Banja Luka: Grassroots Evidence of Progress

Ambassador Patrick Moon with young comic strip author, Milijan Forca
As often happens when I travel around the country, my recent trip to Banja Luka reminded me that, in spite of its challenges, Bosnia and Herzegovina has the resources and, more importantly, the people to make this country’s future brighter.  I met with a diverse group of people during my visit – youth leaders, soldiers, dairy farmers, among others – and it was clear to me that all were deeply invested in this country’s success.  I urged political leaders to make compromises and implement reforms necessary for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s integration in the Euro-Atlantic community, which would benefit all the people I met during my two days in Banja Luka.
I particularly enjoyed my meeting with a group of distinguished university students and recent graduates.  They are giving back to their communities and their country in innumerable ways; from their involvement in youth organizations and student councils to their work in journalism and the performing arts, these young, talented men and women from all ethnic groups are contributing to a more prosperous Bosnia and Herzegovina.  I also visited an exhibition by the Helsinki Citizen’s Assembly, which organized a human rights project for students to use art to portray the difficulties disadvantaged and marginalized groups face.  All of these young people proudly represent the next generation of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leaders.
Outside Banja Luka, in the small town of Laktasi, I visited “Subic” dairy farm, a small, family-run operation.  Agriculture and small businesses play an important role in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s economy, and United States assistance funds are directed to help both.  I was pleased to see that the “Subic” farm took advantage of training offered by USAID’s “FARMA” project to learn how to practice artificial insemination for dairy cows.  I was also reminded that Bosnia and Herzegovina’s farmers and dairy companies will face constraints exporting to the European Union unless political leaders put aside differences and comply with EU requirements.  Politicians must make EU accession and economic improvement their most important priorities.
Finally, I had the opportunity to meet with members of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s 6th Infantry Brigade and Armed Forces Support Command at Kozara Barracks.  Kozara is also the home base for the 45 BiH troops currently in Afghanistan serving in support of NATO’s ISAF mission.  Bosnia and Herzegovina’s soldiers contribute to security and stability not only in Afghanistan, but also help to assist citizens affected by natural disasters in their own country.  Security and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina will only be enhanced as the country takes further steps toward membership in both the EU and NATO.