US Committed to Bosnia’s Integrity, New Ambassador Says

Amid rumours of a possible change in US policy to Bosnia, the new US ambassador, Eric Nelson, has reiterated Washington’s strong support for the country’s territorial integrity.Mladen Lakic BIRN Sarajevo

The US will remain steadfast in support of Bosnia’s territorial integrity and will continue to try to keep the country moving forward, Eric George Nelson, the new ambassador to Bosnia, said on Thursday during a hearing before the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Commenting on talk of land swaps between Serbia and Kosovo and their possible effects on the region, he added: “It is important to make clear there is no parallel in Bosnia”.

Milorad Dodik, president of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity, Republika Srpska, has often mulled the secession of his entity from Bosnia, and even its eventual union with Serbia.

If confirmed by the US Senate, Nelson will become the tenth US ambassador to Sarajevo since Bosnia gained international recognition in 1992.

He will replace Maureen Cormack, who has held this position since January 2015.

Dodik sparred with Cormack and declared the ambassador “a proven enemy” of the Bosnian Serbs. He has said that she is “unwelcome in Republika Srpska” several times over the past three years.

Nelson added that he would promote effective government and the rule of law in Bosnia, adding that targeted sanctions could form part of an effective response, if peace and stability are threatened.

He also supports the future of Bosnia in the EU, though this remains a distant goal.

“We need strong partnerships to help Bosnia to achieve peace with progress. If confirmed, I will combine forces with civil society, the private sector, and our European partners,” Nelson said.

During his hearing, Nelson underlined the importance of Bosnia’s eventual membership of NATO as well as tackling problems such as weak economy and corruption.

“A weak economy and endemic corruption undermine stability. Reforms are critical to reduce labour taxes, improve the ease of opening a business and privatize bloated state enterprises,” Nelson said.

He concluded that the US was safer and more prosperous when Europe is also stable and prosperous.

Nelson has been a US diplomat since 1990, and has served in seven US missions overseas, including as Deputy Chief of Mission and Principal Officer, the White House said. He began his public service career as a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia.