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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
Republika Srpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik

Press Availability
Banski Dvor, March 9, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman, Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina
U.S. Department of State
Blue Line

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I am pleased to be in Banja Luka and to have the chance to meet with the Prime Minister. This is a very important period for Republika Srpska and all of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

America and the new Europe are reaching out to this region, looking for partners with whom to do business, generate trade, create jobs and build mutual security. Our goal is to integrate all of Southeast Europe into the continent's democratic mainstream, and make the new century a time of rising prosperity and broadening peace.

Prime Minister Dodik is a worthy partner in this effort. He has guided Republika Srpska with wisdom and skill through a challenging and turbulent time. He is working hard to develop the area's economic potential. And he knows that, for his people, implementing Dayton is the only way to make the next decade more rewarding than the last.

As a result, there is increasing dynamism and hope in the Republika Srpska. The trend towards privatization is stronger here than elsewhere in the country. There is more trade and travel between the entities. The government is focused on improving people's lives.

If Republika Srpska continues its present direction, new opportunities for its citizens will arise and valuable partnerships with Europe and America will be forged.

Moreover, because of its economic reforms, political pluralism, and support for tolerance, Republika Srpska is setting an example under Prime Minister Dodik for others, most particularly neighboring Serbia, to follow.

This morning, I also met with another courageous leader, Montenegro's President Djukanovic, who is also showing a determination to lead his people away from isolation and towards integration and Europe. It's upon leaders like these, along with the democratic opposition inside Serbia, itself, that hopes for a long term peace in the region reside.

To encourage this, and in recognition of the Prime Minister's leadership, the United States will provide $7 million in budget support to the Republika Srpska this year. Of this amount, $1 million will be used to improve the capacity of the Ministry of Refugees to facilitate minority returns.

This is appropriate because the return of refugees is an essential part of the promise of Dayton and, for too many, that promise remains unfulfilled. The recent elections in Croatia offer the opportunity to build new momentum.

The Prime Minister and I will be meeting in a few moments with Croatian Foreign Minister Picula and Bosnian Foreign Minister Prlic. And we will have more to say on the subject of refugees after that meeting.

In closing, let me repeat that I am very pleased to see the Prime Minister. He is a strong leader and a determined champion of Republika Srpska. We have had many discussions over the last years, and I look forward to many more.

PRIME MINISTER DODIK: Thank you, Madame Albright. As many times up to now, this was a very important meeting for me, very impressive. We had a chance to confirm things that we already knew. We have gotten the support of the American government regarding Dayton, especially support to Repulika Srpska and our efforts. This is a reward for everything we've been doing in the last two years as a government, but I have to say we wouldn't have been able to accomplish this without the assistance of the government of the U.S.

At this moment I would like to thank, first of all, the Secretary of State for her understanding over the past two years, and the efforts that she put into helping us in Republika Srpska. This was accomplished with financial help, and that was significant, as well as the talks regarding the necessary political steps in Republika Srpska. This is, of course, a chance to reiterate that we want to continue along the same road. We will take the responsibility for many jobs that we have to take on in the upcoming period. Of course, the most important is the issue of Dayton and, in that regard, the return of refugees. I have to say that the Republika Sprska has removed all political obstacles, and this is chance for me to invite all the people who want to return to do so. We have a procedure which is fairly liberal and which is suited to these people, so we can cooperate to have them return. We have to create a good security situation. I believe Republika Sprska, in this regard, is a very secure region. We have no excesses that, in a significant way, make the situation worse.

The other big issue that we're confronted with is that of privatization. We are encountering successes and failures. This will enable our further integration into the world that sometimes manifests itself through greater corruption. Talking about this, we know this is not something that is specific only to this area but to the region. In the name of the government of the Republika Sprpska, I would like to reiterate that we will continue our cooperation within the guidelines of international financial institutions and other governments around the world. The U.S. government will assist us in this. I would like to tell you that no privatization project will be implemented unless we incorporate international assistance which will make sure that we complete privatization as best as we can, through transparency and through, hopefully, a lack of corruption. Our privatization dynamism is somehow faced with problems, but we are somehow determined to persevere and bring this job to an end. I would also like to say that as a government we are ready to show transparency as regards to military financing of Republika Srpska. With the help of the American government, I would like to work on the criteria that would enable such a transparency.

We are waiting for elections, and in Republika Srpska we an I hope that they will show our support for a democratic orientation within RS, which will primarily be see through implementation of Dayton. We have are encountering problems by people talk about revision of Dayton, about cantonization of Bosnia-Herzegovina, but we have to think of this as only their thinking. But not everything will be easy. And as a government we will be working on it. This visit of the Secretary of State to Banja Luka is a great support to the efforts we've been making of late, and this is a great stimulus, and I promise to continue with the reforms that we've started. I think results will not be lacking. We're talking to the new government in Croatia, and we think that the relationship will greatly be changed. This morning I talked to Mr. Picula. We have decided to work together on the return of refugees, on equalizing the regulations regarding their return. We have to. Through the Stability Pact, we integrated with Europe. We have to present sane infrastructural and other projects, and this will be a big novelty. Up to this point, we've had conflicted views; now it's time to work together. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: I have two questions. The first is on refugees. How realistic are the chances that the hundreds of thousands of people still displaced from Bosnia can return peacefully and how long do you think this will take? My other question is to Prime Minister Dodik. In the United States there is much talk about the need to isolate Milosevic. Obviously while his country is still subject to sanctions, this has an impact on your reforms. Do you think that the United States is taking the correct approach?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me quickly answer. First of all the Prime Minister and I spent quite a lot of time discussing the issue of refugees returning and it was also a subject that I talked about in Sarajevo and I have talked about it when I was in Zagreb. We believe that it is very important for the numbers to increase and to have it possible for people to return in a way that makes them feel safe and secure. One of the specific issues that I spoke to the Prime Minister about was the importance of having the refugees not only go back to rural areas but to be reintegrated into the urban areas. I think there is no particular timetable. I think the important part is that there be a steady process with results. It's the results that count, and that it be done in a way with the support of the government and Prime Minister Dodik has indicated not only his support but his desire to have it happen.

DODIK : My thoughts about Milosevic and his regime are very well known. Ten good years lost for the Serbian people are a result of his government. It is a fact that Yugoslavia being in this situation shows that Milosevic has to disappear from the political scene. I have to assure you that his political influence in Republika Srpska is almost insignificant. He is not able to homogenize people around ideas as he was able to before in Republika Srpska. There are certain forces in Republika Srpska, political parties, or parts of political parties, which are trying to stop reforms. We have a lot of instruments and institutional help. We will not allow any kind of transfer of activities that Milosevic desires here. One of his requests has to do with the government itself. You've seen that there has been attempt on parties in Republika Srpska that does not impact the opposition. Milosevic is certainly a wrong political figure, and the biggest tragedy of the Serbian people in recent history. Because of that, we in Republika Srpska are ready to help all democratic efforts to achieve change. Throughout RS and BiH, we need a democratic Serbia which knows and which needs to be integrated into the Stability Pact, because if Serbia is not part of it, it will not be successful. Yet, it cannot be achieved with Milosevic. We have a clear position in regards to this. We hope it will be achieved at some point.

QUESTION: Certain people from the Bosnia Federation are asking for reorganization of the Dayton Accords. Is that possible, and what is the status?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We believe that the Dayton Accords as negotiated are appropriate and the only correct path for this region and we do not support the renegotiation of Dayton.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, a little while ago at the branch of the American Embassy, you said that it is important for the region to get the Republika Srpska right and that that requires supporting the good people in the Republic and opposing the others. Can you be more specific about what can be done to do just that.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all I think that for the forces of moderation and (inaudible) and those who support Dayton, are the ones who deserve to have not only the support of the United States but of the international community. We have been trying to do that. As I mentioned I just said that we were going to give $7 million in budget assistance. We want to be helpful in terms of privatization process, economic reform going forward , and generally in terms political and economic reform adding to the strength of the moderate forces. They have been fighting the good fight, and I think as Prime Minister Dodik has explained, they have distanced themselves from Milosevic, they understand that the Milosevic influence would and does undercut their long-range views and short-range needs to have a Republika Srpska that follows through on the Dayton projects. And in order to get further assistance from the European Union and from us, that assistance is conditioned on support of Dayton across the board. So that is kind of the rallying cry -- is support of Dayton as written, which goes back to the question previously. We believe that Dayton is a well-structured accord, and those who support Dayton are the ones whom we support.

QUESTION: Mr. Petrich recently stayed in Zagreb with the new leadership and Dayton was mentioned. According to what he said, Dayton implemented will achieve cantonization. I ask you to clarify this.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I can't. We believe that Dayton as it gets carried out will in fact create a multi-ethnic society. That is the ultimate aim of Dayton. It has been set up with two entities and central structures that allow it to create, if properly followed through, and there's a lot of work to be done -- I had these discussions in Sarajevo yesterday -- to make sure that the central institutions are functioning and strong. And as far as I'm concerned, the results of Dayton are to move towards a multi-ethnic society and an era of tolerance. As Prime Minister Dodik said, ten years here have been lost in this region because of the fanning of ethnic hatred. The future lies in multi-ethnicity.

[End of Document]
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