Administrator Power at a Press Availability in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Speeches Shim

Thursday, January 20, 2022

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: It’s good to be back here in Bosnia. I had the privilege to live and work here during the dark days of the war. My experience here changed my life and gave me the motivation to dedicate my career to trying to promote the cause of peace and human rights. Bosnia and Herzegovina finds itself at a very difficult crossroads now. I have just come from a meeting, a very powerful meeting, with three survivors of the wartime prisoner camps. These are individuals who suffered horribly in prisoner camps. And hearing their stories was a reminder that this country and the great people of this country can never go back. Politics are hard. But war is horrific.

What was very inspiring about talking to these individuals is that they are not just focused on the past. They are using their experience to try to bring communities together in the present. I also met this morning with investigative journalists who have risked their careers and their lives to expose corruption in this country. I will have the chance to meet with young people and to discuss with them whether they feel they have a future here in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I will also have the chance to talk to entrepreneurs who want so much to unlock the potential of this country so that young people don't have to leave, don't feel that they have to leave, because economic opportunities can and should exist right here.

I'm also looking forward to candid discussions tomorrow with the tripartite presidents to discuss badly needed, urgently needed reforms to the political and economic structures here in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Reforms that are needed to benefit all citizens. Of course, it is very important on this visit as well to convey the message from President Biden that the United States stands with the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The United States stood with the people of this country during the war when I was here as a journalist. We have stood with the people of this country for the last 26 years. And we stand with you now. It is extremely important that every individual recognize that stoking the fires of division is dangerous. It will not create the economic opportunity that the people of this country long for. So I look forward to hearing from a variety of actors, a variety of kinds of professionals and citizens, about what more the United States can do to support the aspirations of the people of this country.

I'm happy to take a couple of questions now. We will have a full press conference tomorrow.

QUESTION: Do you have some specific expectations from tomorrow's meeting from one member of the presidency, Mr. Milorad Dodik?

QUESTION: What would you like to say to Mr. Milorad Dodik?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well, I look forward to speaking with all of you again after we've had the chance to meet and discuss the current political impasse. But it is clear that threats to withdraw from state level institutions threaten the stability that was created 26 years ago through the Dayton peace agreement. Those threats to withdraw make no economic or functional sense. But we also want to discuss what the United States can do to support the aspirations of all people in Bosnia and Herzegovina. That should be the focus of these state-level institutions. How to create economic growth and jobs. How to fight a pandemic that is surging again here in this country and in my country. And we have to talk about corruption, which is a major obstacle standing between the aspiration of people in this country to live with economic dignity and prosperity and where we are now.

QUESTION: [via translation] From the perspective of a former member of the UN Security Council, how do you perceive its relationship towards Bosnia and Herzegovina today? For the very first time, the High Representative didn’t have a chance to address the most recent Council session, because of China and Russia. You have just mentioned war? Why did you mention it? Do you see that as an option? And, are the sanctions imposed on Milorad Dodik enough, or you think the European Union or some other countries within the EU, individually, should start introducing sanctions as well?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Again, we'll have a full press conference tomorrow and have a chance to go into this in greater detail.

With regard to various actors in the international community, I would just say it is our collective responsibility to support the forces of unity and peace. Every country on the UN Security Council, every permanent member of the UN Security Council, was active in diplomacy around the time of the conflict and around the time of the Dayton peace agreement. And we have a responsibility to support the cause of unity, freedom, prosperity, and to build on years of investment. It is in no individual's interest and no country's interest to see the forces of division get stronger.

With regard to sanctions, I would just say that the United States and our European friends are dedicated to the cause of accountability. As I think the United States has shown, we will not hesitate to act against those who pursue corruption, destabilization, and division at the expense of the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

I look forward to talking to you again over the course of this trip, I think I'll be seeing some of you throughout, and to have more detailed discussions tomorrow at the press conference.

Sorry to keep you waiting out in the cold. As a former journalist, I know what it is like to wait out in the cold in Sarajevo.

Thank you. Thank you so much.

Last updated: January 22, 2022

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