US-type sanctions for the Western Balkans are not on the agenda, the European Commission said on Wednesday (9 June) after President Joe Biden signed order blocking property banning entry to the country of those “contributing to the destabilising situation in the” region on Tuesday.
The US announced broad sanctions for those engaged in corruption, human rights abuse or threatening “the peace, security, stability, or territorial integrity” of any area or state in the Western Balkans or “undermine democratic processes or institutions” in the region.
The asset freezes and entry ban would also extend to those who undermine regional treaties, including the 2018 Prespa Agreement between Greece and North Macedonia that settled the long-running name dispute between the two countries, as well as the 1995 Dayton Accords that ended the bloody Bosnian war.
The latter is particularly pertinent after a series of phantom documents with dubious provenance unhinged the Western Balkans, upsetting the delicate political balance of the multi-ethnic and religiously diverse region and causing concern across European capitals and in Brussels.
The most controversial of these non-papers, reportedly authored by Slovenian prime minister Janez Janša, proposed the dissolution of Bosnia and Herzegovina along ethnic lines, an allegation Ljubljana, which is due to take helm of the EU Council’s rotating presidency next month, has vehemently denied.
Without commenting on the US executive order, the EU executive’s foreign affairs spokesperson said that a “reflection on potential sanctions is not on the agenda.”
“One thing we need to say is that any decision on any potential sanctions is something that needs to be decided by unanimity between the member states. So if the member states find an agreement on a sanction regime, then we will proceed down that road, but at the moment, it’s not on the agenda during our discussions with our partners in the Western Balkans,” he added.
The US announcement comes only a week after the country sanctioned three Bulgarians for corruption at home, as well as their networks encompassing 64 entities, in the largest action under the Global Magnitsky Act in a single day that underscored Washington’s toughening stance on graft and human rights in the region.
[Edited by Benjamin Fox]