The Helsinki Commission Holds Congressional Hearing On Challenges in Western Balkans

On December 8, 2010, Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and Co-Chairman Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) held a hearing titled “The Western Balkans: Developments in 2010 and Hopes for the Future.” The Honorable Thomas M. Countryman, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, U.S. Department of State, testified on developments in the countries of the Western Balkans. Mr. Countryman stressed that the strongest motivator for the countries of the Western Balkans is accession to the European Union. He emphasized that the United States supports Bosnia and Herzegovina as a single state and any talk of secession by any entity is a threat to stability and not supported by the United States. Furthermore, Mr. Countryman expressed that neighboring countries of Croatia and Serbia have a vital role to play in the stability of BiH and praised Zagreb for engaging productively in BiH’s EU and NATO objectives. Lastly, he stressed that Belgrade needed to do the same and underlined that Belgrade must make it unambiguous that Sarajevo is the capital of BiH for all the citizens of BiH. 

Joining the Deputy Assistant Secretary Thomas Countryman were Bosnian Congressional Caucus Co-Chair Congressman Russ Carnahan (D-MO), Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Senator George Voinovich (R-OH) and Congressman Earl Pomeroy (D-ND). Congressman Carnahan cited that the members of the BiH presidency had their first post election meeting and expressed belief that there is a real opportunity for U.S. and its European allies to revisit and support constitutional reform in BiH. Assistant Secretary Countryman concurred and stated that the three presidents of BiH are already in office; however, the new government has not yet assembled. Secretary Countryman spoke optimistically and mentioned that the three members of BiH’s presidency have already been able to work in partnership and exercise the language of compromise and reconciliation. Lastly, he outlined three critical tasks for BiH: first, the formation of a new broad based government; second, a compromise on identifying which movable defense properties belong to the state and which belong to the entities; and third, the acceptance as a first constitutional amendment the particular constitutional provision identified by the European Court of Human Rights as being contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights. It is not until BiH achieves these tasks that it will be able to deliberate on a more comprehensive constitutional reform. 
BAACBH praises the United States government for its commitment and continued support for the stability and sovereignty of BiH and strongly urges the Bosnian government to accomplish the tasks set forth by Assistant Secretary Countryman.

To view the Hearing in its entirety please click on the link below:

"The Western Balkans: Developments in 2010 and Hopes for the Future" Hearing