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Bill Clinton Speech In Dayton Emphasizes The Future In Bosnia-Herzegovina

Former President Bill Clinton. He helped broker the peace agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1995.
Flickr/Creative Commons

Former President Bill Clinton was in Dayton Thursday for a speech on the 20th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Accords, the agreement that ended a bloody war in what is now Bosnia-Herzegovina. Setting up the successful negotiation was one of Clinton’s accomplishments early in his presidency, though even he acknowledged what came out of those 21 days in Dayton is not perfect.

“I remember how miserable Bosnian president Izetbegovic was when he had to initial the deal on the 21st day of the agreement. Remember?” he asked the crowd, which included Bosnian dignitaries and journalists, and current and former U.S. ambassadors to the region.

The Bosnian president felt it wasn’t a just agreement, but apparently he said that day that it was more just than continuing what had become a terrifying war over territory in the former Yugoslavia.

The current U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Maureen Cormack, says a lack of ethnic and political unity is still present in the country.

“Even agreeing on something like a national holiday for this day, that ended the war that brought peace to all citizens, has been challenging,” she said after Clinton’s speech.

Dayton was chosen as a quiet, or some said, “bleak” place to broker peace.

Clinton’s focus was less on the role of Dayton, or even the agreement itself—he emphasized that creating peace around the world goes beyond stopping war and ceasing bad things.

“If you want to win over the long run, in a world where you cannot possibly control everybody, and where borders look more like nets than walls, you have to make more good things happen,” he said—good things like bringing economic opportunity and changing young people’s perceptions of their nations.

Since the 1995 agreement, and especially since the 2008 Recession, Bosnia-Herzegovina has struggled economically.

This anniversary conference in Dayton continues through Saturday.