Ambassador Strömquist, distinguished hosts from Transparency International BiH, guests from other Balkan countries, representatives of civil society. I am honored to be part of this conference.
We continue to mark International Anti-Corruption Day, which was on December 9, as it merits special attention in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Corruption has perhaps never been more visible as it was this past year, as citizens faced and feared the COVID-19 pandemic.
The title of the conference serves as a prompt for all of us to think about the successful anti-corruption efforts of the past year, identify areas for improvement, and stress the importance of this issue on the lives of the average citizen.
I will not quote the multitude of reports that unfortunately identify corruption as deeply rooted in all segments of society in BiH and as an obstacle to Euro-Atlantic integration. It would take too long.
What I want to add, though, is that corruption is a major stumbling block on BiH’s journey to self-reliance. Addressing this corruption is a pre-condition for the country to take charge of its own development, without depending on international support.
As a longtime friend of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the U.S. government will continue to help citizens of BiH to win the battle against corruption.
When we all work together, we can make a difference in the lives of others and advance changes that improve BiH society – for all people. We are proud that Transparency International in BiH has been our strategic partner in Bosnia and Herzegovina for last two decades. We have worked together on many difficult issues to improve government processes and make them more transparent for the sake of BiH citizens.
I am sure we will continue our collaboration and hard work because there are many draft laws still pending and many proposals for improvement that lack political support.
Progress in BiH in the last 20 years was never stalled by the lack of funding or local expertise. It was stymied by non-accountable politicians, who have found a way to capture the justice sector and the economy. This has led to an erosion of democracy in BiH and has resulted in the spread of cynicism and mistrust among the people.
And yet, I’m an optimist. I still believe that corruption has not won and will not win. I believe that because I see here today local leaders who are far from quitting. The U.S. government will stand by you too. Thank you.