News in English     | 09.11.2023. 10:38 |

Murphy: The USA has been Bosnia and Herzegovina's strongest partner for 30 years

FENA Fedzad Forto, Photo: Hazim Aljović

SARAJEVO, November 9 (FENA) - The United States of America has been Bosnia and Herzegovina's strongest partner for 30 years. It is an ongoing commitment that has existed before me and will continue in the future. We want to see that Bosnia and Herzegovina is firmly anchored in the Euro-Atlantic institutions - NATO and the European Union, said the US Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Michael Murphy in an interview with FENA.

He assessed that the BiH authorities formed after last year's elections achieved some progress on some issues but that the public in BiH wants more progress and that this progress is going faster. And that is what the United States would certainly like.

''Therefore, there is still time in the mandate to achieve additional progress. We are ready to help the authorities achieve the goals they have set. And that brings me to the US policy in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I always repeat that we support the territorial integrity, multi-ethnic character, and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina. And what does that mean, and what does it look like? It is a democratic, prosperous and safe BiH where the authorities at all levels are effective, efficient, and responsible, and serve the citizens of this country, the voters, regardless of whether it is at the state entity, cantonal or municipal level,'' said the US Ambassador.

He added that this also means Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is integrated into the Euro-Atlantic institutions.

According to him, this country is already part of the Euro-Atlantic community of countries and has been part of the Euro-Atlantic community of countries for hundreds of years. It has a common history and culture with Europe and the transatlantic area.

''But to get there, we need to roll up our sleeves. The people and the authorities here have to work diligently. What we try to do is to help them go that way, and we do that in several ways. We support the strengthening of institutions that need to take the country there, such as the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the judiciary, and agencies that are key to law enforcement. We are working to help in the fight against corruption, which is a serious problem in Bosnia and Herzegovina and a threat to the country's democracy and economic prosperity, as well as its stability,'' stated Murphy.

The Ambassador stated that they are also working to help citizens make their voices heard and hold elected officials and others in power accountable. He said the US works with civil society organizations and supports independent media.

''It is very important to defend the basic freedoms of media, expression, speech, and assembly. We also support institutions around the country that are engaged in areas such as culture. We recently announced a donation from the Ambassador's Fund to help rebuild the fortress in Travnik. It is part of the common heritage of this country. We also work with the young people of this country and give them opportunities for leadership and development, and we support young entrepreneurs. Finally, we support the diaspora and encourage them to invest in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The private sector will be the driving force behind the development of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its prosperity,'' Ambassador Murphy said.

He says that this can be summed up as follows: "We are your strongest partner. The United States of America has been your strongest partner for 30 years. That's an ongoing commitment that existed before me and will continue in the future. We want to see that BiH is firmly anchored in the Euro-Atlantic institutions - NATO and the European Union. We work on that every day here at the Embassy."

Asked how the latest events in the world (Ukraine, Gaza, the Far East) can affect the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also whether the United States can maintain its focus on Bosnia and Herzegovina in this context, Ambassador Murphy says that we live in a more dangerous world than it is was the case 20 years ago.

These are serious security threats that not only affect the countries where they occur but have implications for global security. This is partly because we live in a more connected world than ever before.

''You cannot hide from this type of problem,'' he points out.

He says that Bosnia and Herzegovina, like the United States, must take these issues seriously.

''This should be a message to the leaders in BiH that they have their problems and challenges here and they should focus on solving them in a way that will speed up the goals that the citizens of this country have, which is integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions, a democratic, prosperous, peaceful future. There are many challenges in BiH, from the autocracy that is increasingly imposing itself in Republika Srpska, efforts to take away basic freedoms and rights from people, then the terrible attacks from Republika Srpska on the Dayton Peace Agreement. Citizens of this country also face challenges related to corruption that need to be addressed and that affect the entire country. This should be the focus of what political leaders work on every day, i.e. creating the conditions for meaningful reforms that will ensure a better life for citizens in Bosnia and Herzegovina,'' said Murphy.

He says he is concerned when leaders in BiH want to use these security crises and tragedies happening in Ukraine, the Middle East, or anywhere else for their narrow, selfish interests to sow divisions within BiH which deepens the problems he has identified.

''This is not the right way to approach the security challenges that are happening globally. That's not a good way of thinking, it's dangerous. We don't need more divisions in Bosnia and Herzegovina,'' he says.
Speaking in this context about Russia's malignant influence in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region, Ambassador Murphy says that there is no doubt that Russia has malign activities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the Western Balkans, and beyond, globally.

''We see that every day. The terrible, brutal invasion of Ukraine is the most tangible manifestation of that malignant influence. I think that Mr. Dodik's embrace of Mr. Putin, after that barbaric invasion, is something immoral and short-sighted,'' stated Murphy.

He emphasizes that Russia's interests, as far as BiH is concerned, simply lead to troubles, problems, and divisions. They prevent necessary reforms for the country to move forward and enter the Euro-Atlantic institutions.

''They are not interested in investments, business agreements that will develop the private sector, create new jobs, develop business, but in corrupt investments and that is what makes their interest here so negative. This is contrary to what the US is trying to do here. What we support is that we want a peaceful, prosperous, democratic BiH within the Euro-Atlantic institutions, and this is also what the citizens of this country want. What we want every day in this Embassy is to achieve these goals, and these goals are also the goals of the citizens of BiH, regardless of whether they live in Sarajevo, Banja Luka, Mostar, Bihac, Trebinje or anywhere in BiH,'' said Ambassador Murphy.

He emphasizes that this is not what Russia does and that it is terrible for any politician to accept the autocratic values of Vladimir Putin.

When it comes to Dodik's increasingly frequent threats to the sovereignty of BiH and his provocative statements, Murphy reiterates that the goals of the United States are the multi-ethnic character, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of BiH.

''We want a prosperous, peaceful BiH within Euro-Atlantic institutions. These are our interests. We don't want any conflict here, we don't want more divisions, we don't want problems in the wider region of the Western Balkans. And when we notice that politicians, parties or other actors are working against these interests that I just emphasized, which are common interests to us and the citizens of this country, we react and are very clear about it. Both publicly and privately we say the following: we will speak out loud about it when we see and observe something like that and we will act when we believe we should act through our sanctions, for example,'' he said.

He warns that every politician and every party should expect that the USA will continue to work towards achieving the goals that he pointed out and which are "common to us and the citizens of this country, and they should expect that the USA will react if they notice that our interests and these goals are threatened by members of the political class or institution".

In the end, he spoke about the fact that some of the officials that the United States put on the "blacklist" still hold high positions and continue the same policy.

He says the United States will continue to use all its resources to work to achieve goals and promote interests, including sanctions.

''Sanctions are one way we hold individuals or business entities responsible for anti-Dayton and anti-democratic behavior. We will continue to use it,'' said Murphy.

As he says, in an ideal world, local actors – law enforcement agencies, prosecutors' offices, courts – should hold these individuals accountable. This is also their responsibility.

''This does not mean we will not act when we consider it appropriate. And we indicate very clearly what motivated our actions. We do not want to see these people in public positions. We would like to see a leader of a political party dedicated to the fight against corruption say that this is his commitment and that he will not put people under sanctions in the leadership or at the head of a political party, as the SDA did recently. As for Euro-Atlantic integration, actions related to Dayton, we don't want to see people like Marinko Čavara hold the public positions they do,'' he said.

He also responded to the claims of the former Prime Minister of the Federation of BiH, Fadil Novalić, that he was sanctioned because someone from BiH politics asked the US Government to do this.

''That's not the case. We make personal decisions based on the evidence we have, and Mr. Novalić was sanctioned for his behavior. That is corruption. It's not a secret. We were very clear about that. If there is concern about that, the answer is because he is corrupt,'' Ambassador Murphy concluded in an interview with FENA.

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