Europeans got good co-operation from Americans on the Balkans, but their lack of unity precluded the more assertive leadership role to which they aspire in this area.
While transatlantic co-operation over the Balkans in general is good, and even excellent on some issues such as Macedonia, Americans and Europeans still do not see eye-to-eye on Bosnia. Moreover, the split among EU member states over Kosovo (Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain do not recognise its independence) is still a drag on a more assertive European leadership in the region. A positive step was the signing of a Framework Agreement on American participation in EU crisis-management operations in May 2011, which will facilitate US civilian involvement in EU missions, as was tried in the Balkans and other places in the past.
The main issue of disagreement over Bosnia remains the role of the EU versus that of the institutions put in place by the Dayton agreements of 1995. Led by Germany and France, most Europeans think that the Dayton institutions, especially the Office of the High Representative (OHR), have outlived their usefulness and should make way for a more active role by the EU and its Head of the Delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Special Representative Ambassador Peter Sørensen – as well as more ownership of their own institutions by locals. However, like the US, the UK believes that the OHR should be maintained to forcefully implement Dayton and that the EU Police Mission (EUPM) should be prolonged in 2012 (France and Germany want to close it by mid-2012).
The US is supportive of the ongoing EU-led dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, but it takes a more uncompromising view of Kosovo’s independence than most Europeans do and reacted less harshly to Kosovar assertion of sovereignty over Northern Kosovo, which resulted in violent incidents starting in the summer. The continuing division among EU member states is still a significant obstacle to European leadership, as it strengthens illusions in Belgrade that another solution is possible, limits the actions of the EULEX force, and blocks any movement of Kosovo towards membership, which Americans rightly see as a potential leverage.