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Biden In The Balkans

Hazim Imamovic from Olovo, a small town in central Bosnia, had been so excited about the speech the U.S. vice president delivered last week in the parliament that he decided to give a present to Joe Biden -- a piece of his own land.

Biden “filled my soul when he delivered [his] speech in the parliament. I have nothing to give but my land and Biden can choose the piece he wants,” Imamovic said.

The 52-year-old Imamovic is a war veteran and was reportedly touched when Biden asked local leaders when they will become tired of nationalistic rhetoric.

“Today, to be very blunt with you, I personally, and the leadership of my country is worried...about the direction of your country and your future," Biden said.

"With all due respect, and forgive me for saying this in your parliament, but this must stop... Making the right choice means that the leaders of this country must stop the pursuit of narrow ethnic and political interests instead of the national interest."

Biden's address likely went down well with many Bosnians. One of them in Banja Luka, talking to RFE/RL's Balkan Service, said: “I hope the United States will convince them to make a deal.”

I doubt it. Dozens of foreign diplomats, presidents, and prime ministers have come to Bosnia during the last decade, delivering the same message that the country is falling apart, that the chance of EU and NATO membership is less and less viable -- but still, no real results.

And judging by the early reactions to Biden’s visit, those results don't seem to be on the horizon.

A member of the Bosnian Presidency, Haris Silajdzic, said: “It will be visible very soon in the statements of local politicians -- just declarations or a real wish for change?”

Silajdzic, however, is seen as one of those who generally supports radical solutions and is one of those who should change.

The prime minister of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, initially brushed off Biden's visit, saying he was more interested in a local basketball match. (Read RFE/RL's exclusive with Dodik in April.)

After meeting the U.S. vice president, Dodik said he remains a firm backer of Dayton and EU membership.

But then he boiled down Biden’s warning about ethnic exclusivity to: “We have no problem with replacing the word 'Serb' with the expression 'one representative from Republic Srpska.'" (Biden's chief concerns aren't the makeup of the Bosnian Presidency.)

At the end of last week, after Biden's visit, Aleksandar Torsin, an official representative from the Russian Duma, came to Banja Luka to meet Bosnian Serb leaders and told them that “Russia firmly supports the Dayton peace agreement.“

Nobody should have a problem with this and it's not the first time Russia has said it. The problem is that so far "support" has meant support for Bosnian Serb leaders to diminish the role of the Bosnian state and basically act against the Dayton agreement.

A statement by Torsin last week in Banja Luka was surprisingly open and blunt: “Moscow does not put preconditions on its relations with the region by saying what direction the region should take -- toward Euro-Atlantic integration or toward Russia.”

Either, or. That's the exact opposite of leaders in Banja Luka and Belgrade who were arguing in favor of both -- EU integration and relations with Russia.

Nobody from the Bosnian Serb entity has decided, like Hazim Imamovic, to offer land to Joe Biden. I would rather expect someone to offer land to Vladimir Putin -- if the answer to Torsin's statement would not be the EU but Russia.

-- Nenad Pejic

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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