|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at Brcko Bridge
Bosnia-Herzegovina, June 1, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman, June 3, 1997
U.S. Department of State
Good afternoon. I wanted to come here and speak with you in this city, in this place, because it stands for both the past we are trying to avoid in Bosnia and the future we are trying to build.
Brcko was the scene of some of the worst violence and brutality of the war. I just drove by a building -- up there -- where innocent people were beaten, tortured and raped in the repugnant cause of ethnic purity. These crimes happened in our times, on our generation's watch. And now the best hope the victims have for justice lies in our capacity to remember and to see justice done.
Make no mistake: a price will be paid for the atrocities that were committed here. Until it is paid by those who have perpetrated the crimes, it will be paid by those who protect them.
Of course, for as long as can be remembered, Brcko has meant something else to the people of Bosnia. It has been an open gate to the markets of Europe, a river port where currents of culture, commerce and communication converge. But when the war began, Bosnian Serb forces blew up the railroad bridge just down the river. This road bridge was closed on the Croatian side. Bosnia's lifeline was cut off, its people were isolated and trapped.
We are here to change that. We are here to open this bridge.
We are here with Ambassador Bill Farrand, the American Supervisor of Brcko, and we are seeing today what can be accomplished with the Supervisor in place. We are joined by the co-chairs of the Bosnian Council of Ministers, Plavcic, Silajdzic and Bosic, as well as Vice Chairman Tomic. Croatian Prime Minister Matesa has also joined us from Zagreb. Down river we are also repairing the railroad bridge with funds from USAID and the assistance of SFOR engineers.
As you can see, American soldiers in SFOR are providing the security. I cannot tell you how proud I am of the Americans who are serving here on behalf of SFOR. I have just been meeting with them and they are dedicated and energetic and the best of America.
What is going on here means that the families on both sides of the frontier will be able to lead normal lives. It means that Bosnian goods will more easily find markets in Europe and the world. It will allow trains to travel from Tuzla and Brcko to the port of Ploce in Croatia, to Zagreb and even to Paris through direct lines.
But there is something more fundamental. For the Bosnian people, this road is both literally and symbolically a road to Europe. And this bridge, to paraphrase President Clinton's favorite metaphor, is a bridge out of the twentieth century. In this region, it leads away from the horrors and hatreds that have made so much of this century so tragic to the people of this country. If you travel in that direction, you will eventually reach a Europe where borders unite, rather than divide; a Europe where reason has triumphed over revenge; a Europe where new democracies have traded pettiness for prosperity.
To those who will obstruct the Dayton Agreement, let me say that Europe will come together with you or without you. You can reap the benefits that come with cooperation or you can take a pass and take your places as the leaders of the "no future party" in Bosnia.
As for the United States, the only aid we will support for Bosnia is aid that helps people who are helping Dayton succeed. Despite the events of the last few years, there are many such people in Brcko. We are joined here by the three mayors who represent Brcko's three communities and who will, with our help, show that old divisions can be overcome. We are determined to help. USAID is fixing electrical lines and water systems. We are providing loans to start businesses. We are helping to keep private radio stations on the air. Other donors are helping to rebuild damaged housing and to construct new units so displaced people can come home.
Resolving the status of Brcko is a tough problem. But we will see it through to hold municipal elections here this fall and to help form a multi-ethnic local government and police force. Ambassador Farrand's evaluation of how the entities are implementing Dayton here will be crucial to the Brcko Arbitrator's final decision.
There are many things the international community can do here, but many we cannot. We can transform Bosnia's physical infrastructure, but not its mental landscape. We can shape a secure environment, but we can't shape every heart and mind. We have opened this bridge to Europe. Only the Bosnian people can walk across it. Today we can prove the cynics and tyrants wrong. Together we can restore Bosnia to its proper place in our community of free nations. To that end I pledge my best efforts and I ask for yours.
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