The World Keeps Moving, As BiH Misses Yet Another Chance

December 4 and 5, Secretary Clinton is in Brussels for her last Meeting of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs.

Five weeks ago, she was here in Sarajevo, alongside EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, with a very direct message to political leaders – move quickly forward on the reforms necessary for EU and NATO membership. On NATO, Secretary Clinton said the following: “There was an agreement last March about a way forward that would give you MAP, the action plan for membership. The constitutional court has clarified any remaining legal doubt about how to resolve the state property issue. Therefore, if there can be a final decision coming out of the presidency in November, I will personally go to the NATO Ministerial in Brussels in December to push for MAP to be given to you.”

Secretary Clinton followed up on her part of the deal. She even told other ministers she was ready to push for BiH at the NATO Ministerial meeting if the political leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina took action. What have BiH’s political leaders done? Unfortunately, they have once again failed to implement an agreement they signed months ago to resolve defense property. They have failed to break the political gridlock in order to achieve what is in the best interest of the citizens who elected them.

There have been five NATO ministerial meetings and one summit since the ministers’ decision in Tallinn to permit BiH to participate fully in the Membership Action Plan once defense property was registered as property of the Ministry of Defense. It is incredibly disappointing that yet again – two and one half years after Tallinn -- BiH will not make progress toward NATO. Yet again, the full activation of its Membership Action Plan will not possible. Yet again, the citizens of BiH are forced to sit on the sidelines as their neighbors move forward to join the other democracies of Europe. Yet again, Bosnia and Herzegovina will be left even further behind due to a lack of political leadership.

I have been here two years and many of you have probably heard me say this before, but it bears repeating. The U.S. is unequivocal in our support and our hope for the future of this country. Bosnia and Herzegovina and its citizens have only one choice – a multiethnic, stable, and prosperous democracy. We think that can best be achieved if BiH is anchored firmly in Europe and the Euro-Atlantic Alliance. I believe this view matches the will of the people and particularly the aspirations of BiH’s young people. As Secretary Clinton said when she visited, “we want to see you in NATO, and we want to see you in the EU. But we have been frustrated that your leadership has not reflected the aspirations of the great majority of your people to move quickly toward NATO and EU.”

As we approach yet another year without a solution to the critical issues holding BiH back, I can only hope that 2013 will bring the courageous, principled leadership necessary to come to compromise and move this country forward. If BiH does not make progress, it will be left farther and farther behind.