|"US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks next to Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic during a news conference following meetings at the Palace of Serbia in Belgrade, October 30, 2012." (Reuters/Saul Loeb/Pool)|
By Andrew Quinn
Reuters.com, October 30, 2012
"Europe and the United States teamed up on Tuesday to press Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo to overcome the legacy of Yugoslavia's bloody collapse as a condition of closer integration with the West. 'If you do not make progress you will be left behind,' US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned at the start of a trip to the region with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. 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. In Bosnia, where 100,000 people died in a 1992-95 war, Clinton 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. 'This is good for Serbia and it is good for Kosovo,' said Ashton, who is leading a push for agreement in EU-mediated talks. 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.
Clinton, whose husband Bill Clinton wrestled with the wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo as US president, said this would not happen. 'Kosovo is an independent nation,' she said after meeting President Tomislav Nikolic and Prime Minister Ivica Dacic. 'The borderlines of Europe will not change. But there is still a great deal that can be accomplished by Serbia and Kosovo working together. I understand that this is difficult. But it goes hand in hand with meeting the needs of the Serbian people.' 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. [...]"