Palmer: US and EU have a common vision of Western Balkans

NEWS 07.07.202111:56

The United States and the European Union have a common vision of a Bosnia and Herzegovina firmly integrated into Euro-Atlantic structures, unlike Russia which does not share this vision and stirs up mistrust, tension and unrest across the Western Balkans, the US State Department special envoy for the Western Balkans, Matthew Palmer, says.

Palmer was in Bosnia and Herzegovina over the weekend and at the start of this week together with Angelina Eichhorst, Director for the Western Balkans at the European External Action Service.

Speaking in an interview with the Sarajevo newspaper Oslobodjenje, published on Wednesday, Palmer said that most people in Bosnia and Herzegovina preferred policies promoted by the US and the EU, adding that the US and the EU should work with political leaders in the country to help make such policies a reality.

While being concerned about Russia’s ambitions towards Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Western Balkans, and towards Europe in general, I remain confident that our vision for this region is widely accepted and that it will have the support of political leaders, the US envoy said.

Over the last three days, Palmer and Eichhorst met with local politicians to discuss possible changes to the country’s election rules and Constitution. The purpose of these changes is to align Bosnia and Herzegovina’s election rules with five European Court of Human Rights rulings, which found citizens to be discriminated against in the election process based on their ethnic background or place of residence, and with a Constitutional Court ruling on the election of members of the upper house of parliament in the Federation, the country’s Bosniak-Croat entity.

Negotiations between politicians in Bosnia and Herzegovina to that effect have been inconclusive so far, but Palmer called for patience, because “nothing happens overnight”, and insisted that an agreement should be reached this year in order to be ready for the next elections planned for 2022.

All those involved in this process must realize that no one will get everything they want and that everyone will come out of this disappointed to some extent, the US diplomat said, noting that this is part of a compromise that needs to be reached.

The key is how to find a solution that will bring Bosnia and Herzegovina closer to EU membership, Palmer said, adding that this can be achieved and that the US and the EU will be partners and friends in this process, but that final solutions should come from Bosnia and Herzegovina as a result of an internal agreement.

Palmer said that the US welcomes the appointment of Christian Schmidt as the new High Representative of the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina and will closely work with him. He said that Washington hopes that Schmidt will indeed be the last High Representative, but that this will be possible only if the country meets the previously set targets, including an assessment that it has achieved full political stability.