By Nikos Fragopoulos of Skopje News
Washington-based Atlantic Theatrical Council report on the Balkans, points out that the permanent presence of US troops in Southeast Europe is needed to ensure stability in the region and warns that Russia’s for influence have increased.
“After the bloody 1990s, the Western Balkans had entered a stability course, while the prospect of Euro-Atlantic integration, we believed that it would help the former Yugoslavia to promote strenuous internal reforms and work more closely, something that would help them heal wounds from recent wars”, says in the Atlantic Council report entitled “Balkans Forward: A New US Strategy for the Region”.
The report says there has been remarkable progress, mainly because Slovenia and Croatia are NATO and EU members, while Albania and Montenegro are now members of NATO. Despite though the region desperately wants to join the West and its bodies, the result should not to be taken for granted, estimates the report and highlights the important roles of the US in the region, since they contribute: to coordination with the EU, at political level, to the realization of the common vision.
The report notes that the US should take concrete steps in order to contribute to the stabilisation of region, and in this context it proposes to:
– Set up US permanent troops in Southeast Europe, which will state their long-term commitment to the security of the region and their ability to influence developments long term. The Bondsteel base in Kosovo is ideal for this purpose.
– To pursue a “historic” approach with Serbia. Belgrade can and should be close partner and ally in the region, but this can only happen if it begins to move away substantially from Russia. This is not easy for the Serbian leadership, nor however is it a matter in which the US and the EU can make a compromise, the report notes.
– Reclaim the reputation of the honest mediator. Closing the eyes to the crawling authoritarianism of the region’s leaders may have had short-term effects, but the blind pursuit of stability at the expense of the democratisation of these countries essentially prejudges the preservation of the pathologies that are plaguing the region, the report says. The accession of Montenegro to NATO gives the US the opportunity to help the new partner commit to honest democratic reforms. Another opportunity is presented for the USA with the emergence of radical pro-European reformists in fYROMacedonia, the report notes, adding that the US they will have to make every effort to prepare Athens and Skopje to become future allies, while Washington should help the EU in its efforts so that the Belgrade-Pristina talks should reach the final stage.
– Promote entrepreneurship and youth employment by providing substantial opportunities for people in the region outside political expediency, by creating projects together with Europeans, reducing barriers to trade, encouraging investments in the digital sector, giving the new generation of entrepreneurs new prospects and unblocking the human resources that seems to have lost its way.
The EU, concludes the report, is and will remain the largest player in the Western Balkans as concerns the provision of resources, tools, human capital and political oversight in the region, something for which America must be grateful, while the US will retain a special privilege to promote their interests by ensuring that the area will never again seriously export problems, let alone conflicts./IBNA