on setting up their legal systems, judicial structures, and we’re more than ready to offer such thoughts and creative ideas. But we’re not in the business of putting forward plans and ultimately they would have to be agreed to by the parties in the country. Again, I said the same thing about government formation. We can offer thoughts, creative ideas, paths forward, but we can’t do it for them.
QUESTION: My next question would be in that context as well. Recently in Banja Luka the structural dialogue on reform of judiciary started with the European Union. Does the United States intend with advice or in any other form to support the judicial reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: We will be supportive. I think the structure dialogue specifically is an EU process that exists and has been used in other candidate countries, and we don’t have a direct role in it. We do support it because I think this process has demonstrated in the past that it can help countries improve the functioning of their judicial systems which is an absolutely critical measure in their success. And the EU has a pretty good track record in this. I think the enlargement process itself has been very positive in helping countries fight corruption, reform their judiciaries, and install the rules of law. If that can help in Bosnia and Herzegovina then it’s a good thing and we very much support it even though we’re not going to have a direct role in it.
QUESTION: Another question related to the recent tensions caused in Bosnia and Herzegovina related to the decision of RSNA on referendum and referendum on imposed decisions of HR. It was pulled back when the dialogue on reform of judiciary started, but the conclusions of the RSNA are still valid.
Do you think that by not pulling back these conclusions the story on referendum remains topical?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I can only speak for the United States and we’ve been pretty clear about that. We said that the referendum was a direct challenge to Dayton that was not acceptable and needed to be dropped. I’ve heard different references to the degree to which it has been abandoned. I know that Mr. Dodik said it was dropped for now, which raises some prospect of bringing it back up, but I can tell you that were it to be brought up our view of it would be the same as it was when it was brought up in the first place, that it’s an unacceptable challenge to the Dayton institutions and the High Representative would be fully within his rights and obligations to oppose it. Our view of that hasn’t changed and won’t change in the future.
QUESTION: Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Thank you all.
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.
Chairman Shaheen, Ranking Member Barrasso, Members of the Committee:
Watching the wave of democracy protests in the Arab world reminds us inevitably of the last time dictatorships across an entire region suddenly shook and collapsed under the weight of the people’s desire for freedom. In 1989, Europe changed suddenly and immeasurably. Because of those events and because of the wise bipartisan policies in the years that followed, Europe, and our relationship with Europe, has changed vastly in the last twenty years. In those days, the major preoccupation in the transatlantic relationship was the defense of Europe against the Soviet threat. Today, Europe is almost fully democratic, largely unified, and is America’s essential global partner. When the Libya crisis erupted, for example, we worked closely with our European allies pass UNSCRs 1970 and 1973, and we looked to NATO to lead the effort to enforce the no-fly zone and arms embargo and to protect civilians.
Beyond Libya, the U.S. and Europe work together on an extraordinarily wide range of issues, from Afghanistan to Iran to the tumultuous events in North Africa and the Middle East. On both sides of the Atlantic we are working hard to recover from the worst financial crisis since The Great Depression. Because our economies are intertwined, and we are working together so closely on problems around the globe, policy decisions taken in Europe to address the Eurozone crisis will have an impact here in the United States. There is a common thread that runs through all our engagement with Europe: U.S.-European cooperation is and remains essential to achieving our strategic objectives.
Our engagement with Europe begins with the idea that the United States faces a daunting international agenda and that our ability to deal with it is immeasurably increased by working with strong allies and partners. In meeting these challenges, we have no better partner than Europe, where we work with democratic, prosperous, militarily-capable allies who share our values and share our interests. In the words of President Obama, Europe is “the cornerstone of our engagement with the world.”
To help you understand the breadth and depth of that engagement, I’ll describe the strategic objectives that drive our approach toward Europe. Then, I’d like to offer you an assessment of our record over the past two years on these objectives.
When I think about this administration’s priorities in Europe, there are three basic objectives that stand out in our engagement with the continent:
1. First, we work with Europe as a partner in meeting global challenges. On every issue of global importance, Europe’s contributions are crucial to solving major international challenges. No matter what the issue is – from the war in Afghanistan, to the Iranian nuclear challenge, to the new operation in Libya – Europe is indispensable. We are vastly stronger – in terms of legitimacy, resources, and ideas – when we join forces with Europe on the global agenda.
2. Second, we are still working with Europe on Europe, that is to say working to complete the historic project of helping to extend stability, security, prosperity and democracy to the entire continent. The extraordinary success that the United States and Europe have had together in promoting European integration, in consolidating and supporting the new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe and integrating them into Euro-Atlantic institutions demonstrates the promise of this enterprise. But our work is not done. And so the effort continues in the Balkans, in Europe’s east, and in the Caucasus.
3. Finally, we have sought to set relations with Russia on a more constructive course. President Obama recognized that he had inherited a relationship that was in a difficult place and that this situation did not serve the interests of the United States. Therefore, our goal has been to cooperate with Russia where we have common interests, but not at the expense of our principles or our friends. As such, where we have concerns, such as on Russia’s human rights record, or on Georgia, we will continue to raise concerns with government and foster connections with civil society.
Looking back on the past two years, we can point to significant progress in each area:
First, we have worked together as never before with our European partners on global issues, including Afghanistan, Iran, missile defense, and the momentous developments in North Africa and the Middle East. Specifically:
In Afghanistan, following the President’s West Point speech in November 2009, Europe contributed about 7,000 additional troops, over 100 training teams for the Afghan army and police, and nearly $300 million for the Afghan National Army trust fund. European nations now have almost 40,000 troops in Afghanistan and the total European contribution to Afghanistan since 2001 comes to over $14 billion.
On Iran, we maintained unity in our efforts to engage, and we have at the same time seen the strongest-ever set of sanctions adopted by the UN Security Council and an even more robust set of follow-on sanctions adopted by the European Union. These additional measures taken by the EU cover a variety of areas critical to the regime including trade, finance, banking and insurance, transport, and the gas and oil sectors, in addition to new visa bans and asset freezes. These steps have raised the price of Iran’s failure to meet its obligations and we hope will serve to bring them back to the negotiating table.
On Missile Defense, NATO allies recognized at the Lisbon Summit in November 2010 that the defense of Europe can no longer be achieved just by tanks or bombers. Now, we need defenses against a new and grave set of threats, in particular ballistic missiles in the hands of dangerous regimes. Our aim as an alliance is to develop a missile defense capability that will provide full coverage and protection from ballistic missile threats for all NATO European territory, populations, and forces. This capability will be a tangible expression of NATO’s core mission of collective defense. At the summit, allies also welcomed the U.S. missile defense system in Europe, known as the European Phased Adaptive Approach, as a valuable national contribution to the overall effort, and we hope to see additional voluntary contributions from other allies. We are now exploring further ways to cooperate with Russia on missile defense, without in any way prejudicing NATO’s ability to independently defend its territory from missile threats.
In Libya, we consulted and cooperated closely with our European allies to pass UNSCRs 1970 and 1973, which levied sanctions against the Qadhafi regime, established a no-fly zone over Libya, and gave us the authority to protect Libyan civilians from the regime’s attacks. NATO took over enforcement of UNSCR 1973 on March 31 and now has over 7,000 personnel in Operation Unified Protector, over 200 aircraft and 20 ships. OUP has maintained a consistently high operational tempo across a vast country. NATO has flown over 6,000 sorties – almost half of them strike sorties – and hit hundreds of critical targets. And this is primarily a European operation. Over 60 percent of the aircraft come from our allies and our partners, including from the region. All 20 naval ships are contributed by Canada and European allies.
In the second area, extending the European zone of peace, prosperity, and democracy, we have had some important successes, but equally important challenges remain. As I said at the outset, the work of “completing” Europe is not finished. What I think is most notable about our current efforts under the Obama Administration is how closely – as part of a deliberate strategy – we are working together with Europe to achieve this goal.
Take, for instance, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. These are the countries of the EU’s Eastern Partnership, an initiative that the United States strongly supports and works with to advance democracy, stability, and security in this part of the world. We share with our European counterparts a similar approach to these countries because of our common goals. As the situation has deteriorated in Belarus, including with the conviction of former Presidential candidate Sannikov, we have coordinated very closely with the EU including on possible additional sanctions.
The same can be said of the Balkans: the U.S. and European view is that Europe will not be complete until all of the countries of the Western Balkans are full EU members. On the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, on the future of Bosnia, on Croatia’s path to the EU, we have consulted closely with Europe. We also welcomed Albania and Croatia into NATO, extended Membership Action Plans to Bosnia and Montenegro, and Macedonia will join once the dispute over its name is resolved. This degree of accord on the Balkans is the foundation of our success—we work together every step of the way. The intensive joint diplomacy of recent months has shown how closely our visions are aligned, something which is essential for progress in the region.
U.S. and European unity is particularly critical in Bosnia, where nationalist politicians are irresponsibly challenging the very core of the Dayton Accords and threatening the functioning and integrity of the Bosnian state. Bosnian leaders are often privileging their own interests above their populations. Bosnia cannot take its rightful place in Europe unless it has a state functional enough to meet NATO and EU accession requirements. We are, together with our European allies, committed to helping Bosnia meet those requirements.
Another example of the decisive impact that U.S.-European cooperation can have in the region is our joint response to events in Belarus. The Government of Belarus’s crackdown on civil society and the opposition following the flawed election in December has been sharply condemned on both sides of the Atlantic. We have made very clear that our relationship with Belarus cannot improve in the context of continued repression of civil society, the opposition, and independent media. The U.S. and the EU have called for the immediate and unconditional release of all detainees and an end to the continue human rights violations against critics of the government. We consider the five presidential candidates and other democratic activists who are being tried after being arrested in conjunction with the December 19 presidential election to be political prisoners; the latest convictions and ongoing trials are clearly politically motivated. Both we and Europe have targeted measures against those officials responsible for the crackdown even as we and Europe support the aspirations of the people of Belarus for a modern open society. To that end, the United States is providing an additional $4 million in democracy-related assistance to help Belarusians create space for the free expression of political views, the development of a civil society, freedom of the media, and empowerment of independent entrepreneurs. Both we and Europe want a better, more productive relationship with Belarus; unfortunately, the country’s leadership is following a policy that will only further isolate Belarus and its people.
Turning to the Caucasus, our joint efforts with the European Union and other international partners in the region have resulted in progress, but disputes over territory and a need for further meaningful political and economic reforms remain serious obstacles to greater stability. In Georgia, our steadfast engagement and generous assistance have aided in transforming Georgia into an aspiring democracy and important partner to NATO in Afghanistan. Together with our European partners, we will maintain our support for Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty within its internationally recognized borders and will continue to support international efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the dispute over Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Elsewhere in the region, we will continue to press for democratic reforms and an opening of the political space such that human rights and fundamental freedoms are fully respected, to encourage normalization between Turkey and Armenia, and to increase our engagement through the Minsk Group with Russia and France to help Armenia and Azerbaijan find a peaceful settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In that regard, we strongly believe that the time has come to finalize and endorse the Basic Principles and move to the drafting of a peace agreement. We believe that the United States and Europe must work together to avoid further conflict in Europe and help the countries in the region move towards democracy, peace, and greater prosperity.
Our foreign assistance investments remain an important instrument in advancing the European zone of peace, prosperity and democracy. There have been reductions to the region’s assistance budget in the Administration’s FY 2012 Request. They are the result of the achievement of some assistance goals in the region and of the particularly difficult budget climate in which we find ourselves. In future decisions on resource allocations, we will continue to take account of vital long-term U.S. interests in this region.
Finally, what has arguably been the most challenging part of our European agenda – our reset with Russia – has paid significant dividends. Challenges remain. However, we can now say that our engagement with Russia can help with America’s security and our global priorities. The results speak for themselves:
Most significantly, we have concluded a New START Treaty and following the recent approval by both Congress and the Russian State Duma, it has entered into force. The agreement is the most comprehensive arms control agreement in nearly two decades and significantly reduces the number of nuclear weapons and launchers deployed by the United States and Russia while also putting in place a strong verification regime.
We signed an agreement for the transit of troops and materiel across Russia in support of efforts in Afghanistan. Under our bilateral agreements, more than 1100 flights carrying over 170,000 U.S. military personnel have transited Russia en route to Afghanistan. Under a NATO-Russia agreement, nearly 27,000 containers have transited Russia for use in Afghanistan. At this time, 50% of U.S. sustainment cargo for Afghanistan goes through the Northern Distribution Network and 60% of supplies transiting that network go through Russia. This is a significant benefit for the United States.
We have secured cooperation with Russia on Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs, both in terms of UN Security Council Resolutions 1929 and 1874 respectively, and Russia’s decision to cancel a contract for the delivery of the S-300 air defense system to Iran.
We have done all of this without compromising our principles – in particular our steadfast commitment to respect for universal values, the sovereignty, and territorial integrity of all of the nations of Europe. We firmly believe that the security and prosperity of Europe also rests in adhering to commitments to advance human rights and democracy. Where human rights problems exist, we will continue to speak out and strongly support the rights of Russian citizens and others throughout the region to peacefully exercise freedom of expression and assembly as guaranteed under the constitution and enshrined in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Helsinki accords.
And thanks to the work of the Bilateral Presidential Commission and its 18 working groups, our engagement with Russian society is paying important dividends as well. Polling now indicates 60 percent of Russians have a positive view of the U.S., a figure not seen in nearly a decade.
This brief overview of the U.S. agenda with Europe demonstrates that we work together closely with Europe on nearly every major issue, both internationally and within Europe. Whether the issue is promoting democracy in Europe’s east or south, advancing energy security for the whole continent, or contributing to the NATO effort to secure Afghanistan, the energy, ideas, and commitment of Europe is something we look to and rely upon in pursuing our common goals.
As you can see, our transatlantic partners have been very busy. But appropriately so – we have an extremely full U.S.-Europe agenda because we have so many pressing challenges in the world today, and close transatlantic cooperation is the indispensable starting point in addressing all of them.
There is much work to be done to translate this agenda into concrete steps toward the security and prosperity of both Europe and the United States. This is not easy, particularly at a time of budgetary austerity all across the industrialized world. We will have to adapt creatively to this new reality by finding ways to make our collective defense spending smarter and more efficient. We will need to reform NATO and streamline its operations, as we and our NATO allies pledged in the recent NATO Strategic Concept. We will have to find ways to advance NATO-EU cooperation so that the full resources of both institutions can be harnessed most effectively. We must continue to build on the momentum of the OSCE Astana Summit last December to reinvigorate efforts to ensure comprehensive security in Europe. We have to create a more seamless and market-based flow of energy into Europe and within Europe. If we can do these things, I am confident that the partnership between the United States and Europe – which has achieved so much in the last sixty years – will achieve even greater things in the decades to come.
With that, I look forward to your questions.