Clinton To Push For Economic Changes In Bosnia

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Sarajevo, the capital of ethnically-divided Bosnia-Herzegovina. The country just held elections. Clinton plans to urge the country's new leadership to make EU membership a priority.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is checking up on a region where her husband's administration was deeply involved, the Balkans. Clinton wants countries there to think about a future in the European Union within NATO, and not bogged down with ethnic disputes, disputes of the past. NPR's Michele Kelemen is traveling with Secretary Clinton and joins us from the first stop -Sarajevo. What's she doing there?

MICHELE KELEMEN: Well, she's basically telling the leaders of Bosnia-Herzegovina to get their act together, to pass the needed reforms to get into the EU or to NATO. She met with the three presidents, who represent the Muslim, Serb, and Croat communities here, and she also addressed a town hall - young people mainly from the universities. And she said that there's been progress, but it's far from complete. She said hatreds have eased, but there's still a lot of nationalism that persists.

You know, Bosnia has this very cumbersome political system - it's the legacy of the Dayton Peace Process - and they have this constitution that badly needs reform. So what she said in the town hall is that, you know, hatreds have eased in this country, but nationalism persists. And she's really hoping to get a second wind to get those reforms.

INSKEEP: You know, from this distant that case that Secretary Clinton is making seems obvious, overlook ethnic hatreds of the past and try to move forward and get more integrated with Europe, but are there questions about that course of action as she travels to Sarajevo?

KELEMEN: Well, she got a lot of questions in the town hall, and particularly about the new leader of Republika Srpska, which is one of the entities here. So this Serb leader, who's been talking about separation and talking about succession. She called succession a losing proposition. There were also a lot of questions about, you know, education, how do you integrate education when these communities are so divided now, after the war.

INSKEEP: You said a town hall meeting, she was meeting with local people as well as with political leaders?

KELEMEN: She always likes to do that, and this was a group of university students and also high school students, as well. So, there was a lot of talk about that, a lot of talk about women's issues, there were civic leaders. This is what she likes to do when she comes. And she is, in fact, between the town hall - on her way to the town hall, she walked. So she got a sense of talking to people on the street, but mainly about how much they really respect her here, and what her husband did here.

INSKEEP: And I suppose that's a sort of sign of change in and of itself. That's not something that she could have done during the 1990s, or at least some of the 1990s.

KELEMEN: Well, when she went here 15 years ago and when to Tuzla, there was all that controversy over whether or not she landed under fire, that issue hasn't come up yet. But on that trip, she couldn't come to Sarajevo. She has been here one time since, she said, and this is her third time in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

INSKEEP: NPR's Michelle Kelemen is traveling with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Balkans. Michele, thanks very much.

KELEMEN: Thank you.

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