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US Committed to Integrate All of Balkan Region Into Europe

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Maintaining a deep and historic interest in the Western Balkans, the United States of America today reaffirmed its commitment to integrating all of the Balkan region into Europe.

In his remarks today in Washington DC, Assistant Secretary forBureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Atlantic Council says stresses that the prospect of EU membership has provided a strong incentive for countries to reform their economies, to advance their democracies, and to make peace with their neighbors.

View from Santorini in Greece. Tourism is an important part of the Greek economy. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
"We in the United States have strongly supported that process in Central and Eastern Europe, where it's been an enormous success, and we strongly support it in the Balkans." -Mr. Gordon

He underlines that Europe will never be complete until all of the Western Balkans are fully integrated.

Mr. Gordon highlighted how the United States sees the current situation in the region and addresses the countries in the order in which the Secretary Clinton has visited them.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr. Gordon states that Bosnia appeared to be getting back on track with the formation of a government and the adoption of laws needed to advance its Euro-Atlantic integration.

"Ongoing efforts to reshuffle the state and federation governments are an unwelcome distraction from the economic and political priorities, including EU-NATO membership, that the main parties profess to support." -Mr. Gordon

He stresses that in order for Bosnia and Herzegovina to keep pace with positive developments elsewhere in the region it must also be able to function as a state that can deliver results for all its citizens.

The Old Harbour at Dubrovnik, Croatia. Between 1358 and 1808 the Republic of Dubrovnik ruled itself as a free state. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
About Kosovo and Serbia, the US stronglu support both's Euro-Atlantic aspirations.

Mr. Gordon notes that the United States has backed an EU-facilitated dialogue that seeks to normalize relations between these neighbors in order to provide stability in the region as well as the lives of people in both countries.

"We agree with our European allies that a country can't join the European Union when it lacks normalized relations with its neighbors." -Mr. Gordon

The dialogue, this EU-facilitated dialogue, achieved some practical results including agreements on freedom of movement, common recognition of diplomas, of land records, Integrated Border Management, and Kosovo's participation in regional forums, Mr. Gordon cited.

"Let me be clear. The United States strongly supports Kosovo's sovereignty and territorial integrity, as do more than 90 other countries around the world, including the vast majority of European Union members." -Mr. Gordon

He says neither the US nor the EU expect Serbia to recognize Kosovo at this point, but Serbia will have to normalize its relations with a democratic sovereign independent multi-ethnic Kosovo within its current borders - partition is not an option.

On Serbia specifically, the United States continues to work with Belgrade to strengthen economic and business opportunities, enhance our military cooperation, and counter organized crime, Mr. Gordon stated.

He says Serbia has the ability to become a leading force for stability in the region.

It is in US mutual interest to see Serbia prosper and achieve its European aspirations, Mr. Gordon added.

On Croatia and Albania, Mr. Gordon says Croatia has proven to be a true leader in the region as its rapid reform progress led to NATO membership in 2009 and will lead to EU membership this coming July.

He adds that Croatia's successful integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions should demonstrate to other candidate countries that the EU's door really is open to countries that fulfill their responsibilities and meet the criteria.

"Momentum resulting from Croatia's transition should be cultivated as a model throughout the region." -Mr. Gordon

About Albania, Mr. Gordon says for many years Albania was Europe's most isolated country under an oppressive dictatorship.

However, over the last two decades it has worked to strengthen its democracy and reform its economy.

Albania joined NATO in 2009 and has become a valued member of the Alliance, Mr. Gordon said.

On Montenegro, Mr. Gordon says the country has made solid progress towards NATO membership and opened EU accession negotiations earlier this year.

On Macedonia, the United States remains invested in the country's success, Mr. Gordon undelined.

"We continue to support the growth of civil society and strong democratic institutions as well as efforts to institutionalize principles of diversity and inclusion throughout government and society." -Mr. Gordon

Mr. Gordon stresses that the United States, working in close partnership with the European Union, remains committed to completing the unfinished business of Europe.

In addition, the US considers western Balkans as a critical part of Europe historically, geographically and culturally.

The U.S. clear policy goal is the integration of these countries into Euro-Atlantic institutions.

Many officials in the Obama Administration have a deep connection with the Balkans, as its understanding of international diplomacy was shaped by the tragic conflicts of the 1990s.

NATO's military presence has decreased as a result of greater regional stability.

Slovenia joined the EU in 2004; Albania and Croatia joined NATO in 2009; and Croatia was recently invited to join the EU in 2013. The North Atlantic Council has said that Macedonia will receive an invitation to join NATO as soon as its name dispute is resolved.

Kosovo is nearing the fourth anniversary of its independence and continues to progress as a multi-ethnic democracy.

In addition, Montenegro, only five years after it obtained independence, already has EU candidacy status and is a full participant in NATO's Membership Action Plan.

Serbia has a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU and has taken some notable steps towards achieving candidacy status, including the arrests of Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic.

Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain english. Read more stories by Mina Fabulous. Contact Mina through NewsBlaze.

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