Saturday, May 25, 2024

THREE MOMENTS THAT WARN A NEW AMERICAN POLICY IN THE REGION

These three moments speak of the increased attention of the USA in the Western Balkans region and the need for it to be integrated as soon as possible into NATO and the European Union (EU), structures that represent a guarantee for peace, stability and democracy in the region. It seems that the US is activating its four sanctions lists to keep the region stable and oriented towards transatlantic integrations…

Author: Xhelal Neziri

The American Department of State (DASH) announced yesterday that the mayor of the municipality of Struga, Ramiz Merko, is a “persona non grata”. The reason for this decision was the information received by the US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, which showed Merko’s involvement in corruption, influence in the judiciary and thus the violation of democratic institutions in the country.

A few hours later come another decision, this time signed by US President Joe Biden. Due to the warmongering tendencies in the Western Balkans and the high-level corruption that is still present in the countries of the region, the American president decides to extend the term of the state of emergency in this part of Europe.

At the same time, in the Voice of America in the Albanian language, the US envoy for the Balkans, Gabriel Escobar, and the Coordinator for Anticorruption at the US Department of State, Richard Nephew, appear together in an interview. Both say that they have reliable information about the mayor of Struga about his involvement in illegal activities, while they say that this is also a message to the political and state authorities of North Macedonia that the US will react whenever it is violated peace and democracy.

These three moments speak of the increased attention of the USA in the Western Balkans region and the need for it to be integrated as soon as possible into NATO and the European Union (EU), structures that represent a guarantee for peace, stability and democracy in the region. It seems that the US is activating its four sanctions lists to keep the region stable and oriented towards transatlantic integrations: the President’s List, which names politicians who violate peace agreements and the security of the region; The Treasury Department’s list, which prohibits any financial transactions between the US and US companies with those persons, simultaneously freezing all their assets in the US; The DASH List, which bans entry into the US for individuals and their families, as well as the Magnitsky List, which sanctions corrupt politicians and businessmen with ties to Russia and other non-democratic countries. Over 80 percent of those who are included in one, then go to the other three sanctions lists, which are better known as “black lists”.

Let’s go back to yesterday’s moments and see them in turn.

  1.  The decision on Merko should be seen in two aspects: The first is practical, where Merko and his immediate family are banned from entering the USA, while the second is political as it sends messages about the new American approach to all those who hold power central and local, or that have decision-making power. The US has long been expected to begin announcing a long list of people wanted for involvement in corrupt activities. However, it was not expected that he would be a mayor, even more like Struga, which has almost no reflection in the national politics of North Macedonia. Due to the current political and geopolitical context, related to the Russian aggression in Ukraine and the constitutional changes in North Macedonia, it would not be surprising if this list of DASH included all those who exalt the figure of Vladimir Putin and who actively work against constitutional changes, against the Treaty of Good Friendship with Bulgaria and against the Prespa Agreement. However, it seems that Merko will not be the last. The list will be expanded “from bottom to top” and will include all those who constitute an obstacle to the integration of the country in the EU, the implementation of democratization reforms and the reformation of political parties, as main factors in the political and public sphere..

 

  1. 2. Biden’s decision to continue the state of national emergency in the Western Balkans is mainly related to the non-respect of the peace agreement, which has been protected by special presidential orders since 2001. The sanctioning of persons who violate the Dayton Agreement (1995 ) that brought peace to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rambuje and Kumanova (1999) in Kosovo and Ohrid in North Macedonia (2001) were only warnings for the use of this tool in American foreign policy. The group of important agreements for peace, security and stability in the region is expected to include the one with Bulgaria, concretized with the French Proposal, which implies constitutional changes by the end of the year. With Biden’s order of 2021, it was warned that all those who work against agreements in the Balkans, including Ohrid and Prespa, will be included in the “black list”. According to the order, the list will include any person or organization that is responsible or complicit, directly or indirectly involved in activities or policies that threaten the peace, security or stability, or territorial integrity of any region or country in the Western Balkans and undermine democratic processes and institutions in the region. In the extension of the state of emergency, among other things, it is stated: “Actions of individuals that threaten efforts for international peace and stabilization in the Western Balkans, including acts of extremist violence and disruptive activity, and the situation in the Western Balkans, which impedes progress towards effective and democratic governance and full integration into transatlantic institutions, continue to represent an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States”. Apart from North Macedonia, this is rather addressed to Kosovo and Serbia, after the tensions created in the north of Kosovo in the last month, but also Bosnia and Herzegovina and the separatist tendencies of the leaders of Republika Srpska.

 

  1. The joint interview of Escobar and Nephew for the Voice of America only confirms the increased American attention in the Western Balkans. Convinced that integration into the EU is no longer just a political act, but now represents a geopolitical emergency, the US returns to the part of Europe that represents the “Achilles’ Heel” for the entire West. In a debate at the Atlantic Council, held yesterday in Washington, Escobar said that the situation in the north of Kosovo has the potential to turn into a regional conflict, while he called on Kosovo and Serbia to work on de-escalation of the situation and return to mediated dialogue. from the European Union. He participated in the debate together with the European envoy Miroslav Lajçak, in which they expressed their concern with the developments in the north of Kosovo. A new war in the Balkans would be the best gift for Russia, as it would shift the West’s attention from Ukraine. Non-democratic states, which see the EU and the USA as a danger for them, have been investing in this scenario for a long time.

 

 

The fight against corruption, autocracy and the promotion of democracy in the world have marked Biden’s mandate since his election as president in 2020. The next election will be held next year, where he will again face Donald Trump. which he defeated four years ago. Trump had a different doctrine – he wanted a rough realism in international relations, weakening of international organizations and the restoration of the US as a global political-military power. Regardless of the election result, the four “black lists” will continue to be updated. The Magnistky list was even promoted during Trump’s tenure.

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