Congressional Delegation Shows U.S. Re-engaging in Balkans
SARAJEVO, BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA—Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) called on Bosnia’s political leaders today to work out compromises and constitutional reforms to stabilize the young democracy and move it toward joining NATO and the European Union.
Chairman Cardin, Commission Ranking Minority Member Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) and nine other Members of Congress had two days of meeting with political leaders in Bosnia to demonstrate the U.S. interest in reengaging in the region.
“Our visit demonstrates the continuing interest of the U.S. Congress in Bosnia, and the continuing importance of the role of the United States. It was clear from our meetings with Bosnia’s political leaders that they still have wide differences on fundamental issues, including constitutional reform,” said Chairman Cardin. “Our clear goal is to see Bosnia and Herzegovina successfully integrate into NATO and the European Union, but that can only happen if the country establishes an effective central government while maintaining respect for its two entities.”
The 11-member delegation comes a month after Vice President Joe Biden visited the region to begin a new era of U.S. engagement in the Balkans.
In addition to meetings with political leaders, the delegation met with the Office of the High Representative and heard the concerns and frustrations of local university students.
“The Bosnian government should meet as we did with the students in this country. They look forward to a Bosnia without ethnic divisions,” said Senate Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL).
“The U.S.-backed Dayton Accords were a tourniquet to end the war in Bosnia,” said Congressman Smith. “But the Accords were to be a starting point for this new government to take shape. It’s high time the political parties of Bosnia come together with frank, solution-oriented dialogue to make this government their own.”
“If the political leaders of Bosnia don’t all work together and see the importance of their common goals they will not be able to achieve those goals and create a more prosperous, stable government that is welcomed into NATO and the European Union,” said Senator George Voinovich (R-OH).