Newly-appointed US Ambassador to BiH Eric Nelson held today the first press conference. We will transmit his speech in full:
“Dobar dan. Hvala što ste mi se danas pridružili.
I have had a very informative and engaging start to my tenure in BiH. I’ve appreciated the warm welcome and am quickly starting to feel at home. I welcome this opportunity today to discuss the United States’ goals and hopes for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
I look forward to leading my government’s work here to advance prosperity, security, and respect for the rule of law to benefit all the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The United States will continue to be a guarantor of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. My top priority will be helping BiH to achieve progress toward its declared goals of becoming a member of NATO and the European Union.
But a more fractured BiH is incompatible with its stated goal of joining these organizations; a more fractured BiH would be a direct impediment to its future prosperity.
The United States strongly supports progress toward integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions, which will secure stability, security, and prosperity for this country. I arrive at a time when Bosnia and Herzegovina is reaching a very important point on that path to securing a promising future. First, BiH has submitted its responses to the EU questionnaire and awaits the EU’s opinion that will begin to detail the path toward membership. Second, NATO members have extended an open hand for BiH to continue and strengthen its partnership with the submission of an Annual National Program. The necessity for reforms is becoming more pressing. The need for courageous, forward-looking leadership is even more critical.
Empty promises and rhetoric alone will become even more futile.
We, are here to help, but the responsibility for progress rests with the actions of BiH leaders, and with the citizens to hold leaders accountable.
BiH has the potential to achieve this future. But it also needs the political will to agree to essential reforms.
The United States will continue to stand with people who are working today toexpand prosperity, because a weak economy and high unemployment undermine stability. Endemic corruption is crippling productivity, discouraging foreign investors, and driving the most talented and ambitious to emigrate.
The United States will continue to help Bosnia and Hérzegovina improve law enforcement, increase border security, and counter terrorism and violent extremism as well as foreign influence that blocks the country’s progress.
The United States will also continue to promote effective government and rule of law. Improving transparency and accountability will help BiH citizens of all faiths, ethnicities, and identities feel respected, protected, and supported by their government. It will also make Bosnia and Herzegovina a more attractive destination for U.S. business and investment.
Our assistance and aid extends across the breadth of BiH, also to improve education and support media freedom and civil society. We are working to improve the business climate, advance tax reform, modernize the energy sector, and help farmers access the EU market.
The millions and millions of immigrants who built America were always looking to the future. They embraced their identity, but grew beyond their past. As the United States Ambassador in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I hope I will be able to help you see and reach a more secure and prosperous future. We must honor the past and never forget the victims – on all sides – who died during the last war and those that preceded it. But polarizing rhetoric keeps old wounds open.
It revives and recycles fears and enmities that can keep the country chained to its past. The past need not limit the future.
This is a country of enormous potential, beauty, and resources.
I look forward to leading an Embassy team that is strongly committed to standing shoulder to shoulder, assisting the citizens and leaders of BiH who are ready to face the country’s difficult challenges.
My Embassy team knows well that there are many successes worth celebrating. I plan to talk about those successes so that BiH citizens take credit and believe in the country’s potential to move forward.
For example, my first official trip on Friday will include a visit to BiH military units participating in readiness exercises with members of the Maryland Army and Air National Guard. Bosnia and Herzegovina launched defense reform and formed the Armed Forces in 2006, unifying opposing armies a decade after the war.
Today, the AFBiH is a valued international partner, contributing to global peace and counter-terrorism missions. Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks serve together, with professionalism and excellence, under one flag. They are a successfully integrated model of what a BiH state institution can and should be. An institution that serves and protects all citizens of BiH regardless of background, as they did during the terrible floods of 2014. All citizens of BiH should take pride in and celebrate their success.
As the United States Ambassador, I will continue to show the U.S. to be a trusted friend of BiH. Like the air quality monitor on top of our embassy, I will work to share objective and honest assessments.
In that spirit, I’d like to bring some clarity to the present opportunity to continue and enhance the BiH partnership with NATO.
NATO allies have invited BiH to submit an Annual National Program, a technical document that will enable the Alliance to expand its support for the priorities of BiH, including counterterrorism, border security, disaster response, cybersecurity, and advancing defense reform.
Submission of the ANP does not make BiH a member of NATO; it is simply a step forward in the partnership, and a lot of work, still lies ahead for the coming years. The United States counts on BiH continuing its important partnership with NATO. Following through on agreed reforms always sends an important signal to investors and partners. I will be working in the meantime to help more citizens appreciate how NATO provides a security umbrella that ensures safety and stability to all citizens.
I look forward to travelling across BiH to meet with citizens in Banja Luka, Srebrenica, Bijeljina, Tuzla, Brcko, and elsewhere, to learn about the history, culture, diversity, and potential of its people.
I look forward to many conversations about a future in which EU membership is a tangible reality, not just a dream; a future in which rule of law is not an empty phrase but means that all citizens of this country feel respected and protected.
I know that the citizens of BiH can unite around their desire to live in a country where wages are good, where employment is not a fantasy, where security is assured, where citizens can breathe clean air, and where young people and families have good opportunities for success here, at home.
Thank you. I will be happy to take a few questions.”