“Today, Bosnia and Herzegovina finds itself at yet another crossroads. And the durability of its 26 years of peace are being called into question,” as the country’s leaders are attempting to sow division, warned U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power on her recent visit.
Administrator Power met all three members of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s tripartite presidency, including the secessionist Bosnian Serb leader, Milorad Dodik, who has threatened to withdraw Serbs from the national army, judiciary, and tax system this year. She stressed the importance of peace and the danger of secessionist rhetoric and actions.
Administrator Power emphasized the “need for unity and stability to drive economic growth and opportunity.” Talk of war makes it difficult to attract high quality investment or build the strong and enduring economy necessary for young people and others to stay.
“A brighter future is possible,” stressed Administrator Power. But it requires all politicians “to put aside divisive actions and inflammatory rhetoric, to stop their attacks on Bosnia and Herzegovina's institutions. And to commit to ushering in badly needed and long overdue democratic reforms.”
“The citizens of this country do not want to return to the past,” declared Administrator Power, “but they also don't want to settle for the status quo. And neither does the United States. You want and deserve a democratic future free from corruption and free from ethnic tensions.”
Some 75 percent of people in Bosnia and Herzegovina support the long term goal of joining the European Union. This will not be easy. In addition to the recent political challenges, Bosnia and Herzegovina faces significant economic challenges. The country is losing private investment, with the public sector now representing nearly 70 percent of the economy. And young people are facing the highest unemployment rate on the continent.
The United States has provided $2 billion in aid to Bosnia and Herzegovina since 1996. Going forward, the U.S. will continue to support independent anti-corruption efforts, media freedom, and diversification of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s economy.
A hope-filled democratic future for Bosnia and Herzegovina can only be realized if the country’s politicians listen to their people, embrace peace and reform, and fight the corruption that chokes off prosperity and drives its youth to emigrate.