United States officials have reiterated Washington’s commitment to peace in Bosnia, including the imposition of sanctions on individuals who engage in corruption and “sow division” in the country.
“Across 26 years, the United States has stood by the people (of Bosnia),” said Samantha Power, the administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, “initially, back in the day, through war, over this last quarter century through peace, and we stand with you now.”
Power is the first US official to visit Bosnia after Washington recently imposed sanctions on Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, warning that more sanctions will be imposed on individuals who engage in corruption and pose a threat to the 1995 US-brokered Dayton peace accord.
“We recognize the gravity of sanctions and the impact that they have on individuals’ financial holdings, on their travel and on their reputation,” Power affirmed. “On the question whether the US is considering more sanctions, the answer is yes.”
Earlier this month, the US imposed sanctions on several Bosnian officials and the TV station Alternativna Televizija for alleged corruption, meaning those individuals are now banned from traveling to the US and had all US assets frozen. Dodik has publicly rejected US allegations of corruption.
Power’s warning came at the end of a three-day visit to Bosnia, including a meeting with the country’s tripartite presidency made up of Bosniak leader Šefik Džaferović, Croat leader Željko Komšić, and the recently sanctioned Dodik.
Dodik has previously likened himself to the former British Prime Minister David Cameron in his efforts to renegotiate the UK’s membership in the European Union ahead of the Brexit referendum. Last month, he warned of the country’s potential collapse and the withdrawal of the Republika Srpska entity if he was denied control of tax administration, the judiciary and the army.
Power told Bosnia’s leaders that she had been told by young Bosnians that “they are finding it harder and harder to see a future for themselves in a country facing so much corruption and division,” and cited the danger of “secessionist rhetoric and actions.”
The EU remains deeply divided over the possibility of sanctions on Bosnian officials, impacting joint EU-US diplomatic actions in the region, though Germany did propose the imposition of unilateral economic sanctions in November last year.
Some 170,000 Bosnians, out of a total population of three million, have left the country in the past year alone.