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Next Generation of BiH Leaders Seek to Advance Reconciliation
November 17, 2023

U.S. Special Representative to the Western Balkans welcomes work on reconciliation by young Bosnian and Herzegovinian politicians and members of civil society.

On November 16-17, the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed a group of thirteen young politicians and members of civil society from Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and the BiH diaspora in Austria to Vienna for the second iteration of the Speak Up! Initiative.  The initiative, supported by the U.S. State Department and the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, provides the opportunity to discuss perspectives on reconciliation among a diverse group of future BiH leaders and explore the needs of the younger generations in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  U.S. Special Representative to the Western Balkans Gabriel Escobar, Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, Austrian Minister of Justice Alma Zadic, and a group of MPs from all Austrian parties engaged in dialogue with the young BiH representatives and welcomed their efforts in advancing reconciliation and mutual understanding and building a society based on shared interests and values, preconditions of great importance for BiH’s Euro-Atlantic future.

The United States stands by Bosnia and Herzegovina and will continue to work together with all allies and partners supporting BiH’s Euro-Atlantic integration, strengthening of democratic institutions, and countering all those undermining the BiH state. Together with Austria, another good friend of the Western Balkans and strong promoter of the EU integration of the region, the United States will continue to support young leaders from BiH who share these goals and will amplify their voices in the region.

The United States remains a steadfast friend supporting Bosnia and Herzegovina’s efforts to build a better future, but local ownership remains crucial. “The United States stands by Bosnia and Herzegovina and will continue to work with allies and partners, such as Austria, to support Bosnia and Herzegovina’s secure, prosperous future in the Euro-Atlantic community.  There is great value in the international community engaging with the next generation of leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” said Escobar.

“Our message to the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina is that their future lies in the EU – our doors are wide open for you. It is our utmost priority to support the pro-European forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina on its path towards the EU. We cannot succeed without the ideas and the initiative of the next generation and are more than happy to welcome them in Austria for the second time,” said Austrian Foreign Minister Schallenberg. Together with a group of like-minded EU Member States, the Friends of the Western Balkans, Austria is advocating for opening EU accession negotiations by the end of this year.

The Speak Up! initiative poses a unique opportunity to establish a long-term dialogue with the future political leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina and come to a better understanding of each other’s thinking and expectations for BiH’s future, Escobar noted, saying the group is eager to become a bridge between BiH and its partners and work on concrete solutions in their sphere of influence.