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Tuesday 26.09.2017 | Name days: Kurts, Knuts, Gundars

U.S. and EU push for progress in troubled Balkans

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Europe and the United States have teamed up on Wednesday, October 31, to press Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo to overcome the legacy of Yugoslavia’s bloody collapse as a condition of closer integration with the West.

NATO member Croatia will follow Slovenia in joining the 27-nation EU next year, but accession is a very distant prospect for the other five countries carved from federal Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Reuters reported.

In Bosnia, where 100,000 people died in a 1992-95 war, US State Secretary Hillary Clinton together with EU Foreign chief Catherine Ashton urged rival Serb, Muslim and Croat leaders to overcome ethnic infighting that has stalled reforms sought by the EU and NATO, “for the sake of the young people of this country”.

In Serbia, Clinton and Ashton called on the government to mend relations with Kosovo, the former Serbian province where ethnic Albanians declared independence in 2008 with the backing of the United States and major European powers. Serbia rejects the secession, and some Serb leaders still hold out hope of retaining a small northern region of Kosovo populated by Serbs and controlled from Belgrade.

Bosnia’s Muslims want the central state strengthened, but are opposed by leaders of the autonomous Serb Republic who frequently threaten to secede.

Clinton said such threats were “totally unacceptable” and a distraction from the real problems facing the country.

The West invested heavily to cement peace and stability in the former Yugoslavia, using the pull of NATO and EU membership to reconcile foes and encourage reform.

But progress has been patchy. The debt crisis in the euro zone has contributed to a growing sense of resistance among some EU members to further enlargement, and hurt the bloc’s influence in the Balkans.

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