Assistant Secretary Philip H. Gordon for Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs today stressed that the United States is committed to help the western Balkans on their path to Euro-Atlantic integration.
In his statement before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia, Mr. Gordon said the western Balkans is a critical part of Europe historically, geographically and culturally.
“It is impossible to speak of a Europe that is whole, free, democratic, and at peace without having resolved unfinished business in this region.” -Mr. Gordon
He noted that the U.S. clear policy goal is the integration of these countries into Euro-Atlantic institutions. He said 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.
“While there are many challenges in the region, it is worth pausing briefly to review the progress made in the last few years with sustained American engagement and assistance.”-Mr. Gordon
He noted that NATO’s military presence has decreased as a result of greater regional stability. He added meaningful reforms have been made in rule of law, market economics, and democratic governance.
“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.”-Mr. Gordon
He cited that Kosovo is nearing the fourth anniversary of its independence and continues to progress as a multi-ethnic democracy. He reported that 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.