US envoy: Civic Bosnia can be discussed only after EU accession

NEWS 05.04.2022 12:43
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Gabriel Escobar
Source: Gabriel Escobar (Ambasada SAD-a u Srbiji)

The civic concept for Bosnia and Herzegovina can be discussed only after it joins the EU and the Dayton Peace Agreement remains the framework until then, US special envoy to the Western Balkans, Gabriel Escobar, said on Tuesday.

BiH is not a functioning state at the moment because its institutions have not been effective for a long time, which is not because of the Dayton agreement, but the lack of goodwill by the political leadership, Escobar said in Zagreb during his visit to the U.S. Croatia Forum, according to the Hina news agency.

The agreement, which ended the 1992-1995 war in BiH, has been successful in keeping the peace in the country for 25 years and it is not the cause of BiH's problems, he added.

The problem is the irresponsible leadership, corruption, politicians who insist on staying in power at all costs, said Escobar.

According to him, the Dayton agreement is a good compromise which recognised the interests of the three constituent peoples and a good signpost for European integration, but has not been used like that.

The civic state concept advocated by part of the international community can be discussed perhaps in the future, after BiH joins the EU, Escobar said.

Until then, Dayton is the roadmap to European integration and must remain so, he said, reiterating the US support for the concept of one state, two entities and three constituent peoples.

Escobar said he understood the concern about the high tensions in BiH and saw the analogy with 1991 because politicians in the country do not talk and threaten to withdraw from state institutions.

However, there are peacekeeping troops in BiH, NATO's presence and the international community's high representatives with Bonn powers, he said, adding that Serbia and Croatia are not interested in a war on their borders and that young people in BiH don't want to fight for the ruling structures and political corruption.

He said that was why he did not see any chance of a conflict. There might be violent acts, but all responsible politicians and public officials are working so that it does not happen, which is why he thinks a war is not possible.

Escobar said he was nonetheless worried about BiH because of the equally dangerous scenario of its economic and demographic collapse.

BiH is the exception to all the good news about the Western Balkans, he said. According to independent analyses, it is one of the most corrupt countries in Europe and its private sector has shrunk to one third of GDP, which is why BiH has the fastest emigration in the Western Balkans.

Political leaders would be dismissed with such numbers in the private sector, which is why the U.S. hopes for an agreement on electoral reform to be reached and for elections to be held so that voters can replace some leaders.

Escobar would not speculate whether such an agreement would be reached nor comment on the negotiations on it because he is not directly involved. However, he is confident that there is a solution that would suit all sides.

Escobar reiterated that the will for change must occur within BiH and not by the action of the international community because BiH is a sovereign country.

We want the people to punish their politicians and it is up to us to encourage change, he said.

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