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Co-operation on European security issues

27 - Relations with the US on the Balkans

Grade: A-
Unity 4/5
Resources 4/5
Outcome 8/10
Total 16/20

The Brussels agreement between Serbia and Kosovo was a major step forward but, as the situation in Bosnia deteriorates, the US is not engaged.

Relations between the EU and the US on the Balkans were generally good going into 2013 and bore fruit with the April agreement in Brussels on Serbia and Kosovo. While the US continues to be the leading country in pushing for international recognition of Kosovo, the EU took the lead in facilitating negotiations, principally by tying normalisation of relations to Serbia’s bid for EU membership. The agreement also provides a path for Kosovo to negotiate an Association Agreement. The US plays a critical and indispensable role while NATO and the OSCE also significantly contributed to the effort. The deal was strongly supported by the US, the UN, NATO, and the OSCE.

Previously, the EU’s role was hampered by internal divisions. Five EU member states – Spain, Cyprus, Greece, Romania, and Slovakia – still do not recognise the independence of Kosovo because of close relations with Serbia and/or fears of bolstering secessionist movements in their own country. However, several have indicated a softening of their stance in light of the Brussels agreement, raising the prospect of a common EU position.

The situation on Bosnia is, unfortunately, worse. The US supports Bosnia’s integration into the EU and NATO but it has reduced its role there over the past decade and handed responsibility to the European Union, which is not necessarily a bad thing. However, the Dayton Agreement appears not to be working and ethnic tensions in Bosnia are re-emerging. In October 2012, while on a visit to the region, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and EU High Representative Catherine Ashton criticised the Bosnian government’s backsliding on reform. Little has improved since. The prospect of integration into the West has proven to be insufficient to drive reform of the Bosnian state. Secretary of State John Kerry has yet to visit the Balkans and there has been no US diplomatic initiative. It is unclear whether increased US engagement in Bosnia would help the situation, particularly since any such engagement would be limited.