Playing Political Games: How US Pressures Europe Vis-a-Vis Balkans

CC BY 2.0 / Jovan Marković / Belgrade panorama with one of the main feature this capital city, Catedral of Saint Sava. It represents an Orthodox church, the largest in the Balkans.
Belgrade panorama with one of the main feature this capital city, Catedral of Saint Sava. It represents an Orthodox church, the largest in the Balkans. - Sputnik International
Special envoy for the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer’s statement that the EU’s refusal to set a date for the start of accession negotiations for Northern Macedonia and Albania is a big mistake, demonstrates that America is trying to show who the “boss” in the region is.

Matthew Palmer, US Special Envoy for the Western Balkans, Deputy Assistant to the US Secretary of State, met with Serbian President Alexander Vučić in Belgrade on 4 November. Among other things, he said that the US wanted the Western Balkans to have a European perspective, and the EU’s not setting a date to start negotiations with Northern Macedonia and Albania was a “historic mistake".

Palmer emphasised that the EU had sent a negative message to the entire region, and that he would do everything possible to convince the European Union to change their position before the May meeting in Zagreb.

EU as a US Protectorate

Does this mean that the United States openly declares that Europe is unable to make independent decisions? Can Palmer’s statement be considered an open attack on Emmanuel Macron, who vetoed Albania and Northern Macedonia’s accession to the EU?

According to political scientist Јelena Vukoicic, America has long regarded the EU as a kind of protectorate, and they use the Balkans as the trigger, which always helps them “light” Europe.

"Obviously, every attempt by some political leaders to prove themselves an important figure comes across Washington’s indignation. The US considers the EU an association that is under their influence both militarily and politically, and partially economically. This was noticeable even after Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron’s attempt to advance the idea of ​​creating a European army, which is an eyesore for Americans", Vukoicic emphasised.

Balkans as Trigger for the EU

Vukoicic wonders why the United States intervenes in Brussels’ decisions, as well as why a country that is not an EU member is dealing with Albania and Northern Macedonia’s accession to the European Union.

“In fact, what is happening now has nothing to do with either the Western Balkans, or with Albania or Northern Macedonia; this is the game between Washington and Brussels. The US has separated Russia from the EU, although it was the EU who suffered from this. America has imposed a military organisation around NATO on Europe, which doesn’t do the EU any [good]…” she believes.

According to the expert, the US takes such a dominant position because it doesn’t want its influence on the EU to weaken; the Balkan Peninsula is used mostly for this.

"They are important because the United States, through its powerful influence on certain parts of the Balkans (probably Albania), controls the EU. The US has a constant pronounced political presence in the Balkans, and they are able to generate potential conflicts, probably involving their main allies in the Balkans, the Albanians; and such a conflict could create big problems for Europe", Vukoicic suggested.

While the EU is Busy with Its Problems

International law professor Bojan Milisavljevic believes that although the United States directly intervenes in EU affairs with its statements on Albania and Northern Macedonia, they don’t have such a big impact on Brussels’ strategic decisions.

"The US has its own interests and it implements them through NATO; but the EU is trying to determine its own interests. The EU is now at a strategic crossroads in many areas – from the issue of expansion to Brexit and the potential prospect of some other major member states leaving the European Union. They need a strategy for the future. In my opinion, US influence on the European Union will decline over the next few years", Milisavljevic believes.

He believes that the United States doesn’t have enough power to return Northern Macedonia and Albania to Brussels' agenda. Vukoicic notes that the EU, most definitely, will not expand in the next 10 years, as it will take a lot of time to consolidate, which again gives the US an extra chance to “take over” the Balkans.

by Brankica Ristic

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