Ukraine crisis won't spill over to W. Balkans, Biden's envoy says

NEWS 04.04.2022 14:14
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Gabriel Escobar
Source: Gabriel Escobar (Ambasada SAD-a u Srbiji)

The war in Ukraine cannot spill over to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia is an example of a smart energy policy, the United States administration's special envoy for the Western Balkans, Gabriel Escobar, said on Monday.

Speaking at the US-Croatia Forum in Zagreb, he said he did not think the Ukraine crisis could spill over to Croatia's neighbourhood because it had returned Europe's focus to dealing with crises around it.

The war in Ukraine has also led to EU membership candidates pro-actively showing solidarity with Western values, Escobar said, adding that Serbia condemned the Russian invasion at the UN General Assembly early in March, calling this a seismic change.

Nonetheless, he said, Serbia is not the toughest topic he discusses with other countries in the neighbourhood, but BiH.

US-Serbia relations go back 140 years and all this time Belgrade has been a close partner to Washington, for example in the two world wars, he added.

The question today is how to draw Serbia to Western democracies, where it has always been and where it belongs, Escobar said, adding that the integration process slowed down during the Slobodan Milošević regime which, he said, was marked by bad governance.

Escobar is confident that the next generation of Serbs will lean more towards Europe, saying they prove this by emigrating to Europe and the US, not to China and Russia.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

As for BiH, which, he has reiterated, does not have an ethnic but a corruption problem, he said it was the biggest challenge in the Western Balkans and that it was a country where the West's promises had been fulfilled the least.

Escobar said he hoped that BiH would hold general elections this year.

According to him, it is key to establish functional authorities that will fight against corruption, attract investment and create conditions for young people. However, he said, BiH is a sovereign state and the political will must come from within.

We must encourage them, but it is their responsibility to find solutions, he said about BiH political leaders.

Croatia as a good ally

Escobar went on to say that Croatia is always present in the relations with the US, whether in terms of energy diversification or helping Ukrainian refugees, which, he added, he could not say about all US allies.

Croatia is an outstanding example of a smart energy policy and other countries should follow it, he said, referring to the LNG terminal that Croatia built before the current energy supply crisis.

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