Over the next few days US Secretary of the State Hillary Clinton and her EU counterpart Catherine Ashton will visit several Balkans countries to discuss their Euro-Atlantic aspirations, to support their bilateral cooperation but also to ask them to do more in effort to resolve remaining issues. This visit will come just a week after UK Foreign Affair Minister William J. Hague visited same region and met face to face with leading politicians and delivered a messages from Cameron administration. As it was said in State Department statement few days ago Clinton’s visit is directed “to demonstrate the enduring US interest, commitment and support for (the Balkans’) future in the European and Euro-Atlantic community”. This is just a second visit to the region by US top diplomat during Obama’s term in the White House, and that shows how much importance Balkans has at this moment to the President and the administration. For the better part of the last four years Balkans region was held down on the level of Special Assistant to Deputy Secretary of the State or in rare cases Deputy Secretary of the state. That’s not only a case with Balkans region but Europe as whole because as we saw in the third and final presidential debate just few days ago none of the candidates didn’t mention Europe as important part of their foreign policy.
When they visit Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, major discussion should be focused on resolution of deepening and over damaging crisis which is lingering for more than two years due to inability of political leaders to make proper agreement regarding coalition relations on all four levels of government. In that light the State Department said that both, Clinton and Ashton, “will underline the urgent need for party leaders to serve the interests of the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina and accomplish necessary reforms, and will stress the immutability of the international community’s commitment to the Dayton Peace Accords”. But I’m not sure that any of these would be properly received by Bosnian politicians who already missed many chances, and deepened crisis cliff just a days ago when they broke another agreement and act against each other. While many commentators and analysts are seeing this visit as something really big and important, I’m not of that opinion and this is why. Secretary Clinton is on the exit doors from the State Department and probably temporary retirement for the top office politics, let’s not forget that she just recently celebrated her 65th birthday and that her public office career is four decades long. So this visit should or better is farewell visit over which she would say ‘see you soon but this time as s civilian’. Clinton/Ashton visit should be seen as another message to Bosnian politicians that they need to do more and finish their job by themselves, not to expect EU/USA to intervene or take the lead in reform processes.
On the other side of Balkans Clinton would have slightly harder and more important job to do and that’s to bring Kosovo and Serbia to the table to discuss their issues and future. Not long ago Ashton was host to first meeting between recently elected Prime Minister of Serbia, former Milosevic assistant, Ivica Dacic and Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci but without concrete moves or agreements. Serbia still plays old good game that Kosovo is a part of their territory and should be reintroduced into Serbia’s constitutional system, and has a parallel structures in Serbian enclaves in the Northern Kosovo region. On Friday Serbia’s Deputy PM, Aleksandar Vucic, promised that new strategy for Kosovo will be introduced to MP as soon as it’s finalized in government bodies, but nobody in Serbia believes that they had any concrete ideas how to resolve this issue. On the other side Kosovo administration is persistent to get as soon as possible ahead and to start EU bid process in full force. The State Department this week repeated that Clinton-Ahton during their Pristina-Belgrade visit will “reiterate US-EU resolve for Serbia and Kosovo to build on previous agreements and advance their dialogue, as well as to encourage concrete steps that will allow those countries to progress on their respective paths to EU membership”.
Let’s just hope that Bosnian, Serbian and Kosovo politician would listen Clinton and Ashton messages and start working to move their respective countries ahead in EU-NATO process but also in other much needed reforms and recovery from recent economical/financial troubles.