Biden’s envoy: Ukraine crisis will not spill over to Western Balkans

NEWS 04.04.2022 14:36
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Source: AFP

The war in Ukraine cannot spill over to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the United States administration's special envoy for the Western Balkans, Gabriel Escobar, said on Monday.

Speaking at the US-Croatia Forum in Zagreb, he said he did not think the Ukraine crisis could spill over to Croatia’s neighbourhood because it had returned Europe’s focus to dealing with crises around it.

The war in Ukraine has also led to EU membership candidates pro-actively showing solidarity with Western values, Escobar said, adding that Serbia condemned the Russian invasion at the UN General Assembly early in March, calling this a seismic change.

Nonetheless, he said, Serbia is not the toughest topic he discusses with other countries in the neighbourhood, but Bosnia.

US-Serbia relations go back 140 years and all this time Belgrade has been a close partner to Washington, for example in the two world wars, he added.

The question today is how to draw Serbia to Western democracies, where it has always been and where it belongs, Escobar said, adding that the integration process slowed down during the Slobodan Milosevic regime which, he said, was marked by bad governance.

Escobar is confident that the next generation of Serbs will lean more towards Europe, saying they prove this by emigrating to Europe and the US, not to China and Russia.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

As for Bosnia and Herzegovina, which, he noted, does not have an ethnic but a corruption problem, he said it was the biggest challenge in the Western Balkans and that it was a country where the West’s promises had been fulfilled the least.

Escobar said he hoped that Bosnia would hold general elections this year.

Escobar noted it is key to establish functional authorities that will fight against corruption, attract investment, and create conditions for young people. However, he said, Bosnia is a sovereign state and the political will must come from within.

We must encourage them, but it is their responsibility to find solutions, he said about Bosnia’s political leaders.

Croatia as a good ally

Escobar went on to say that Croatia is always present in the relations with the US, whether in terms of energy diversification or helping Ukrainian refugees, which, he added, he could not say about all US allies.

Croatia is an outstanding example of a smart energy policy and other countries should follow it, he said, referring to the LNG terminal which Croatia built before the current energy supply crisis.

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