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Progress in the Balkans

There has been a lot of positive news coming out the Balkans recently. Some of the highlights include:

(1) Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina will soon be approved for visa-free travel to Europe. According to a recent EU report, the two countries have made significant progress and could be cleared for unrestricted travel in the Schengen area as soon as October.


(2) Two weeks ago, Croatian president Ivo Josipovic apologized for his country's role in the Bosnian wars. The apology followed Serbia's apology for the Srebenica massacre one month ago. Serbian President Boris Tadic has taken a decidedly more conciliatory tone, promising to work towards reconciliation between the nations in the region.


(3) In a historic summit, presidents from Turkey, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Serbia met in Istanbul this weekend and agreed to intensify efforts to resolve border disputes and encourage greater regional cooperation. The meeting was an unprecedented show of cooperation between BiH and Serbia, and the presidents emphasized their desire to continue the cooperation in the future.


(4) NATO continues its tentative expansion into the Balkans with Bosnia being offered a Membership Action Plan (MAP) during the recent summit of NATO ministers. Significantly, Serbia has stated it supports Bosnia's NATO aspirations. NATO also discussed "militarily disengaging" from the country, removing the remaining peacekeepers.


All is not perfect in the Balkans of course. Serbian fugitive Mladic remains at large, unrest continues in Kosovo, and significant minorities in Croatia and Serbia continue to vociferously deny any wrongdoing in the Balkan wars. But all things considered, there are many reasons to be optimistic. Personally, I believe the lure of membership in the European Union and NATO are valuable catalysts in motivating the needed reforms. The progress in the Balkans is incremental and slow but it is substantive. That should offer some assurance to NATO officials struggling with Afghanistan and to EU supporters wondering about the long-term relevancy of the Union.

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Joerg Wolf on :

Andrew, Thank you for pointing out progress in the Balkans. The press and blogs focus too much on negative news. Quite a few positive devlopments in the last two weeks since the Senate hearing http://www.state.gov/p/eur/rls/rm/2010/140254.htm and the publication of a gloomy Christian Science Monitor piece by Kurt Volker, a former US ambassador to Nato http://gulfnews.com/opinions/columnists/eu-nato-should-finish-job-in-balkans-1.617205

Pat Patterson on :

Michael Totten, here in the WSJ from 2008, has argued for years that the ethnic strife in the Balkans is atypical. That there is indeed still eruptions of various kinds but generally now that the Serbs have been neutered the various communities are returning to the status quo ante. There still are fears of a new blood letting if KFOR is withdrawn so that presence will likely continue for years due to necessity and inertia. But as Andrew points out the situation is improving and the claimed Islamization of Bosnia and Kosovo has simply not occurred. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123059201269240805.html

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