The U.S. ambassador to Greece worries that countries along the western region of the Balkan Peninsula are still a boiling caldron of unrest 10 years after wars ravaged the area and changed the political landscape.
“While enormous progress has been made, the Western Balkans remains one of the last regions in Europe where there is potential for people to turn to violence to solve their differences,” Ambassador Daniel V. Speckhard told a recent foreign policy forum in Athens.
“Bringing the Balkan countries onto the mainstream Euro-Atlantic path is probably the single most important tool for ensuring peace and stability in this region.”
Mr. Speckhard said the Obama administration is committed to integrating the region into NATO and the European Union. The EU considers Croatia a “candidate country,” while Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia are labeled “potential” candidates. Candidate countries are generally more qualified to begin the membership process.
During the 1990s, separatist wars raged throughout the former Yugoslavia, which broke up into Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia, which is the only former Yugoslav republic admitted to both the EU and NATO. Croatia is also a member of NATO.
“All of the countries have undergone dramatic political, economic and social transitions,” he said. “All of the countries in the region have become valuable partners of the United States and Europe, including contributing or planning to contribute to international security operations.”
However, he warned that ethnic and political unrest threaten many of those nations. The delicate ethnic balance in Bosnia is teetering, as Serbs resist pressures for greater central authority. In Serbia, the government refuses to recognize Kosovo, the scene of intense fighting between Serbs and Kosovars in the late 1990s.
“Crime and corruption remain one of the most serious problems hindering political and economic development in the region, despite extensive internal reforms and international support,” Mr. Speckhard said.
He added that another serious threat is from human trafficking, “a modern tragedy with age-old roots.”
He noted that the United States allocated $116 million to help the Western Balkans develop free and fair elections, combat corruption and train police.
“After more than a decade of assistance, the forces of democracy, openness and modernity still struggle in some places against backward-looking ethnic nationalism and intolerance,” the ambassador added.
A Democratic state senator from Georgia is the latest high-powered lawyer President Obama nominated to an ambassadorship.
David Adelman was picked to be ambassador to Singapore, the White House announced last week. Mr. Adelman, a partner in the law firm of Sutherland Asbill, helped raise between $100,000 and $200,000 for Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign and another $110,000 for the inauguration, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
The center also identified six other top lawyer-diplomats from across the nation who raised between $100,000 to more than $500,000 for Mr. Obama.
Jeffrey Bleich of Munger Tolles, a California firm, is ambassador to Australia. Barry White of Foley Hoag in Washington is ambassador to Norway. Laurie Fulton, ambassador to Denmark, and Howard Gutman, ambassador to Belgium, are both with the Washington firm of Williams & Connolly. David Jacobson of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, an international firm, is ambassador to Canada, and John Roos of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, is ambassador to Japan.
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