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U.S. Official Sees Progress In Balkans, Urges More Effort

U.S. Official Says Bosnia Falling Behind In EU Ambitions
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Shortly after Croatia joined the European Union on July 1, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Philip Reeker spoke to Dzenana Karabegovic of RFE/RL's Balkan Service in Sarajevo about the status of other Balkan countries' efforts toward Euro-Atlantic integration.

SARAJEVO -- U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Philip Reeker says there is progress among the Balkan countries in moving toward greater European integration, but he cites the need for leaders there to invigorate their efforts.

Speaking at the RFE/RL bureau in Sarajevo on July 3, Reeker singled out Croatia, which was admitted to the European Union last weekend, as moving forward positively and also praised the resolve of Serbia and Kosovo in working with the EU to normalize relations between Belgrade and Pristina.

"We see great progress in Croatia," Reeker said. "We see tremendous effort on the part of Kosovo and Serbia and their leadership to work with the European Union and to find a way to normalize their relations and move ahead in their European perspective."

Reeker noted that there were still problems in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"We don't see that [progress in European integration] in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where the leadership is failing in their responsibility to the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina," he said.

"And what we've seen more recently is the citizens calling for their leaders to act responsibly to govern, to lead, and to help lead Bosnia-Herzegovina on that same path of Euro-Atlantic integration."

Leadership Blamed

"We've seen Bosnia-Herzegovina falling behind the others in the region, and so while the international community remains fully engaged and ready to help as we have others in the region, it's up to the leaders in Bosnia-Herzegovina to fulfill their responsibility and to use the help of the international community, and the first thing those leaders should do is get back to work to make the institutions function," Reeker said.

He added that if the Bosnian authorities show some flexibility and a will to compromise they could correct the situation.

"It is leaders of this country who have chosen not to function," Reeker said. "It is up to them to perform the necessary acts of governance, and if that includes changing, adjusting, or amending the constitution, they can do that too."

Reeker said with the proper adjustments, Bosnia could move closer to NATO.

"NATO too has made clear that the door remains open. Reforms are necessary," he said. "For Bosnia-Herzegovina, resolving the issue of defense property, which is now in the parliament to be debated transparently and publicly, could help Bosnia-Herzegovina move forward into [NATO's] Membership Action Plan."

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