Palmer: Russia preffers divided Western Balkans

Matthew Palmer; Photo: European Western Balkans

SOFIA – Russia is seeking to divide the region and hinder its integration with West, told the US envoy for the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer in an interview for Radio Free Europe Bulgarian service during his visit to Sofia.

“We are concerned about Russian intentions with respect to the Western Balkans,” Palmer said, adding that Russia prefers a Western Balkans that is fractious and divided against itself.

According to Palmer, activities of Russian agents in the region were also a challenge to the European perspective of the Balkans. He mentioned the attempted coup in Montenegro in 2016, the Skripal-like attempted murder of a Bulgarian arms trader.

“Russian efforts to undercut support for the Prespa Agreement between Skopje and Athens is another example of malign activity on the part of the Russian state”, Palmer told.

He added that the US vision for the Western Balkans is a positive one for a region that is at peace with itself, with neighbors, a region that is stable, prosperous and integrated in the European family, while Russia prefers fragmented Western Balkans, where it could raise of lower tensions in order to drive a wedge between the Western Balkans and the West.

North Macedonia and Albania have clear European path

US Special Representatives for the Western Balkans said that the United States has high hopes that the European Union will begin accession talks next month with North Macedonia and Albania.

The question the European Council will be faced with during the meeting in March, is whether to open accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania.

“The United States very much hopes that the answer to that question is yes. We think that both countries qualify on the merits. We think it’s an important signal to send to the region. We think it’s essential that both North Macedonia and Albania have a clear European path and a European perspective”, Palmer concluded.