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The NewYorkTimes | U.S. Warns Bosnia It Risks Being Left Behind, 2011


SARAJEVO — With Bosnia facing its most destabilizing political crisis since war ended in 1995, the top U.S. diplomat for European affairs warned the country’s squabbling politicians on Tuesday to work together or risk being left behind by the rest of the Balkan region that is making progress toward European integration.

But the diplomat, Assistant Secretary of State Philip H. Gordon, stopped short of withdrawing U.S. support for Bosnia — something that had been feared here.
Mr. Gordon was addressing a conference in Sarajevo convened by the America-Bosnia Foundation and the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University to discuss whether the region was progressing, stagnating or marching backward. He blamed leaders and officials for recent disputes and lack of progress.

“Bosnian politicians have been too willing to stoke ethnic fears and to privilege their own personal political interests over the needs of the people,” Mr. Gordon told guests from the worlds of diplomacy, politics, the news media and nongovernmental groups.
Bosnia and Herzogovina had made “great” progress, he said, since the 1995 Dayton agreement ended a war in which some 100,000 people died and more than a million were displaced. But “in the last four or five years,” Mr. Gordon added, “it has not moved in the right direction.”

The Dayton agreement divided the former Yugoslav republic into two entities: a Muslim-Croat Federation and a Serbian Republic. It also created a complex web of offices and institutions that have prevented fresh open conflict, but have led to widespread gridlock and proven unable to foster reconciliation.

Mr. Gordon said he was concerned about a “dangerous” rise in nationalist rhetoric, “brazen” challenges to state institutions and attempts to “roll back” reforms needed for Bosnia to join NATO and the European Union.
“If this does not stop,” he warned, “then Bosnia risks being left behind, as the rest of the region moves forward.”

Mr. Gordon reiterated that the United States remains “deeply and personally invested in the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina” after spending billions on aid, sending tens of thousands of American soldiers to Bosnia and seeing several American diplomatic careers forged in what he termed the “crucible of the Balkan Wars of the 1990s.”

Valentin Inzko, the high representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, an office created by Dayton with special powers to overrule Bosnian officials, said he was pleased by the speech.
“There was a fear that the U.S. would withdraw or have less commitment to Bosnia,” he said.

Bosnia lags behind other countries in efforts to join the European Union, he added, in part “because the effects of war are still present and reconciliation has not really happened.”
The Social Democratic Party is perhaps the closest thing to a multiethnic party in Bosnia. One of its advisers, Reuf Bajrovic said Mr. Gordon signaled a U.S. commitment to stay involved. “It was a stronger speech,” he said, “than what the Europeans would like to hear.”


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