Bosnia and Herzegovina has made great progress since the wartime horrors of the 1990s. "But in the last four or five years," said U.S. Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon, "it has not moved in the right direction."
There has been a dangerous rise in nationalist rhetoric. The institutions of the state and the Dayton settlement have been brazenly challenged. There have been attempts to roll back the reforms that are necessary for Bosnia and Herzegovina to join the European Union, or EU, and NATO.
"In general," said Assistant Secretary Gordon, "Bosnian politicians have been too willing to stoke ethnic fears and to privilege their own personal political interests over the needs of the people they are supposed to represent." If this does not stop, then Bosnia risks being left behind, as the rest of the region moves forward.
To get back on the right path, Bosnia needs to be able to function as a state that can deliver results for all its citizens. The first step is to form a state-level government. It has been eight months since the elections, and unless a government is formed soon, there will be serious economic consequences. Moreover, each day that passes without a government Bosnia and Herzegovina falls further behind its neighbors and increases the risk that the country will fall off the European path.
Second, Bosnia and Herzegovina's politicians need to demonstrate their commitment to the Dayton Framework and their willingness to abide by the decisions of state institutions. The Dayton Framework affirms one state, two entities, three constituent people. In particular, Republika Srpska needs to cease its separatist rhetoric and stop undermining state institutions.
Finally, Bosnia and Herzegovina must move forward with the governmental reforms necessary for NATO and EU integration. They include, among others, changing the constitution in order to meet EU human rights standards and conducting a census.
All these steps together constitute a path toward European integration. If Bosnia and Herzegovina's politicians make the necessary choices and compromises, the U.S. will be there to help with resources and political support. As U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "The bonds between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the United States have been forged through harsh trials and historic triumphs and today we remain committed."