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news 30 Oct 12

Clinton Urges Bosnians To Put Quarrels Aside

The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and the EU's Foreign Affairs High Representative, Catherine Ashton, urged Bosnia to move faster on reforms that will enable the country to join NATO and the EU.

Elvira M. Jukic
BIRN
Sarajevo

Hillary Clinton said that Bosnian leaders should overcome their differences and resolve problems in order for the country to join the NATO and the European Union, warning that Bosnia risks lagging behind the region.

“We are here to tell your politicians to put differences aside,” Clinton said, “Our goals are the same... we want to see Bosnia moving forward,” she added.

Clinton spoke in Sarajevo on October 30 after meeting member's of Bosnia's tripartite State Presidency.

She said that one reason for her visit was to urge the authorities to solve the issue of the registration of the state property, which is necessary for Bosnia to access the Membership Action Plan for NATO.

“I will personally go to NATO to Brussels and push for the MAP to be given to you,” she assured Bosnians.

She also said that the US supported the idea of multi-ethnic Bosnia, as did the European Union.

The EU Foreign Affairs and Security chief, Catherine Ashton, joining Clinton on the Balkan tour, said at the same press conference that there was no doubt that Bosnia was part of Europe now. But it had to undertake reforms in order to join the European Union.

“There is no doubt from the 27 member states that your future is in the EU,” she said, adding that political leaders would have to work very hard in order for that to happen.

She again emphasized the importance of implementing the Sejdic and Finci ruling, saying that without it, the EU's Stabilization and Association Agreement, the SAA, cannot be put into force.

The 2009 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights ordered Bosnia to change its constitution in order to allow ethnic minorities to run for top governing posts currently reserved only for representatives of the three largest ethnic groups, Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats.

Clinton also said that the responsibility for taking steps forward towards the EU and NATO lay in the hands of Bosnia's own politicians.

The chairman of the Bosnian Presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic, said that Bosnia continued to work on its Euro-Atlantic integration, but separatist rhetoric was not aiding the process.

“This rhetoric is moving the country backwards,” he said, referring to Bosnian Serb calls for greater autonomy, or even independence. “The US and the EU only want a complete and unified Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

After Bosnia, Clinton and Ashton fly to Serbia and later that day to Kosovo, where they will stress support for the EU-led dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo.

On Monday evening, right-wingers staged a protest in the centre of Belgrade against Clinton's visit, waving Serbian flags. Serbian nationalists resent America's crucial military and diplomatic support for Kosovo's independence.

Clinton's husband, Bill, was US President during NATO's air war against Serbia in 1999, which forced Serbia to relinquish de facto control of the then province.

The opposition nationalist Serbian Radical Party announced a fresh protest in front of the Serbian Presidency building on Tuesday.

After Kosovo, the pair are travelling on to Albania and Croatia.

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