New legislation drafted by US lawmakers in the Senate aims to bolster economic development in the Western Balkans through a range of infrastructure, trade and anti-corruption initiatives. These include the codification of sanctions for destablizing activities.
If passed, the Western Balkans Democracy and Prosperity Act will seek to strengthen security in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and encourage Albanian and North Macedonian accession to the EU, in a region vulnerable to Russian military and political penetration.
Amid Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine and Putin’s clear ambitions to spread malign influence across Eastern Europe, the United States’ relationship with the Western Balkans is pivotal,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen, chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation.
A number of US lawmakers, including Senators Durbin, Tillis, Van Hollen, Cardin, and Murphy, are the original sponsors of the bipartisan bill. The legislation has also been supported by senators Thom Tillis, Dick Durbin, Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen.
The legislation also says the US should support maintaining the European Union Force (EUFOR) mandate in Bosnia and Herzegovina, underscoring the mandate as in the national security interests of the US.
“Maintaining peace in the Balkans is critical to European security, especially as Putin grows more desperate in Ukraine and may turn to other countries for a victory,” Murphy explained.
The bill will also oblige the US to encourage NATO and the EU to “review their mission mandates and posture in Bosnia and Herzegovina to ensure they are playing a proactive role in establishing a safe and secure environment, particularly the defence environment.”
If Russia were to block the reauthorisation of the mission in the United Nations, the new bill put forward by US lawmakers calls for using the influence of the US within NATO to foster alliance planning, and support an international military force that would maintain a safe environment in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“The six countries of the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia) form a pluralistic, multi-ethnic region in the heart of Europe that is critical to Europe’s peace, stability, and prosperity,” the bill reads.
The EU’s Operation Althea has long had the mission to ensure continued compliance with the 1995 Dayton peace agreement, facilitate a safe and secure environment, and foster Bosnia’s efforts towrad European integration.
The mandate of Operation Althea will expire in November, when the UN Security Council will discuss the need to extend the EU and NATO mandates in Bosnia for another 12 months.
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