Hillary Clinton visits Balkans to keep Dayton agreement on track

Power struggles between ethnic Serb, Muslim, and Croat parties are holding back Balkan states from fuller integration with Europe.

Dado Ruvic/Reuters
US Secretary of States Hillary Clinton speaks during a news conference after a meeting during an official visit to Sarajevo on October 30. The United States and the European Union combined on Tuesday to push Balkan states to resolve festering political and economic disputes obstructing more integration with the rest of Europe.

The United States and the European Union combined on Tuesday to push Balkan states to resolve festering political and economic disputes obstructing more integration with the rest of Europe.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton began a three-nation Balkan trip in Bosnia, where a power struggle between ethnic Serb, Muslim, and Croat parties has stymied progress since their 1992-95 war.

Mrs. Clinton's Balkans trip, probably her last before stepping down early next year, represents her final effort to settle some of the legacies of the bloody break-up of federal Yugoslavia in the 1990s, when her husband Bill Clinton was president.

"We're disappointed that the leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina have not put the interests of the country first," a senior US official told reporters travelling with Clinton.

In similar vein, Clinton and Mrs. Ashton will urge Serbia and majority-Albanian Kosovo, which broke away from Belgrade in 2008, to improve their ties further, US officials said.

Bosnia has been governed along ethnic lines since the war, which killed an estimated 100,000 people and split the country into two autonomous regions joined by a weak central government, under the US-brokered 1995 Dayton Peace Accords.

Intense political infighting has slowed reforms, leaving Bosnia lagging its neighbors on the road to EU membership.

Clinton and Ashton were likely to remind Bosnian leaders that they must stick with the Dayton agreement.

"Party leaders can obviously work out, within that framework, the relationships they want, but there should be no questioning of the basic fundamentals of the Dayton peace arrangement," the US official said.

Leaders of Bosnia's Serb Republic do not hide their contempt for the joint state and say it is doomed to disintegrate.

Kosovo tension

Clinton and Ashton were due later in the day in Belgrade, where they will encourage nationalist Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic and Socialist Prime Minister Ivica Dacic to make good on promises to improve ties with Kosovo, the US official said.

Serbia, a pariah under the late Slobodan Milosevic in the 1990s, has made some progress on reforms since his ouster in 2000, arresting war crimes suspects and overhauling the economy.

But tensions with Kosovo, which seceded with the help of a NATO air war in 1999, are holding Belgrade back and the EU says accession talks cannot start until they are resolved.

Mr. Nikolic and Mr. Dacic, whose coalition took power this year, say they are ready for more normal ties with Kosovo, but that Serbia will never recognize Kosovo as independent.

"Obviously there's much work that remains to be done and significant differences remain," the US official said.

Clinton and Ashton plan to hold meetings in Kosovo on Wednesday, before Clinton goes to Albania and Croatia, both members of NATO. The West hopes Croatia's scheduled accession to the EU in 2013, following fellow ex-Yugoslav Slovenia in 2004, will encourage its neighbors to redouble their efforts.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.