Nelson: People in BiH choose Euro-Atlantic path as the best hope for a better future

Nelson: People in BiH choose Euro-Atlantic path as the best hope for a better future

SARAJEVO, November 27 (FENA) – As Bosnia and Herzegovina marks 25 years of peace, guaranteed by the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA), it is time to not only assess progress since the DPA, but more importantly to look to the future, stated Ambassador of the United States of America to BiH Eric Nelson in his blog on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Agreement.

He reminded that the DPA confirmed the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a state.  It enabled the creation of institutions fundamental to a functional state, such as the multi-ethnic Armed Forces of BiH, of which each citizen can be proud.

Ambassador added that the DPA put peace first and gave citizens a chance to return to their homes and rebuild their lives after each community had suffered so much during the terrible war.  It did so by ensuring power-sharing between the Bosniak, Serb and Croat constituent peoples.  The DPA’s primary goal was to serve as a framework to retain the peace, to build trust and reconciliation, and also to enable the country’s transition into an efficiently functioning, democratic society.

“The DPA continues to fulfill that basic promise, but the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina demand, deserve and are ready for more. In my travels across the country, I hear clear demands from citizens, young people and entrepreneurs from throughout the country: a future free of division and manipulation offering opportunity for all citizens to reach their full potential,” said Ambassador Nelson.

According to him the future sought by the large majority of citizens, especially youth, is a Bosnia and Herzegovina embedded in the Euro-Atlantic community.  As progress is blocked by divisive politics and corruption, however, BiH continues to hemorrhage its greatest resource as despondent citizens abandon the country.  Some of BiH’s current leaders openly express doubts of their ability to lead the country to the future citizens want. Many refuse to move the country in the right direction.

“On the other hand, I have full faith in the potential of citizens, especially youth, to chart that course and make the next 25 years a time of clear progress.  It will not be easy, but you have the opportunity to take an active role in making Bosnia and Herzegovina an inclusive, more prosperous and fully-fledged member of the Euro-Atlantic community.  Believe in BiH!  Believe in the potential that the EU and NATO clearly see in you and your country,” stated the US Ambassador.

The DPA was never intended to be indefinite and its flaws need to be and can be corrected. The people of Bosnia and Herzegovina now choose the Euro-Atlantic path as the best hope for a better future. That path has a clear and achievable roadmap for change.

“Reform can seem something beyond the control of ordinary citizens – but I encourage you to think in terms of what key reforms needed for EU candidate status and supported by NATO’s Program of Reforms mean for you in real terms,” Nelson wrote.

He also wrote about election integrity, saying that on November 15, you and fellow BiH citizens exercised power to change the future with your votes. On December 20, after more than a decade, Mostar citizens will have that power restored.

“Your vote is yours, but there remain known vulnerabilities which leave room for others to steal your vote. 2021 is the time to implement international election integrity standards so that you can count on the power of your vote,” said Ambassador Nelson.

When it comes to rule of law, he said that those who seek to use BiH institutions to enrich themselves and to remain in power have no interest in taking basic steps to improve accountability to you as citizens and voters. A better public procurement law, public administration reform, conflict of interest legislation and bringing integrity to the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council and the entire judiciary will bring better public services, less cronyism robbing you of equal opportunity, and improved and more impartial justice delivery. These are among the laws urgently needed to attack the cancer of corruption debilitating BiH.

He also wrote about employment, stating that the state-owned enterprises are inefficient, political cash cows that help elites control citizens and their votes and enrich themselves with the resources that belong to you. These companies lack transparency, stifle the private sector, and add to public debt. It is essential for the long-term health of the BiH economy to depoliticize these companies and unleash the private sector to create opportunity for all.

“Various reports, court rulings, and most recently, the EU Opinion spell out the reforms BiH needs to address systemic inefficiencies that impede economic growth and governance. To reach its EU destiny, BiH’s citizens and elected leaders need to engage in dialogue to reach broad-based consensus on constitutional reform. Dialogue must replace retrograde and backward policies that thrive on inducing conflict, misunderstandings and desperation, policies that are resolutely rejected by BiH’s international partners and friends, as we have witnessed only a few days ago. The reforms on the EU path will ensure that BiH is a stable and secure home for the three constituent peoples — and that the rights of all citizens, including all others, are honored. BiH is a single state and only as such can its people benefit from EU membership – it is time for ethno-nationalist leaders to stop misleading you that it can be otherwise and sowing division to block the steps needed to carry you there. They are the few benefitting from the status quo of continuing division,” wrote Nelson.

This is also a time to take stock of the role that NATO played in securing the peace in BiH, and the simple principle underpinning the Alliance: security, stability, and prosperity are best achieved through meaningful cooperation.

“Difficult reforms become easier when you invite the 30 Allies of NATO to help. BiH’s partnership with NATO and its own Reform Program focuses on reforms that touch all levels of society, from defense modernization to rule of law. BiH will lead these reform efforts, but the Alliance stands ready to help. You can also continue to count on NATO to ensure security and assist in times of pandemic and natural disaster,” he said.

The United States continues to stand by you to support your efforts to achieve progress.  The $2 billion in assistance from the United States in the last 25 years to support democratization and economic growth a testament of that committed friendship.  Deputy Secretary Biegun and Acting Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Reeker’s November 20 meeting with the BiH Presidency reaffirmed the promise the United States sees in BiH and its citizens.

“Ultimately, citizen supervision should replace international supervision. The unfortunate reality is that BiH has not yet met the established criteria to graduate from international supervision. I highlighted in my October message to BiH citizens that you must be the agents of change. Citizen and civil society capacity is formidable and can demand appropriate commitment from elected leaders. Young people of this country do not want to remain mired in the past. The BiH of 2030 is far more important and interesting to them than the BiH of 1995. Collectively, citizens have the power to ensure that BiH takes its place as a stable and more prosperous member of the Euro-Atlantic community. It is time to build a BiH based not only on peace, but on rule of law and mutual respect for all peoples and all victims of past wars. Borrowing the words of EU HRVP Borrell, citizens have the power to realize BiH progress “from Dayton to Brussels”, the most certain path to prosperity and security for all,” states US Ambassador Eric Nelson in a blog on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Agreement.