THE WESTERN BALKANS:
CHALLENGES FOR U.S. AND EUROPEAN ENGAGEMENT
REPRESENTATIVE ALCEE L. HASTINGS (D-FL),
CO-CHAIRMAN, HELSINKI COMMISSION
REPRESENTATIVE CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH (R-NJ),
RANKING MINORITY MEMBER, HELSINKI COMMISSION
REPRESENTATIVE ROBERT B. ADERHOLT (R-AL),
COMMISSIONER, HELSINKI COMMISSION
LORD PADDY ASHDOWN,
FORMER HIGH REPRESENTATIVE FOR BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
BRADFORD DURFEE PROFESSOR OF HISTORY,
PROGRAM OFFICER FOR CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE,
NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR DEMOCRACY
DEMOCRATIZATION POLICY COUNCIL
THURSDAY, APRIL 2, 2009
210 CANNON HOUSE OFFICE BUILDING
REPRESENTATIVE ALCEE HASTINGS (D-FL): Ladies and gentlemen, if I could call
the hearing to order. I’d appreciate it very much if we could get the hush in
the back of the room toned down a little bit. It would be deeply appreciated.
We’re in the process of a series of votes on the budget, and what’s going to
happen is I’m just coming from a vote. I believe some other members will be
along shortly, but every 40 minutes it seems that we’re going to wind up having
a vote. So if I spend less time talking, we can hear from Lord Ashdown and the
rest of our witnesses.
Today’s hearing on the United States Helsinki Commission focuses on the Western
Balkans and has been convened for two reasons. First, I would like you to know
how each of the seven countries covered by this hearing – we would like to know
how they are doing in regard to internal stability, democratic development,
minority rights, anticorruption efforts and the rule of law. Are these
countries moving forward or moving backward, and what can we say about the
region as a whole?
It is important to examine the situation in the OSCE countries on a regular
basis and to raise our concern about problems which may exist. Doing so
constructively, as the Helsinki Commission has done for more than three decades
now is an important mechanism for encouraging countries to move forward.
Much attention has been focused in recent years on Kosovo – I visited there
myself – and Serbia’s opposition to Kosovo’s independence – visited there as
well. This situation, including internal developments in Kosovo and Serbia,
warrant continued attention. Recently, however, there has been growing about
developments in Bosnia, and that country will likely receive much attention at
this hearing today.
Meanwhile, Macedonia and Montenegro have been holding elections and Albania
prepares for its parliamentary elections in June. We are encouraging all three
countries to meet OSCE election standards, and I particularly want to wish the
people of Macedonia a free and fair opportunity to vote in the second round of
presidential and local elections in this coming Sunday.
Finally, Croatia’s forward movement is important for the whole region, and its
integration in Europe will help guide others along the same path.
The second reason for convening this hearing is to look at international
policy. I’d like to know what role the international community is playing in
the region, how well are the countries of the European Union doing in shaping
overall policy? Should the United States play a more active role or simply
follow the European lead? Or should the international community continue to
downsize? Or are trends in Bosnia and Kosovo, for example, calls for
maintaining or even expanding the presence and powers currently in place?
I don’t believe that the international community should perpetuate a heavy
presence in the region if it is no longer needed, but as we saw in the Balkans
in the ’90s, stepping back prematurely and hoping for the best can actually be
counterproductive, requiring an even greater commitment of international
With a new administration here in Washington and today in Europe, now is a good
time to take a fresh look at the Western Balkans, giving a new impetus to
international affairs that could go a long way to ensuring that there will be
no return to the past.
I would like at this time to begin this hearing. We have witnesses today that
are well-qualified to provide insights on developments in the countries of the
Western Balkans, as well as to provide recommendations for U.S. policy.
Our first witness, Lord Paddy Ashdown, of course is well-known to us all as a
prominent British politician but also as a representative of the international
community in Bosnia, where he used his talents and prestige to give the people
of that country a better future. The second panel will include people who have
a very deep understanding of what is happening in the Balkans, both in terms of
political developments but also in the lives of everyday people. Their
biographies and other information can be found on the table outside the hearing
room and on the Web site of OSCE, which is www.osce.gov – cse.gov.
I’ve been joined by the distinguished ranking member, my friend from New
Jersey, Mr. Smith. And, Chris, if you have anything you would like to say, go
REPRESENTATIVE CHRISTOPHER SMITH (R-NJ): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I
do, but I brought the wrong glasses so I can’t see it. (Laughter.) But let me
just say I want to welcome our very distinguished witness. I thank you and
Chairman Cardin for convening this very important hearing, and I do look
forward to the statements of our witnesses.
I will have to leave, unfortunately, Mr. Chairman, at 3:00 for a meeting with
the Navy about a real crisis in my district – just outside my district and in
it with regards to a base, but I will read the testimony and I look forward to
our distinguished witnesses. Thank you.
REP. HASTINGS: Thank you.
REP. SMITH: I would ask that this be made a part of the record.
REP. HASTINGS: It will, without objection. Lord Ashdown?
LORD PADDY ASHDOWN: Well, Mr. Chairman, thank you, first of all, for inviting
me, and if I may pay a little tribute to my old colleague and much respected
friend, Cliff Bond, who was ambassador in Sarajevo during my time there, for
facilitating this. It’s a real – I mean, its always a pleasure to be in
Washington at cherry blossom time, but it’s a real pleasure to be before your
And I would like to pick up, if I may, Mr. Chairman, with something which you
said, wit which I profoundly agree. There is a sad, bleak history of
international interventions after wars, which is that we always leave too
early. We leave before the job is finished. It’s 80 percent done and then we
say, well, that’s it, and we either lose attention or move elsewhere. And if
there is a single message I have, the message is that is, I think, the danger
of Bosnia and Herzegovina at the moment.
Let me start off by also saying that in shorthand, the burden of what I want to
say to you is that whilst Bosnia and Herzegovina is unquestionably Europe’s
problem – it’s in Europe’s backyard – and I could share some concern,
dissatisfaction, maybe even disappointment in Washington, if you are to
conclude that once again Europe says it’s going to resolve a problem in it’s
own backyard but it has to ask Uncle Sam to come in and give a hand, but I
think that’s where we are.
Now, let me preface this by saying I’m not talking about resources, I’m not
talking about troops, I’m absolutely not talking about returning to the days
when a high representative used the Bonn powers extensively, what you call the
heavy-handed approach, so I agree with your judgment about that. There is only
one lever that we have to drive the process forward in the Western Balkans and
that is the lever of the stabilization and association and ultimately
membership process of the European Union. That is what everybody wants,
whatever their ethnicity or whatever their political view. Across the Western
Balkans, that is what the population wants. And I think it’s very important
that we use that lever more effectively. So, a little bit of history but I’d
like to talk chiefly about the future.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, it seems to me that there are two phases in the
post-conflict reconstruction of a country like Bosnia and Herzegovina. Phase 1
is stabilization; Phase 2 is building a functioning state. Dayton was
precisely the right framework to stabilize Bosnia and Herzegovina, and it did a
brilliant job. It brought Bosnia to a stable peace, and then during my time
there we moved out of the era of Dayton into the era of Brussels. We moved to
the second phase. The issue was not to make sure Bosnia didn’t return to war;
the issue was, how do we build a functioning state, capable of taking its place
amongst the comity of nations?
And we made remarkable progress. And when I say “we,” I think Bosnia – I’m a
Northern Irishman; I’ve seen these businesses of peace reconstruction up close
and painful. I think Bosnia made outstanding progress for 11 or 12 years –
miraculous progress when you think what was actually done. And for that I pay
tribute not just to the international community and the United States for a
long-term commitment to that, but also to the remarkable people of Bosnia and
Herzegovina. It wasn’t us that did this; it was largely them.
I have to say that, in my view, in the last three or four years that dynamic
has gone into reverse, and I have to bluntly say to you that I think the
progress, the forward movement of Bosnia and Herzegovina towards a position not
just of stability but also functionality as a state has now moved substantially
into reverse. There are elements, largely in the Republika Srpska, who would
wish to even undo the reforms toward statehood that have already been
established, and indeed have been allowed to do so. There are others. In
Bosnia and Herzegovina there is always a sort of Newtonian law of action and
reaction, and I think there are others who have been acting in a leadership
position amongst the Bosniac community and the federation who have acted, in my
view, destructively and irresponsibly. I’m not going to name names at this
stage. So instead of having a dynamic which was moving in a progressive
fashion, we now have one moving into reverse.
I have left with your committee a paper. With your agreement, Mr. Chairman, I
would not wish that paper to be read into the record verbatim. I have no
complaint at all if that were to be preceded and the substance put in there,
but this is a confidential paper. I was asked to provide some advice and views
to three European governments – the Dutch government, the British government
and the French government – and the paper is a synopsis of the information that
I gave them, and I wouldn’t therefore want that to see – in its present form to
go into the public domain, but I have no objection at all if it’s extracted
REP. HASTINGS: You have my assurance that your wishes will be followed.
LORD ASHDOWN: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
The paper outlines, I think, what has happened and what I think now ought to
happen, but let me start off by saying I do not believe that Bosnia and
Herzegovina will return to conflict. That is not, it seems to me, the danger.
The situation is now very febrile. There are rumors going around. There is
talk about it being like 1992. There is discussion that, you know, hunting
groups and private security firms are arming themselves with submachine guns.
I don’t know if that’s happening, but the fact that it’s being talked about is
It’s fragile. I cannot tell you, Mr. Chairman, what would happen if some event
that we didn’t predict happened by accident or a mosque suffered a grenade
being thrown in or some event occurs. We might then get instability on a wider
scale, but that, it seems to me, is not the danger. The danger is, rather,
that Bosnia and Herzegovina becomes another Cyprus: divided, dysfunctional, a
black hole, corruption heavily embedded, a space that we cannot afford to leave
because it’s too destabilizing if we do, but we cannot push forward towards
full statehood either. That, I think, is the danger.
Now, here I have to be critical of my colleagues in the European Union. I fear
that the lever that we rely on Europe to exercise here has not been exercised
effectively, and I don’t believe there is the kind of clarity of purpose and,
above all, the kind of capacity to stick to conditionality that the European
Union has laid down that can drive this process forward. My very distinguished
colleague, Chris Patton, once a European commissioner, a British politician
like me who has a deep interest in the area, used to say the danger in Bosnia
was that they pretended to reform and we pretended to believe them, and I think
that’s where we’ve go to.
So we do now need a much more definite, clear policy in support of the new high
representative and European Union special representative. Europe needs to be
in the forefront of that but, Mr. Chairman, we do need the full-hearted,
engaged support of the United States in that process. I am not asking the
United States to do this; I am asking for political attention to the process.
I’m asking the United States to use her influence to support the European
Union, to strengthen them where they need to be strengthened to push this
process forward. I do not believe the dynamic can be reversed from a negative
one to a positive one unless that happens in the present circumstances. After
the Lisbon Treaty it may well be the European Union will have the coordination
of policy to be able to make itself more effective, but in the meantime we need
you to be engaged.
Now, my final word is this: There are several ways that that could be done. I
know there has been discussion here about the possibility of a, quote, “special
envoy.” Well, that’s up to the United States to decide on, but my strong
recommendation was that if there were to be anything of that sort, it ought not
to be one dedicated to Bosnia and Herzegovina; it ought to be one dedicated to
the Western Balkans. The reality of it is that these countries are connected,
and the reality of it is that one of the reasons why our policy has not, in the
past, been as successful as it could have been is because instead of having a
regional policy and understanding the interconnections, we have had a series of
penny-packet policies for each of the countries, some of which are not
I finish by giving one example. There is talk about building up secessionist
pressures in the Republika Srpska. My own view is that Milorad Dodik, the
prime minister of the Republika Srpska, does not have secession as an
intention, as a strategic aim, but I think what he’s doing is seriously
undermining the sense of cohesion and belief in the Bosnian state. And I think
what he’s also doing is placing himself in a state of grace to be able to take
advantage of the opportunity if this comes. In a sense, we are caught between
two sides. Some of the Bosniac leaders believe that if Dayton fails, the
international community will ride over the horizon and save them once again
and, by the way, abolish the Republika Srpska. That’s nonsense. It’s
cloud-cuckoo land, and those who think that are even articulate are, in my
view, very foolish.
On the other side, I think some in the Republic of Serbsak take the view that
this is all so difficult. If they can persuade the international community
that it’s not going to work, then the conditions will be created in which the
Republika Srpska can break away. It is vital that we ensure the territorial
integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is vital that we make a state that
covers the whole of the region – the nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina – which
is capable of governing effectively. It may look more like Belgium than it
does look like Britain, but that’s all right.
And it seems to me that if we really want to make sure that happens, then – and
this is an example of the interconnectedness – then we should make it very
clear to the Belgrade government, the government of Serbia, that one of the
conditions for them to progress towards European Union is to wholeheartedly and
fully support the European Union’s policy, and indeed the United States’
policy, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, not just not to impede that policy but
actively to support it and actively to join us in saying, for instance to the
Republika Srpska, that the question of secession is not and will not ever be
acceptable or on the table.
Mr. Chairman, I think I’ve said enough. I’m happy to answer any questions that
you or the committee may have. And I’ll just return to – the burden of how we
go about suggesting – how we go about achieving some of the things I’ve
suggested are in the paper that I’ve privately distributed to the committee.
REP. HASTINGS: Deeply appreciated, as is your testimony. And in light of the
fact that he has other commitments I’d like to turn to the distinguished
ranking member, Mr. Smith, now, and note that we’ve been joined by our
colleague and commissioner, Robert Aderholt, who is from Alabama.
REP. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, I thank you for that courtesy and thank you again
for convening this important hearing. And, Lord Ashdown, we thank you for your
insights and leadership on this important issue because I do believe that
Bosnia and Herzegovina is at a very much of a crossroads, and I think ensuring
that it stays a solitary state remains a very high priority for us, as it
clearly is for you.
Having been involved in the issue even before Bosnia was part of the conflict,
I remember visiting Vukovar just weeks before it fell, then meeting with
Milosevic in Belgrade, who denied that they were even involved in Vukovar, and
we saw the MIGs flying over, and working with the chairman and Ben too with –
throughout all of those years, raising the issue that we needed a robust
European-American response. At first it wasn’t there, as we all know.
But the concern that I have now is that there is a – almost similar to what we
see with Holocaust deniers, there is a Srebrenica denial movement. I recently
went online and read for hours some of the garbage that is being promoted by
some – it’s hard to say who they are – that Srebrenica never occurred. I was
with Ray Sirich (ph) two years ago when a re-internment occurred for those who
were brutally butchered in Srebrenica, a so-called U.N. safe haven – and was
again greatly impressed by his restraint, by his sense of inclusion. You know,
the form of Islam that he believes so passionately in embraces others, does not
exclude others, and I do happen to believe that he is a model, frankly, that
needs to be emulated because he has done such a wonderful job.
In looking through some of the garbage on the Internet dealing with Srebrenica,
there was a picture, Mr. Chairman, when President Clinton – so former president
at the time in 2003 – was in Srebrenica, and right below the picture it says,
this never happened, and there’s Ray Sirich standing with President Clinton, as
I did two years later with him at a re-internment ceremony.
So I’m very concerned that that myth-maker, which has real consequences in the
real world, might negatively impact and lead to – and I was glad to hear you
say you don’t think it will go back to fighting, but it could go back to some
very nasty things. And if you would speak to that, your view on Ray Sirich, if
you wouldn’t mind giving that, and secondly on constitutional reform. Like, I
think, members of this commission, I believe passionately that, you know, we’re
looking at a Bosnia that’s in a Dayton limbo. They simply – you know, the
legislators have power but it has been so carefully circumscribed by the rules
that they can’t write laws, and we need constitutional reform. We need – you
know, for that democracy to break out of the blocks and really come into its
own, they have to be able to write laws. And small minorities can object and
thereby kill any reforms that that wonderful country needs.
And so if you could speak to the constitutional reform issue but also Ray
Sirich, the work that he’s done, perhaps, and this whole issue of denial of the
horrific events that occurred in Srebrenica.
LORD ASHDOWN: Thank you, Congressman. You raise two very important points.
First of all, I mean, it is a regrettable fact that you will always find
denialists, but they tend to be a minority. However, I have to say that you
are absolutely right in identifying the baleful effect of this on those who
suffered. Now, let’s be very clear: All three ethnicities suffered during the
war. There were black deeds done by all sides, but none to the extent of
Srebrenica, and indeed of the other killings perpetrated on the Muslim
community, largely but not exclusively by the Serbs. It’s not to say the
Muslims in Bosnia necessarily had cleaner hands. They were done on the other
side as well. But I think my old friend Cliff Bond, who I see sitting behind
you, used to always tell me that about 80 percent of those crimes were
committed by Serbs. Now, that’s not a reason to condemn the whole nation there
of Serbs. They’re a very great nation indeed, and in many ways people regard
them as being the fulcrum of the Balkans. But it is the past and we need to
recognize the past. So I agree with you about your concern about that.
On Srebrenica, Mr. Chairman, I hope you don’t think it an abuse of the question
if I were just to pay tribute to the United States government. One of the best
things I did, the thing that gave me personally more pride in Bosnia and
Herzegovina – it was not part of my duties but I did it because I really
believed in it – was to work with Ambassador Cliff Bond, and the United States
government was really extraordinarily generous in enabling this memorial
graveyard with its 8,000 potential spaces for graves. I personally believe
that, A, it’s very beautiful, and B, it will be one of the places people visit
when they remind themselves never to allow genocide to occur again. So the
Srebrenica issue is indeed, Congressman, a very important one and one I hope
that we will continue to pursue.
On Ray Sarich, my view here is this, that we lack bridges between us and the
wider Islamic world. There are not many. But the Bosnian Muslims are European
Muslims – not new generation: 400 years old. The great man Alija Izetbegovic
used to say I’m a Muslim and I’m a European, and I see no contradiction between
the two. And I know that’s Ray Sarich’s view as well.
And I’ve been amazed at the restraint of the Bosnia Muslim population in the
face of genocide. And I think they can perform an extremely important role for
us as a bridge to the Islamic community, understanding and able to explain to
the Islamic community the reality of our Western values – what I would call our
European, but of course they’re wider values – and also explain to us about the
realities of Islam.
So I think there’s a really important strategic role to play here. You know,
and if we did allow Bosnia to become dismembered, what would that say to the
wider strategic effort that we have to reach out to the Islamic community and
to have a greater degree of understanding, that we allowed Bosnia once again to
retreat down to a tiny rump of Muslims, European Muslims surrounded by an
enemies. I think that would say very much nor help us in the wider strategic
battles so that’s very important.
Constitutional reform. The United States under my old colleague Don Hayes, who
was my deputy and colleague there in Bosnia during my days, launched a process
for constitutional reform. Sadly the European Union colluded that
constitutional reform – i.e., increasing the functionality of
Bosnia-Herzegovina was not an issue for the European Union and was not a
condition for Bosnia to join the European Union. And therefore it seemed to me
the leverage we had to drive forward constitutional reform – and you’re right
in saying it is absolutely crucial if we are to create a functional state which
we can leave – was very significantly weakened. It was actually only the
United States who was pushing that forward – without a primary leverage that we
would have had to make this a condition of the stabilization and association
I entirely agree with you, Congressman, that we have to make constitutional
reform now a priority. We must build a functional state here. And I would
hope that if we are to launch a second effort to do that, and I hope we will,
then the European Union and the United States will this time work in concert
because if we do, my view is that that can be completed in a satisfactory way,
which will enable us in due course to welcome Bosnia-Herzegovina into the
community of nations and not leave, because we never will; we’ll have our
businessmen there, but cease this process, end this process that started with
REP. HASTINGS: Thank you very much, Mr. Smith. And Mr. Addiholt, we began
with very brief opening statements. I don’t know whether you had anything that
you wish to add in that regard but I certainly will turn to you for any
questions that you may pose to Lord Ashdown.
REPRESENTATIVE ROBERT B. ADERHOLT (R-AL): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I
apologize for coming in late. Of course, as you know, there was a vote on the
floor. But thank you, Lord Ashdown, for being here. And I sense your concern
as you’ve stated your issues of regarding Bosnia-Herzegovina. And so we thank
you for coming today to share a little bit with us today about this. And like
I said, I did come in late, so some of these things you may have mentioned
before I got here.
But just as far as an open-ended question, as far as the vital or the
significant interests that the United States would have at stake in the
Balkans, could you talk a little bit about that?
LORD ASHDOWN: Congressman, you’re saying what would the reason or –
REP. ADERHOLT: Or, yeah – well –
LORD ASHDOWN: Why should you?
REP. ADERHOLT: Or the significant interest that we have there.
LORD ASHDOWN: Well, I mean, first of all, there is a real concern I think
about the spread of the contingent of instability and corruption. Let’s
remember that many of the lines of corruption that deliver into Europe and I
have no doubt into the United States as well – trafficking into Europe
certainly, terrorist materials, many of those are passing through the Balkan
corridor. So I think this has a direct relation – stabilizing the Balkans and
making sure that the progress that was started at Dayton continues to its final
conclusion – has a direct relationship for trying to close off spaces for
corruption and for the trafficking of people and materiel in an already
Secondly, as we all know, Bismarck once famously said that he didn’t think the
Balkans were worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier. Well, we’ve
learned that the Balkans can be a highly instable region, and the spread of
infection can go much wider than the Balkans. So I think it is an issue that
we need to address on those grounds.
Thirdly, we don’t have, I’m afraid, many examples of successful post-conflict
stabilization. The Balkans potentially could be one. And that I think that’s
a very – it’s very important that we see the job through to a successful
And my last point why it’s important to the United States – this greater
geostrategic issue of reaching out and establishing a new relationship with the
world of Islam, this is a crucial area for that. If we fail again to protect
and to ensure that there is a proper home for the European Islamic community in
the Balkans, I think that has connotations on the wider-world scale, which
would be very unhelpful to us in many other regions.
It’s not, Congressman, an accident that when you see al Qaeda propaganda, they
will mention along with Jerusalem, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the genocide of
Srebrenica. It’s all part of that argument.
Having set our hand to this, largely under the leadership of the United States,
I think it’s in all of our interest that that process should be completed, and
sends a message out to the Islamic world that we are not predators upon Islam,
that we are prepared to spend our money and risk our soldiers’ lives that
Islamic people and Muslims can benefit from too.
So in all of those reasons – for all of those reasons, I think it’s extremely
REP. ADERHOLT: Thank you. If the Obama administration does decide to go down
the path to accept the demands of those that would want greater involvement in
the Balkans, as you talked about, what would it mean in terms of actually
funding or money that –
LORD ASHDOWN: I really don’t believe you have to do very much more than you
are doing at present. I mean, obviously if there’s more resources that can be
put in that, it will be very helpful. But you’ve made a long-term commitment
over 15 years, a very great deal of money. I was told – and maybe I need – I
just can’t recall the exact figure, but per head of population, as much as the
Marshall Plan into Europe has been put into Bosnia and other areas of the
Western Balkans and you have made a huge commitment in troops.
I don’t believe this is a moment for the United States to up that. We know
there are other calls on your resources, which you might reasonably argue to be
even more urgent. But the really important thing is the United States is
prepared to keep an interest in the region and stand behind the European Union
My experience in Bosnia was when I arrived there, the international community
was divided; it couldn’t speak with a single voice, and we could do nothing.
We went through a process of making sure the international community spoke with
a single voice. The United States came in and supported what we were doing,
and once we spoke with a united voice, we were able to move the process forward
very fast indeed.
So what I’m calling for here I think is engagement, is support for the European
Union’s policy, it’s unity on a single strategy, which I think should be drawn
up between the United States and Europe, and that’s all. I’m not calling for
more resources and I’m not calling for more troops.
REP. ADERHOLT: Okay. Thank you very much.
LORD ASHDOWN: By the way, Congressman, I don’t think there should be less
troops. I mean, we’ve got about 2,500 there now I think. Until the situation
settles down, I would not be in favor – the European Union EU4 is thinking of
withdrawing, and some of them have withdrawn already. I don’t believe that
sends the right signals. That’s not United States troops, but certainly part
of the process of reaching a unified policy with the European Union and
Washington would be to say to the European Union, this isn’t the time to be
cutting – (inaudible).
REP. ADERHOLT: So based on your testimony then, we would – the involvement
that the United States would need to be there is to continue our troop presence
that we have now.
LORD ASHDOWN: You don’t have any troop presence at present in Bosnia and
Herzegovina; they’re all European Union troops. But the European Union should
not – should be encouraged not to reduce those numbers.
REP. ADERHOLT: So no American troops would be –
LORD ASHDOWN: There are none at present.
REP. ADERHOLT: Or would be needed.
LORD ASHDOWN: Or would be needed. A unity of policy with full engagement and
energy across the Atlantic – and as I said, my view is the best way to achieve
that would be to have something like a special envoy, not for Bosnia but for
the whole of the Western Balkans. I believe that would stimulate Brussels to
have – to look at it regionally as well and maybe appoint their own envoy. I
think those two working together can exercise very considerable political
leverage. That shouldn’t be counter to anything that’s being done on the
ground, and I think we can give the whole process a renewed energy that it
desperately needs. That would be sufficient in my –
REP. ADERHOLT: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. HASTINGS: Well, Lord Ashdown, thank you. You’ve been very clear and
concise, and that’s deeply appreciated. But let me put to you, do you believe
the European Union is willing to accept Bosnia at this time. And I don’t
necessarily need to refer to the large indigenous or Muslim population. It’s
just people continue to express a variety of concerns, and I’m just curious as
to your read on that at this time.
LORD ASHDOWN: I’m not going to deny for a moment, Mr. Chairman, that there is
a certain concern among European citizens about the ever-widening process of
Europe. But I think we need to remember that Bosnia and Herzegovina, the
Western Balkans, is not an expansion of Europe; it’s now within Europe’s
borders; it’s unfinished business. It’s not about European enlargement. I
personally take the view that the European Union needs to deepen its
functionality before it widens its geographical territory.
I was an instrument of the European Union foreign policy. I was often told
that Bosnia was very dysfunctional. I can tell you Brussels was often more
dysfunctional than Bosnia was. (Laughter.) And it’s really important that we
should deepen that soon. But this is now – this is not a widening of Europe;
it’s a completion of the task to which Europe has already set its hand. And I
think that’s a really important point for us to make.
Now, is there a willingness in Europe to do what is necessary to drive this
forward? I don’t think I’d be here asking the United States to engage itself
in this if that willingness was sufficient. I don’t think it is across all
European capitals. I think they’d like it to happen, but they very often don’t
– they will the ends, but they’re not prepared to will the means sometimes.
REP. HASTINGS: Right. I thoroughly agree with your position. I would be
interested to know what influence and interests does Russia have in the Western
Balkans, and to what extent does Moscow’s concerns and interests are –
(inaudible) – inside our conflict with Europe or the United States? And let me
lay my bona fides on the table. I’m one of those that believes very strongly
in mutual respect and in inclusiveness as it pertains to Russia specifically.
When I was president of the Parliamentary Assembly, I made a point of making my
first visit to Russia to meet with the foreign minister and the then-speaker of
the Duma. I continue those efforts as late as two weeks ago speaking with
Sergei Lavrov. And I just – I don’t believe that preaching is going to
accomplish very much for us.
LORD ASHDOWN: I’m with you entirely. I mean, my view was – two thoughts and
then I’ll try and address the Balkans question. The first is I think we
missed, Mr. Chairman, a real, real strategic opportunity. When we won the Cold
War and the wall came down, we could have reached out to Russia and genuinely
done the things that would have made them a partner. I think we treated Russia
with a degree of triumphalism, and sometimes, in Russian eyes, humiliation.
And the consequence, it seems to me, was the policies which were inevitable
given the Russian people of Vladimir Putin.
My own view is that if Russia behaves in ways which are clearly contrary to the
kind of things that we talk about, about the freedom of nations to choose, we
should be very, very clear to them about that. But the position of Russia is
such that I think we should nevertheless, as you rightly say, continue the
dialogue on all fronts where it’s possible to do so. Some is not, and we know
that, and we should be clear about that, but I’m not in favor of widening the
gap between us and Russia; I’m in favor of whilst being very clear about our
principles, holding to the principle of dialogue and discussion.
Now, on the Balkans, look, I really do not believe Russia has a long-term
strategic interest in the Balkans any longer. Did they like the fact that the
Balkans was taken away from the Russian sphere of influence and moved to the
NATO sphere of influence? Not very much. It must have been difficult for
them. Do they use elements in the Balkans as sticks with which to beat us in
other areas? Yes, they do, and we know that. They will sometimes play Kosovo
for Russian broader policy interests. But they are Russian a broader policy
interest and we need to realize that.
Some of my friends in Banja Luka and in Belgrade – Banja Luka, the capital of
the Republic of Srpska, and say, well, of course, we don’t have to go to the
European Union because we can go to Russia. And I invite them to go down any
day in either Sarajevo or Belgrade and see how many – how long the queue is for
visas outside the Austrian Embassy and the Russian Embassy, and they have their
answer. I know of almost nobody who is queuing up to go to Russia and almost
everybody who’d like to go to Washington if they had the opportunity or Austria.
So I honestly think this is a piece of opportunism, and our failures to deliver
sometimes has given the Russians to play a perfectly legitimate diplomatic game
of using leverage there to get things elsewhere. But do I believe that there
is a realistic prospect that Russia could reach out and reabsorb elements of
the Russian Balkans back into the Russian sphere of influence? No. Do I
believe that there is any competition amongst the minds of the people of the
Balkans, the citizens of the Balkans as to whether they would like to look to
Russian cities as places their young children can go for holidays and
education, or European and American ones? The answer to that is no too.
REP. HASTINGS: I thank you. Lord Ashton, I’m fearful about our time and
voting. And with your permission and agreeance (ph), I’d like very much to
have our other panelists join you. And if you have the time –
LORD ASHDOWN: I’d very much like to –
REP. HASTINGS: – stay with us, then I’d like – please stay, and I’m going to
ask them to join you at the table as well. Ivo Banac and Ivanna Howard and
James – do you pronounce it “Lyon” or “lion”?
JAMES LYON: Lion.
REP. HASTINGS: Lion. Okay, roar like a lion. What is it, France is Lyon.
That’s the other side of it. But I do thank you all and with your permission,
as I indicated their curriculum vitae outside, but Professor Banac is the
professor of history, Yale University, and president of the Croatian Helsinki
Committee for Human Rights. And Ms. Howard is the program officer for Central
and Eastern Europe in the National Endowment for Democracy. And Mr. Lyon is
the senior associate of democratization policy council, and former senior
Balkan advisor for the International Crisis Group.
Gentlemen, I’m always deferential to the ladies, so Ms. Howard, if you would
IVANA HOWARD: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of the
commission. Thank you for the opportunity to address you today and discuss the
latest developments in the Western Balkans. The National Endowment for
Democracy is especially grateful for your committed interest in the region, the
ongoing support and recognition of the need for continued international
attention to the problems facing the Balkans.
I’ve been asked to speak today about democratic developments and civil society
in all Western Balkan countries. In the interest of time, I will condense my
remarks, but I have prepared a longer written statement that I ask to be placed
on the record.
REP. HASTINGS: Without objection.
MS. HOWARD: With your permission, I will devote most of my testimony to Bosnia
and Herzegovina, and as Lord Ashton has already made the case, this country
arguably deserves the greatest consideration at the moment. That being said,
however, I will briefly review the situation in other countries from the
perspective of civil society and the challenges that it faces. Specifically, I
would like to draw your attention to concerns raised to me by NED grantees
regarding freedom of information and expression in their respective countries.
And I will start with Serbia, where despite signs of improvement, following the
formation of the new government last year, continue attention needs to be
devoted to civil society, and especially the treatment of human rights
defenders and the media. Verbal or even physical violence, some of which I
spoke of last year when I had an opportunity to brief you –
REP. HASTINGS: Yeah, you were at our Serbia hearing.
MS. HOWARD: Yes – is still not uncommon as witnessed several days ago when
four journalists were attacked by a radical group organizing our commemoration
of the 10-year anniversary of NATO bombing. In Kosovo, attempts to expose
endemic corruption are often met with fierce resistance by public officials who
do not shy away from exerting political or financial pressure on watch dog NGOs
or investigative media. The Radio Television of Kosovo, which is the country’s
PBS, is facing constant attempts by the government to control it. As a result,
journalists tend to self-censor their work, and are cautious in criticizing
And the head of parliamentary elections in Albania, which you mentioned in your
opening remarks, scheduled for the summer, media is in similar situation. The
magazine Tema (ph) was recently evicted from its premises, rented from the
government, and had its printing halted after it published a report on alleged
corrupt activities by government officials. TV News 24, generally critical of
the government, was assessed a hefty fine for ridiculing another station’s
promotion on the prime minister.
But the situation is perhaps the gravest in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where
pressure and media and NGOs, particularly in the Republika Srpska, remind us of
the darkest periods in Serbia under Milosevic. Transparency International had
to close its office in Banja Luka last summer to ensure safety of its staff
following a barrage of verbal attacks and threats by RS officials. Generalists
in both entities frequently find themselves under similar pressure as evidence
recently when a group of investigative reporters from the federal television
FTV was attacked in Trebinje. While their Monday night program is often
censored and blacked out by the RS government.
But these are just some of the many problems that are found in Bosnia today,
and Lord Ashdown has really touched on quite a few of those. But the key issue
in the country, which was also identified, as well as the top priority in my
opinion for the international community can be summed up in two words, and
those are constitutional reform. All of us present here are quite aware of why
Bosnia needs a new constitution. And I’m not going to go into too much detail.
I will just reiterate the inherent flaw in the current system, which allows
political elites to repeatedly use the fear of others as a mobilizing tool,
especially head of elections.
This fear factor must be removed if Bosnia and Herzegovina is to have a chance
at becoming a fully functional democratic state integrated into euro Atlantic
structures. And this is why the major task and the center point of the
international community’s efforts should be the constitutional reform.
After the failure of the 2006 April package, few countries, the U.S. in
particular, have a desire to tackle this issue again. And I certainly
understand this. But the international community has invested considerable
time and resources into Bosnia. As you, Mr. Chairman, mentioned in your
opening remarks of the November 2007 hearing in Bosnia, and I quote, “It would
be a serious error if this international effort were allowed to fail. We owe
it to the people of Bosnia to encourage them to move forward,” end quote.
Therefore, I would like to offer the following recommendations for future U.S.
and European engagement in Bosnia and the region. The first two will very much
echo what Lord Ashdown has already said, but I will briefly go through them.
First, the U.S. and the EU should focus again on the western Balkans and
demonstrate a strong and consistent dedication to addressing all outstanding
issues. A variety of recommendations to this regard have been made, some by
the very people speaking in front of you, including appointing a special envoy.
I believe that any one of these approaches would be beneficial, and in fact,
increase attention to the region. Hence, to have an immediate effect on the
ground as I have witnessed myself.
For example, the simple announcement of a series of policy events in Washington
related to the Balkans and Bosnia-Herzegovina, including this one, dampened
nationalist rhetoric in the RS, whose leaders have remained fairly moderate in
their statements for the last few weeks.
Second, while no longer in the driver’s seat, the U.S. should nevertheless be –
or could nevertheless be useful in navigating and facilitating international
engagement in the Balkans by providing the necessary political and technical
support to EU and Balkan partners, and the previous speaker has mentioned why
this is necessary, and in which manner to be done.
In the case of Bosnia, the U.S. should work with its EU partners to find a
common voice and formulate a coherent strategy with enough political will to
see constitutional reform through as soon as possible, while securing a broad
popular legitimacy. And this brings me to the next point, which I consider to
be the most crucial. The U.S. and the EU should adopt a more pluralist
approach to reform processes throughout the region, by reaching out to a
broader, more diversified group of political and civic actors.
This is especially important in Bosnia’s constitutional reform, where
self-proclaimed ethnic leaders should never again be allowed to monopolize and
manipulate the process, as was the case in the April package. Constitutional
reform in Bosnia should not be a top-down process, but include a broad public
participation and awareness and thereby ensuring popular legitimacy.
Pro-democratic opposition leaders, as well as civil society should be
recognized and allowed to participate as equal players in drafting, debating,
and advocating for the new constitutional provisions.
And here I would really like to appeal to you members of the commission,
members of Congress, and the administration to reach out to the civil society
and meet with NGOs, and media representatives when you visit the Balkan
countries. Such meetings strengthen their legitimacy, not just in the eyes of
the political elite but also in the eyes of citizens, and send a clear message
that the opinion of civil society matters in democratic reforms processes, and
that any form of pressure on the media is simply not acceptable.
Finally, time is of essence. With every delay in starting the reform processes
in the Balkans, we risk losing the democratic gains made at such a high cost.
Bosnia’s constitutional reform in my opinion is particularly time-sensitive.
Any attempt at constitutional reform must be swift and completed by the end of
this year if pro-democratic, multi-ethnic forces are to have any chance in the
October 2010 general election. Allowing constitutional reform to be a topic in
2010, as it was in 2006, will force citizens to again cast their votes based on
fear and nationalist leaders can misuse the issue again to their own gain.
Thus, the international community should quickly engage all available
resources, not the least those available locally, like I mentioned earlier, to
help to create new constitution and by the end of 2009.
Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the commission, in November 2005 the
secretary of state invited three Bosnian leaders to Washington to commemorate
the tenth year anniversary of the Dayton peace accords, and pledged support to
the constitutional reform process. Almost four years later we remain gravely
concerned about the country’s territorial integrity, democratic future, and
fragile inter-ethnic peace.
The kinds of problems that NED and its grantees are doing in Bosnia and
Herzegovina and the Balkans to strengthen democracy remain important to the
long-term stability and prosperity of the region. But it is only with a strong
commitment of the United States leadership and its European partners to help to
create the new constitution that can make Bosnia a fully democratic state and a
stabilizing factor in the region. If we succeed, we will have more reason to
celebrate the 15th year anniversary of the Dayton peace accords.
Thank you very much, and I look forward to taking your questions.
REP. HASTINGS: Thank you very much. Professor Banac, would you proceed, sir?
IVO BANAC: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I am very grateful for this
opportunity to discuss the situation in the western Balkans. I too have
prepared a brief statement and it seems to me that it would be futile to read
the whole statement. It’s available. And precisely because, at least from
what I have heard from the previous speaker, there are many common themes here,
I am going to stress to have some issues that we perhaps do not share to the
The whole point of what I am trying to convey to you today is that the process
of stabilization of southeastern Europe has to a significant extent been
stalled. It has been stalled for various reasons. One of them, and this is
very significant, is because the Europeanization of Western alliance’s policy
toward the western Balkans really was not successful and it cannot be sustained
without the guidance of the United States.
So to a significant extent this is an appeal for more intense American
engagement. I have stressed three critical points in order of urgency. The
situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which I consider to be quite alarming,
particularly in connection with the activities of Mr. Milorad Dodik in
Republika Srpska. I’m not going to elaborate, but I think that this is a
situation which is rapidly getting out of hand.
I also talked about the Kosovo situation, where I think that we are frequently
entirely too self-congratulatory without taking into account there is
considerable discontent in Kosovo over limited sovereignty and the fact that
the area is not fully integrated. So this is something that too ought to be
And thirdly, in connection with the changes in Serbia after the May 2008
elections, despite the fact that the situation in Serbia is considerably
improved, nevertheless I think there have been tendencies in some quarters and
in the West to be more permissive, given the changes in Serbia, to insist
perhaps on noncompliance in all details having to do with the international
criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, et cetera. My recommendation
would be to apply the same rules and make certain that Serbia complies to the
demands of the international community.
Another portion of my statement has to do with the obstacles to what I consider
to be the optimal outcome in southeastern Europe, which is to say full
integration of these countries within the European Union and the NATO. A
number of things have happened during the past several years that have I think
significantly delayed this trend. Objectively, the EU expansion is in trouble
as a result of the world economic crisis, obstacles to the ratification of the
treaty of Lisbon after the Irish referendum last June, and I think also as a
result of lack of political leadership in a number of EU countries.
We should also remember it has been negative consequences of rogue policies of
two EU countries – Slovenia, which has obstructed – quite successfully, I
should add – Croatia’s accession to the European Union, and the capricious
behavior of Greece on the issue of the name of Macedonia, which has obstructed
Macedonia’s integration into the NATO.
I think also that the fact that all EU countries have not recognized Kosovo is
evidence that the urgency of Balkan stabilization is not grasped in all
European capitals. There have also been instances of euro skepticism that are
a consequence of inconsistent policies of the European Commission.
And I think that we ought to take the Russian role in the area somewhat more
seriously. I think that this is the only part of Europe that Russia can
exercise a certain amount of influence, and it has been doing that mightily
during the past several years, leading to I think a number of situations that
ought to be taken under consideration. The fact that many of the pipelines
that are vital for European oil and gas supply run through this part of the
world I think is something that is connected with this situation.
Finally, I would like to make some very specific recommendations. First of
all, the United States should not ignore the Balkan area simply because a
number of other problems are more pressing. A new American diplomatic
initiative I think is necessary for the stabilization of the whole area,
especially in the three critical cases that I mentioned – Bosnia-Herzegovina,
Kosovo, and Serbia.
Secondly, Bosnian situation clearly is the most important and it should have
priority. The U.S. government should complete the Dayton process by developing
a new plan, new plan for the reintegration of Bosnia-Herzegovina but not with
an ethnic yardstick. It makes no difference whether Bosnia is effectively
partitioned into two, three, or 23 ethnic entities. Ethnic particularization
always operates against the unity of complex societies such as that of
Thirdly, I think that the new administration should reaffirm the commitment to
the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. This is
terribly important, particularly when the time is running out on it, but also I
think that there should be a new attempt to support the International Criminal
Court through congressional ratification of the Rome Statute.
Fourthly, the U.S. should exercise influence on the EU allies to promote and
revitalize the EU and NATO expansion. Serious effort should be taken against
obstinacy in the behavior of Greece, for example, and that of Slovenia over the
questions that I already mentioned. In a similar vein, every effort should be
made to promote the recognition of Kosovo among European holdouts.
And finally, the civil sector definitely should not be neglected, particularly
in the current economic circumstances, but priority ought to be given to those
NGOs that work with concrete cases, not the various reconciliation schemes that
frequently operate in a political vacuum. And I think also that the OICE
operations should be continued, even in those cases where they have been
Thank you very much for this opportunity once again.
REP. HASTINGS: Thank you very much. And Professor Lyon.
JAMES LYON: Thank you very much. Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of
the commission, thank you for the opportunity to address you today. I’m very,
very pleased that you’re willing to be engaged on issues of dealing with the
western Balkans. On behalf of the Democratization Policy Council I’d like to
thank you for your committed interest in this region. I would also ask that
the longer statement that I have prepared be submitted into the record. I’m
going to be synopsizing.
REP. HASTINGS: Without objection.
MR. LYONS: Thank you. I would also like to add my agreement to many of the
remarks of Lord Ashdown and Ms. Howard regarding the need for constitutional
reform and regarding the need to focus on Bosnia. I have been asked, however,
to speak to some of the broader trends in the region, so I will be discussing
several other countries, even though I will be spending most of my time on
Bosnia-Herzegovina, a country in which the U.S. has invested quite a
significant amount of resources. We’ve achieved quite a great deal, and yet
which is now of renewed concern.
Now with the exception of Kosovo, since 2001 U.S. policy towards much of the
western Balkans is best described as leaving the region to the European Union,
with Washington supporting whatever foreign policy Brussels would create. As a
foreign policy, the EU relied solely on what we call soft power – that is, the
stabilization and association process, and the lure of eventual EU membership –
without taking into account whether or not this would help the countries to
overcome the legacy of the 1990s. Today it appears that stabilization and
association process, and by default U.S. policy, have reached the limit of
The stabilization and association policy I believe is a one-size-fits-all
policy based on the assumption that western Balkan states are similar to other
Eastern European countries such as Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.
Yet those other states were by and large ethnically homogenous, with fixed
borders, and have not been at war since 1945. None of these assumptions holds
true for the western Balkans.
For many of the western Balkan states, the lure of EU integration is not as
powerful as Brussels hoped. Internal EU disagreement over enlargement policy
has sent a signal to the western Balkans that EU enlargement is not a priority.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia have all stalled
in the European accession process, and in the case of Bosnia the hard-won
progress of the past 13 years has been jeopardized amid increasing rumblings of
the possibility of renewed conflict and an ethnic carve-up. The soft power of
European accession, while necessary and desirable, has clearly reached its
To understand the dynamics working against this soft power, it’s worth taking a
brief glance at each of these five countries and the obstacles they’ve run
into. Kosovo is beset with serious problems ranging from organized crime to
corruption, to dysfunctional economy, and a society whose clan structure makes
the transition to modern political organization difficult. The disputed nature
of Kosovo independence, along with the presence of de facto partition and
formulations between majority Albanians and minority Serbs means that Kosovo’s
status struggle is ongoing and overshadows all other issues.
The potential for renewed outburst of inter-ethnic violence and ethnic
cleansing always looms in the background. The EU is deeply divided over the
issue, with five member states – Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain –
refusing to recognize Kosovo independence. And the inability of the EU to
reach consensus on Kosovo has led to weak international supervisory
institutions with blurred and uncertain mandates.
Given these difficulties, Kosovo is arguably not yet ready to even begin the
stabilization and association process. Serbia is deeply divided. Although
most Serbs desire EU membership, many important constituencies among the
economic, political, security, and opinion-making elites oppose the reforms
necessary to move ahead. Many Serbs are unable to move beyond Kosovo’s status
in cooperation with the Hague war crimes tribunal.
The EU carrots available are limited, and Serbia’s elites have not yet
perceived the incentives as being sufficiently strong to overcome entrenched
economic interests and monopolies that oppose the reform process. EU
membership cannot alleviate the trauma of losing Kosovo, nor can it overcome
Serb anger at the U.S. government for supporting Kosovo independence.
As a result, the important elements within Serbia’s elites have begun to
explore other options, not only closer engagement with Russia but also efforts
to revitalize the nonaligned movement. Russian activism on the energy front,
including privatizing oil refineries in Bosnia and Serbia, as well as the
planned South Stream pipeline, has weakened the EU’s appeal to some political
Although Brussels believes that there is no alternative to EU membership,
certain elites in Belgrade perceive that options may exist that require less
change, less sacrifice, and less disruption to Serbia’s party politic than the
EU-mandated reforms. Macedonia is fragile internally and still susceptible to
a possible spillover of tensions from neighboring Kosovo. And the government
must maintain a delicate balancing act required by the Ohrid agreement.
Although it achieved EU candidate status in 2005 and held successful elections
just last month, Macedonia’s accession prospects have run into a hurdle due to
Greek opposition to its name. Athens obstructs NATO membership and EU
accession talks, and it’s unlikely Greece will change its position any time
For Croatia, relations with Serbia are still very delicate and there are still
many charges that Zagreb discriminates against its Serb minority population
over the issue of refugee returns and proper rights. Entrenched interests
within the security structures and the post-1990 economic elites have slowed
the pace of reform, yet Croatia does continue to make real progress toward EU
membership. Croatia faces an unusual challenge in that it has a territorial
dispute with one EU member, Slovenia, and a budding dispute with a second,
Greece. And this over Greece’s objections to Croatia’s inclusion of the
Macedonia national minority that is present in Croatia.
Now to Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Dayton peace accords often appear to be war by
other means, as the country’s Bosniac, Croat and Serb politicians have
continued to pursue wartime goals via the Dayton constitutional structure, with
Serbs obstructing true political reform at the state level, while trying to
take state level competencies for themselves.
The Bosniacs, on the other hand, have obstructed privatization and economic
liberalization in the federation, the institution they dominate, while the
Croats sit back and watch. When given the choice between pursuing EU required
reforms, Bosnia’s politicians, Serbs in particular, have stated loudly and
unequivocally that EU membership takes a back seat to nationalist imperatives.
Since early 2006, in spite of the appearance of progress, Bosnia has
demonstrably slid backwards. Today elements among all three sides talk of
rearming, and some now mention resorting to violence or secession to achieve
political goals. Such talk is increasingly prevalent among political elites,
something that was unthinkable in 2005. The international community is in
disarray, still undecided on what transition the OHR to the European Union’s
special representative means, and the EU peacekeeping mission is now slated to
be reduced to a 200-person training mission that would voluntarily give up its
U.N. chapter 7 peacekeeping authorization.
Milorad Dodik, leader of the Serb entity, is actively undermining state
institutions, while Hari Silajdzic, the Bosniac politician, has pulled the
entire Bosniac political spectrum further to the right and reduced the
maneuvering room available to more moderate politicians. Worryingly, among the
Bosniacs the moderates are being squeezed out in favor of politicians with more
belligerent attitudes. The world economic crisis may tempt some politicians to
channel popular frustration into a more aggressive stance toward opposing
At this moment it’s clear that Bosnia’s future as a unified state is not
entirely guaranteed. Much-needed constitutional reform still seems distant.
The unanimous consensus among Bosnia’s politicians is that should the state
fall apart, it would not be a peaceful dissolution. Should Bosnia begin to
unravel, its ripple effects would place U.S. relations with Russia, the EU, and
the Islamic world under strain. It would create refugee flows and humanitarian
crises, and possibly create spillover in other Balkan countries such as Kosovo
Time is not working for us. The U.S. has an interest and a special
responsibility, as it has spent substantial prestige and treasure in stopping
the wars and stabilizing the region. The Balkans also represent low-hanging
fruit in any foreign policy calculation. Stability can be achieved without new
resources. Halting Bosnia’s backward slide and preventing renewed conflict
will require renewed and robust U.S. diplomatic engagement in support of a
credible and strategically coherent EU policy to bolster EU soft power. In
this respect, the appointment of a special presidential envoy to the region
would go a long way.
Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of the commission, the U.S. must return to
being an active player in support of its European partners. Should it do so,
it can secure its long-term investment and rack up a success with the EU, a
partner it needs for so many policy priorities worldwide. Should Washington
remain disengaged, it will share in a policy failure that will incur
considerable cost in the region with the EU and the wider world.
Thank you very much, and I look forward to your questions.
REP. HASTINGS: Thank you very much. You may have heard that silent buzzer.
That was the call for Mr. Aderholt and I to go over and vote on his party’s
budget, so we probably could stay here and cancel each other’s vote out, but we
have to go and at least be registered, all things considered. But Robert, if
you have a very quick question, we will take it.
REP. ADERHOLT: Let me just ask this to either one of the panelists that would
like. For those that would argue that a greater or more forceful U.S.
involvement in the Balkans would undermine efforts to encourage the local
political leaders there and the government to take a greater responsibility for
their own countries, just how would you address that?
In other words, the U.S.’s involvement over there in the Balkans, would that –
how does that send a message to the local leaders there, to the politicians
that are in that area and trying to govern, and just I’d like to get your
thoughts on that.
LORD ASHDOWN: I’ll make an attempt very quickly to answer this. If the
international community is not involved, you help the nationalist extremists.
That gives them the excuse to say the only people who are going to protect you
are us. We’re your nationalist leaders, you are going to be helping them.
If the international community is involved and engaged in this process, you
essentially provide cover to bring forward the new moderate leaders that Bosnia
needs. The fact that we’re involved does not mean we’re going to be doing
things as we did in the past in the days of the High Representative when I was
there, that we have a muscular presence and so on. Those days are past. But
we have to provide a framework for the more moderate and constructive
future-looking people to come through in Bosnian politics.
If you’re not there, you’re playing back strength into the wartime leaders who
used the nationalist messages, and that’s what’s happened.
REP. ADERHOLT: Thank you.
REP. HASTINGS: I can’t thank you all enough. We obviously will have to have a
part two of this critically important hearing. I’m very hopeful that I will be
able to go as an election observer to the Albanian elections, and I certainly –
I believe Mr. Aderholt and Mr. Smith and I as well as our colleagues who are
not here, certainly Chairman Cardin has expressed a considerable concern. We
will raise the issue with our colleagues appropriately and share the very
critical testimonies that you all have presented to us with clarity.
I normally ask for an opportunity to send you questions and ask you to answer
them so that we can put them on the Web site, but quite frankly, your papers
have covered the waters and it’s deeply appreciated.
REP. ADERHOLT: Mr. Chairman? I agree, this is such a very important issue and
I thank you for having this hearing today and for organizing it. Perhaps maybe
at some point we could have a part two to this hearing just to follow up
because I do think this is vitally important. The ’90s were so important.
Everybody remembers what was going on in the Balkans and certainly, you know,
make sure that we don’t repeat history.
REP. HASTINGS: I know that’s right.
REP. ADERHOLT: So we would like – so I would very much, at some point in the
future we could have a follow-up. And I again thank each of the panelists for
being available today and coming and speaking, and we look forward to following
up with you.
REP. HASTINGS: I just wanted to share two things with you. When my mother was
alive and we were looking at the winter Olympics, we both commented what a
tremendous place Sarajevo was and that we would like to live there. Little did
I know at some point that I would go there and be in a Holiday Inn and overlook
that cemetery and see people who were there for memorial purposes be shot at
while I was there.
But there was a humorous side to it, and she lived long enough for me to tell
her that the foodstuff that we grow in the district that I’m privileged to
serve, collard greens, also grows in Bosnia, and I was very pleased to see that.
Thank you all so very much.
(ENDED AT 3:40 P.M.)