US See No Other Option but Western Balkans as Part of Europe

Washington hopes EU countries "understand" that the Western Balkans should be part of Europe "full stop" and is worried about the weak message coming from European capitals, the newly appointed department of state official responsible for the region said on Monday (13 September).

"The region is European, and our message to Europe, is that there's very little risk in enlargement to these countries…I hope that member states understand that they should be part of Europe, they are part of Europe culturally and historically," Gabriel Escobar during his first public appearance as deputy assistant secretary of state at an online event organised by the European Policy Centre, a Brussels-based think tank.

"Every country that's entered the European Union has become more democratic, more stable and more prosperous, with almost no cost to the rest of the members," he said.

Escobar, who took over the position of Washington's representative for the region after serving as deputy chief of mission to Belgrade expressed worry about the lack of public confidence in the Western Balkans about the chances of one day joining the bloc.

Top EU representative for the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, Miroslav Lajčák admitted that growing the club has not been at the top of Brussels' to-do list.

"I am not hiding that right now, enlargement is not on the top of the list of European Union's priorities," he said, pointing out, however, that it was not by design.

According to Lajčák, "it simply is a result of the fact that European Union has to deal with so many unexpected issues right now, of course it's the pandemic, before we had Brexit, before we had a migration crisis, before we had a financial crisis."

Lajčák said that the current...

Continue reading on: