News / Europe

Reforms Seen as Key to Balkan Integration with West

Reforms Seen as Key to Balkan Integration with Westi
X
February 04, 2014 3:30 PM
After years of Western investment and engagement, the Western Balkans have achieved considerable success. But some challenges still remain unresolved. In a recent discussion at Johns Hopkins University's School for Advanced International Studies in Washington, panelists expressed support for the region’s Euro-Atlantic integration and urged the Western Balkan countries to continue reforms, and leave interethnic tensions behind. VOA’s Keida Kostreci has more.
Keida Kostreci
After years of Western investment and engagement, the Western Balkans have achieved considerable success.  But some challenges still remain unresolved.  In a recent discussion at Johns Hopkins University's School for Advanced International Studies in Washington, panelists expressed support for the region’s Euro-Atlantic integration and urged the Western Balkan countries to continue reforms, and leave interethnic tensions behind.
 
The official U.S. view is that the Western Balkan countries have reason to celebrate -- over Croatia’s membership in the European Union, the agreements between Kosovo and Serbia, and a smooth transition of power in Albania. 

Jonathan Moore is director of South and Central European Affairs at the U.S. State Department.“The main point and focus for the United States is seeing the Euro-Atlantic integration of this entire region," he stated. "As many administrations -- Democratic and Republican -- have said, a Europe whole, free and at peace, that very much is the focus.”

But Moore also said the countries of the region should try to diminish ethnic and national tensions, combat corruption and strive for economic reforms, increased security and the rule of law.  “We are engaged, we are committed, we are interested in a future for all of these countries in the EU, and, if they choose NATO, as well. There is where the United States has stood for years and that’s where we continue to stand,” he said.

Outside engagement is crucial, said Edward Joseph, a senior fellow at the school's Center for Transatlantic Relations.  “In very few cases in the region have solutions to really tough problems come organically, through civil society or the political process.  In general, it has required outside intervention, an outside catalyst, meaning the U.S. and its European allies,” he noted.

Joseph said outside engagement has almost always come only when provoked by crisis -- citing as an example the success in the talks which paved the way for normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia -- a result of intense diplomacy by the United States and the EU.

Both Moore and Joseph agree that Macedonia and Bosnia are two exceptions in terms of achievements.  Macedonia is in limbo for NATO membership due to a name dispute with Greece, an alliance member. And Bosnia continues to be mired in ethnic friction.

Joseph said the EU magnet has not worked for Bosnia because the Dayton Peace Accords, which ended the Bosnian war, do not work. “In my opinion it is a pathology, a structural problem, and we know the genesis of that problem is in the Dayton war-ending constitution.  Richard Holbrook’s book [mission] was to end a war, it was not to build a state,” he said.

The State Department’s Moore agrees that Bosnia is very complicated because of the Dayton agreements which ended the war but left  Bosnia ethnically divided. “The real question is:  can you dissassemble the Dayton structures and our firm answer is ‘no, you cannot’,” he said.

Many of the Balkan countries are holding elections in 2014.  But it's not yet clear how much closer they will come to achieving their goals of advancing domestic democracy and moving toward integration with the EU.

You May Like

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid