Meeting with State Department (Southeast Europe Desk) Officials

On November 22nd, 2006, members of the Bosniak American Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina met with Christopher Hoh, Director for South Central European Affairs, and Michael Fooks, Desk Officer for Bosnia and Herzegovina, at the State Department. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss several current issues that relate to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Constitutional reforms

As in the last meeting with the State Department, the Advisory Council again expressed their concerns regarding Bosnia’s constitutional amendments, which were rejected in April of 2006. The Advisory Council specifically referred to the findings of the position paper “The Complexities and Necessities behind Constitutional Reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” a thorough legal analysis of the risk placed by the amendments on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s institutions. Mr. Hoh and Mr. Fooks emphasized that while they think the constitutional amendments are far from perfect, unlike the Advisory Council, they still believe that the amendments are a step in the right direction. To take the discussion further, the Advisory Council requested a meeting with the State Department’s legal experts, who would be able to answer specific legal questions on the amendments. Mr. Hoh and Mr. Fooks agreed to arrange this meeting.

Status of Republika Srpska

The Advisory Council conveyed that they consider the Republika Srpska’s conduct of diplomatic activities (which are under the authority of Bosnian state institutions) as unlawful. Mr. Hoh and Mr. Fooks strongly agreed that all communications between entities and foreign countries must be handled through the Bosnian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (The State Department conducts all its communications through the Bosnian Embassy in Washington, D.C. and the American Embassy in Sarajevo. However, Mr. Hoh and Mr. Fooks were not sure if the U.S. Congress also uses only these channels of communication.) In the context of this conversation, the Advisory Council also explained to Mr. Hoh and Mr. Fooks why Republika Srpska is an unjust name for an entity on Bosnia’s territory, given that its literal translation into the Bosnian language is “a republic belonging to Serbs.” The name evokes the ethnic cleansing that Bosniaks have suffered at the hands of Serbs.

NATO enlargement

The Advisory Council asked for U.S. support for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s membership into NATO’s Partnership for Peace (PfP) program, which will soon be discussed at the NATO summit in Riga. Both Mr. Hoh and Mr. Fooks said that at their expert level they did not place Bosnia and Herzegovina in the same ‘package’ with Serbia and Montenegro in terms of NATO enlargement, but they said it was possible that higher level officials do use such a framework.

Future initiatives

The Advisory Council presented to Mr. Hoh and Mr. Fooks the organization’s current ‘Issue Paper,’ which addresses the current problems that the Advisory Council is focusing on. These include the April constitutional amendments, future constitutional reforms, entity voting, foreign political activities by Republika Srpska, and membership in NATO’s Partnership for Peace (PfP) program.