The Special Envoy of the President of the United States (U.S.) for the Western Balkans, Gabriel Escobar, addressed the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Congress House of Representatives on the engagement of the U.S. administration in that part of the Balkans.
You can find parts of his address below:
”Chairman Keating, ranked member Fitzpatrick, distinguished members of the subcommittee, thank you for inviting me to discuss U.S. engagement in the Western Balkans. For more than three decades, the region has been the focus of constant U.S. attention and investment and the Biden administration shares this commitment to a region that is a historical, political, cultural, and geographical part of Europe.
Our goal for all six countries in the region is to support successful integration into European institutions and eventual accession to the European Union (EU). We have worked with our EU partners to strengthen the message that accession remains a real possibility in a real time frame, an incentive that is critical to the continued political will of those advocating for reform implementation and strengthening resistance to harmful Russian and Chinese influence and activities that are at the threshold of Europe.
Normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo
The strongest message the EU could send now is to schedule the start of negotiations between North Macedonia and Albania on EU accession before the end of this calendar year.
Peace, stability, and prosperity through EU integration is our common goal and we are working together towards that goal, including supporting the EU in dialogue as the best way to normalize relations between Serbia and Kosovo.
Partnership with Montenegro
The vibrant political process brought significant change to Montenegro in August 2020. We have made it clear that our partnership with Montenegro is a partnership with the state, its people, the democratic institutions, not any political party.
BiH’s path from Dayton to Brussels
The clear path of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) from Dayton to Brussels leads to ongoing reform, including gradual electoral and economic reforms, and also rule of law reforms that will benefit all its citizens. We and the EU are putting pressure on these changes; the Office of the High Representative (OHR) and EUFOR Operation ALTHEA are essential in these efforts.
Obstructions of Moscow and Beijing
Moscow and Beijing are actively opposing the region’s Western integration, using misinformation and exploiting vulnerabilities to divert Western Balkan countries from their democratically chosen paths with which they have gained an economic and political foothold in Europe. Russia uses its energy supply as a weapon to force politicians, encourage corruption, and slow down growth potential.
Common Regional Market, Open Balkan, and Green Agenda
The Western Balkans represents a territory that is economically dynamic and full of promise, with the eyes firmly on joining the single European market. While working together, these countries can address political challenges and accelerate change to raise living standards, stop the brain drain, and provide a foundation for long-term prosperity.
Finally, let me point out that the Biden administration has doubled the U.S. commitment to working with allies and partners to help the Western Balkans advance on the European paths. I look forward to cooperating with the Congress and I welcome your questions, ” Escobar concluded.