HELSINKI COMMISSION URGES GREATER REENGAGEMENT IN BALKANS
WASHINGTON--The U.S. should strongly reengage in the Balkans and European leaders should outline a clear path for integrating countries of the region in the European Union and NATO, bipartisan leaders of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) said today at a hearing on current challenges in the Balkans.
Commissioners gave credit to the Obama Administration for showing a commitment to stability in the region with a Vice Presidential visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina earlier this year, but agreed more aggressive follow up is needed. (Full statements available here. For photos, here.)
“Unfortunately, since Vice President Biden’s visit, Bosnia has lost ground,” said Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Helsinki Commission. “The country cries out for leadership and we don’t see that at present. The Commission takes this backward slide very seriously. Bosnia’s central institutions need to function effectively and no step should be taken that rewards nationalists who obstruct them. We should continue to work with Europe on Bosnia. The question is whether Europe shares our sense of urgency.”
“I don’t see the intense effort I would like to in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo,” said Co-Chairman Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL). I see the region as a tinderbox waiting to explode. The U.S. can lead, but our friends and allies in Europe must also show a clear plan for how the European Union will successfully integrate Bosnia-Herzegovina and other countries of the Balkans.
“I believe it is time for our government to exercise real leadership by re-engaging in Bosnia and promoting the only possible solution: a constitution providing for a one-person, one-vote democracy,” said Ranking Republican Commissioner Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ).
“On top of our diplomatic efforts, it is critical that we continue to support infrastructure projects, like the highway from the Albanian coast into Kosovo,” said Commissioner Congressman Robert A. Aderholt (R-AL). “Such projects benefit all the countries in the region and give them a shared stake in regional peace and stability.”
Commissioners heard from Stuart Jones, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs and Bjorn Lyrvall, the Director General for Political Affairs in the Foreign Ministry of Sweden, which holds E.U. Presidency. The hearing followed a series of events that have showcased the Commission’s longstanding advocacy for active engagement and decisive policy responses in the Balkans. The Commission has held hearings and briefings on Balkan topics as well as delegation visits to the region earlier this year.