- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 7, 2009

THREAT IN BALKANS

The foreign minister of the Slovak Republic called on the United States on Thursday to re-engage in the Western Balkans to prevent pockets of ethnic tension and instability from inflaming passions throughout the region.

“The situation is marked by widespread stagnation and, in some areas, even deterioration,” Miroslav Lajcak told diplomats and foreign-policy experts at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

Mr. Lajcak, on his first visit to Washington since becoming foreign minister in March, also met with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to urge her to focus on a region that demanded so much attention under President Clinton’s administration in the 1990s.

Mr. Lajcak warned of “hotbeds of tension and the risk of new conflicts,” especially in Bosnia, Kosovo and Serbia. He said that only diplomatic cooperation between the United States and the European Union can promote democracy and stability in the region, which also includes Albania, Croatia, Macedonia and Montenegro.

“The Western Balkans can be helped only through a close cooperation between the USA and the EU through a consistent synchronization of our [diplomatic] tools and efforts,” he said.

Mr. Lajcak, a former Slovak ambassador to Serbia and former U.N. envoy in Bosnia, added that the EU has a special responsibility to pay more attention to the region and to help the countries in the Western Balkans prepare for membership in the union of 27 nations. He called on the EU to become “much more active and a more deeply engaged.”

However, he worried that the EU has developed a “fading interest” in the region.

“There is a palpable enlargement fatigue,” he said, referring to some EU nations that are tired of expanding the union. “Certain EU members show a lack of enthusiasm for continuing the process of enlargement in the near future.”

Reviewing the tensions in the region, he cited Bosnia as the “most problematic country in the Western Balkans.” In 1995, the Clinton administration negotiated the so-called Dayton Accords that ended a civil war and created Bosnia as a federal state with a weak central government, divided between a Croat-Muslim federation and the Serb Republic. However, ethnic tension continues to pull the two political entities apart, he said.

“The continuation of the current negative trend will create a situation in [Bosnia] that could inflame new conflicts,” Mr. Lajcak warned.

“We must not forget that Balkans states are interlinked. … Any attempt at changing the state or ethnic boundaries in one nation … may send shock waves to the neighboring country.”

NEW TO NATO

The Senate this week confirmed Ivo Daalder as the new U.S. ambassador to NATO.

The Dutch-born envoy is currently a foreign-policy specialist at the Brookings Institution and served as an adviser to President Obama in last year’s election campaign.

He was director of European affairs at the National Security Council under President Clinton.

ISRAEL STILL ZIONIST

Embassy Row on Thursday accidentally misquoted Israel’s ambassador-designate to the United States.

Michael Oren, in an article in Commentary Magazine, said that Jerusalem, not Israel, is loosing its Zionist majority because Israeli Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Heredim Jews who “do not generally identify with the Zionist state” outnumber residents of the Israeli capital who support a Jewish nation.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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