Remarks by High Representative/Vice President Catherine Ashton at the press point with President Izetbegovic of BiH and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, after the meeting with BiH Presidency

Thank you very much President Izetbegovic, Secretary Hillary and everybody. It is great honour to be in this fabulous city of Sarajevo I am here today to underline our strong joint commitment for the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina. We want to see a united, stable, prosperous, multi-ethnic country taking its rightful place in European and Transatlantic structures.

I want to be clear that there is no doubt among the 27 Member States of the European union that your future is in the European Union. Today, I want to underline that the EU perspective is real and has our unanimous support.

I am also here to say that action is required from the country’s political leaders. To make its EU future real, to achieve what the overwhelming majority of citizens here want, it is important to look beyond domestic divisions, political rivalries and vested interests. Otherwise, this country risks being left behind by other countries in the region, who are making progress towards the EU.

I believe people here want the real, pressing challenges – such as the economy, jobs, the rule of law – to be addressed. There is no time to waste on unproductive debates, such as those which question the statehood of this country.

Today I’ve encouraged the Presidency to work together with all political forces to achieve quick and concrete progress on the EU agenda.

I believe the first priority is to put into effect the European Court of Human Rights ruling in the Sejdic – Finci case. That will allow the EU to put into force our Stabilisation and Association Agreement and BiH to take further steps in EU integration, including a credible membership application.

In June 2012, political leaders agreed a Road Map to implement the key requirements and move this country towards Europe. This Road Map remains key to show commitment to EU integration, and we want to see effective and determined action from the authorities.

The European Union is ready to provide the necessary help. You will have our continued support and advice to help your country in its European Union aspirations. We want to see Bosnia and Herzegovina to succeed. We know it can.

Question: Is this visit a sign of a united US and EU policy on BiH?

HR/VP Ashton: You’re right, the purpose of our visit is to show a united approach of  the European Union and the United States of America and the importance we attach to this country and its future and its success. We have underlined in our discussion with the Presidents the elements we believe need to happen in order for the country to move forward, they are well known in terms of dealing with the immediate issues and also of recognising the importance of political leadership to take the country forward. And we really hope that the message that goes out from this meeting room is to strengthen that support for Bosnia‘s Presidency, for action.

Secretary of State Clinton: Well first let me say that our goals are exactly the same. We want to see Bosnia and Herzegovina move toward the multi ethnic stable prosperous democracy anchored in Europe and the Europe-Atlantic alliance that is reflected in every report about the views and aspirations of the people yourselves. Secondly I can speak on behalf of NATO and have reiterated what the President said. There was an agreement last March about the way forward that would give you MAP, the Action Plan for Membership. The Constitutional Court has clarified any remaining legal doubt about how to resolve the state property issue. Therefore if there can be a final decision coming out of the Presidency in November I will personally go to the NATO ministerial in Brussels in December to push for MAP to be given to you. We also strongly support the EU Road Map that Cathy Ashton has spoken to. So there is absolute unity in our goals, we want to see you in NATO, we want to see you in the EU. But we have been, I will be honest with you, frustrated that your leadership has not fairly, in our view, reflected the aspirations of the great majority of your people to move quickly toward NATO and the EU. So yes is there a political crisis, there is. And that political crisis can only be resolved by leadership. Are there some structural issues that need to be addressed through constitutional reform, yes there are. Dayton was intended to end the war and begin the process of state building. We want to see the necessary constitutional changes that would give you greater flexibility and functionality decided upon by the leaders and the people of the country. But we are here today with an unequivocal strong message – we are united in our goal to see you in NATO and EU as quickly as you possibly can and we worry that if you do not make progress you will be left behind in the rest of the region. We leave here to go to Belgrade. Belgrade is on the path for Serbia to become a member of the EU. We will then go to Pristina, Kosovo is on the path for a lot of positive changes. You’ve already seen Croatia go into the EU, you’ve got other neighbours who are making progress. This country has more potential than anyone if you will do what is necessary. That is our message.