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Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks At Inauguration of Brcko Statute, Municipal Hall
Brcko, Bosnia-Herzegovina, March 8, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
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SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much Commissioner Patten. President Izetbegovic, President Radisic, President Jelavic, Ambassador Farrand, Commissioner Patten, Special Representative Jacque Klein, Ambassador Miller and many friends and friendly faces that I see in the audience.

Today is another milestone along the road to full and permanent peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Of all the problems associated with peace the status of Brcko is perhaps the most demanding. When I first visited here in June of 1997, many observers predicted this region would inevitably erupt again into violence and possibly destroy the entire peace implementation process. But through careful consultations, patience and wisdom the International Arbitral Tribunal developed an approach that is meeting the core needs of all concerned. And I join heartily in congratulating Roberts Owen for his hard and successful work in bringing this effort to a conclusion.

I also applaud Ambassador Farrand, the Brcko Supervisor, for his work in preparing for today's official implementation of the new Brcko District Statute and the installation of a Mayor, department heads and assembly. This is an important step towards representative self-government for the people of Brcko Opstina.

I must say, having repeated a drive that I took with him three years ago between here and Camp McGovern, I can testify to the fact that he is a man who knows every brick and every blade of grass, where it was and where it should be, and who did what to help and demonstrates his love for the people here and for the job. He is a man of passion and I am very grateful to him for everything that he has done.

More generally, today's event clearly shows the direction this country is headed. It is away from division and towards more joint activities; away from bitterness and towards cooperation; away from isolation and toward integration among the communities here and with Europe.

In a speech I made yesterday, I said that the strategy of the international community after Dayton was to make the hardest problems and particularly Brcko our top priority. Our feeling was that if we could make progress here it would help clear the way for progress on other key issues. And I still feel that way.

The Brcko Final Award and this new District Statute are models for this country and for the entire region not because the specific circumstances here will be found in other places. They will not. But Brcko shows that seemingly irreconcilable problems can be overcome if there is a clear enough understanding that failure is simply not an option.

As I'm sure Roberts Owen would be the first to admit, the final award did not meet the expectations or desires of all concerned. It didn't sooth every hard feeling or cause dancing in the streets. But it was as fair and balanced as circumstances allowed. It met the bottom line security requirements of every side. It preserved a place at the table for every legitimate interest. And it established a process within which the seeds of cooperation can take root and grow.

As today's installation of the Mayor and other officials reflect, the day is coming when events such as this, with High Representatives and Commissioners and Secretaries of State will no longer be needed. The destiny of Brcko depends on the ability and willingness of the people here to implement the arbitration decision and to fulfill their responsibilities under the new District Statute.

I know it will not be easy. There will be many difficult days and decisions ahead. But, I am confident that you will succeed. After all, failure is still not an option.

Before closing, I want to say how pleased I am that Commission Patten is here. Support for the Brcko arbitration process has been a major focus of the partnership between the EU and the United States. And today's event provides further evidence that ours is a very successful partnership.

And the United States will do all that we can to help achieve further progress. In my country, when a military base is closed, we do all we can to help the local communities by trying to convert those bases to civilian use. Today I am pleased to announce that we have $2 million available to convert military facilities in Brcko to other purposes.

Since the fighting ended in Bosnia, both leaders and citizens alike have had to make choices every day about what kind of society they would have and what kind of future they would make. In Brcko, where those choices once seemed hardest, the right decisions continue to be made. That's good for the people here of every community and it has created a process that the world community should continue to support.

And I so echo the words of Commissioner Patten about the bridge. I was very honored to open that bridge. Now it is functioning in good form and it brings traffic and travel and trade. It is indeed, as President Clinton always talked about the bridge to the 21st century. Here we are. The bridge works; Brcko works.

Thank you very much. (applause)

[End of Document]
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