Bosnia and Herzegovina held successful general elections on October 3rd. According to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the vote was generally in line with international standards for democratic elections, although certain areas, including ethnicity and residence-based limitations to voting require further action.
The United States urges the newly-elected leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina to find common ground in support of a better future for all of the country's citizens. European Union integration is one of the political objectives shared by all the peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina. But the country must fulfill the necessary conditions for membership. The EU has stated that Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot submit an application for membership until the Office of the High Representative, or OHR, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is charged with implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement, has been closed. So far, Bosnia and Herzegovina has failed to meet the conditions for closure of the OHR, including addressing state and military property ownership issues. Constitutional reforms to meet European human rights standards and to provide for more functional government decision making also will be required.
Bosnia and Herzegovina's leaders also need to move ahead with reforms needed to eventually join NATO. In April, 2010, Bosnia and Herzegovina received the Membership Action Plan – or MAP – from NATO, a fundamental step towards full membership in the alliance. At the same time, the alliance remained concerned that military property, such as bases, had not yet been registered as belonging to the Bosnian state and for use by the Defense Ministry. As a result, allies agreed that Bosnia and Herzegovina would not be permitted to submit its first Annual National Program, or ANP, within MAP until after it had resolved the defense property issue. Because this issue remains unresolved, Bosnia and Herzegovina is unable to move forward with its ANP.
The promise of political stability, security, and economic opportunity that comes with Euro-Atlantic integration is within reach for Bosnia and Herzegovina. But it requires that the country's leaders rise above narrow ethnic interests and commit to doing what is in the best interest of all the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina.