Balkan States Tally Obama’s First 100 Days

resizer123The new US administration’s first one hundred day anniversary – coinciding with still unconfirmed news that
Vice-President Joe Biden will visit the Balkans in May – has been greeted with mixed feelings and still great expectations among the countries in the region.

“Biden’s visit will above all be a good opportunity for us to authentically introduce ourselves to the new US administration which, unlike the previous one, in its first 100 days showed readiness to extend the hand even to those with whom it has disagreements,” said columnist Milan Misic in an article for Serbia’s influential daily Politika on Wednesday.

Local and international officials in the region have said that Biden is expected to visit Pristina, Belgrade and Sarajevo, most likely between May 17 and 21. Although US embassies have refused to confirm the news, several officials have said that preparations are already ongoing and that Biden’s advance team is in the region.

“His (Biden’s) visit is the most important visit of an international official to Bosnia and Herzegovina since the arrival of former American president Bill Clinton in 1999,” reported Sarajevo daily Dnevni Avaz.

”Finally one good news,” reads one of the comments posted by the public on Avaz’ web portal. “Finally (President Barak) Obama’s administration has decided to kick-start things in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region,” reads another.

For the past two decades, the US has played a key role in military, political and economic developments in the former Yugoslav republics and other Balkan states. But in the past several years the US has taken a backseat role, leaving the EU to take the lead. This has coincided with a rapidly deteriorating political and security situation in Bosnia in particular.
But Obama’s inauguration has been greeted across the region with great expectations that like his Demoratic predecessor Bill Clinton, Obama’s administration will seek a more active role in the volatile region. Most officials, analysts and media agree that Obama’s administration has shown a significantly higher interest for the region, especially after a series of Balkan-related conferences and high-level events which have taken place in America over the past month.

Even commentators in Serbia, who have clashed with the US over Kosovo’s independence, believe and hope that Obama will be better political counterpart than former US President George Bush. “He managed well, having in mind everything that came down on him,” read the front-page analysis in Politika daily.

”Yes, he changed America and brought hope,” read the title of the article in Croatian daily Jutarnji List.

In Kosovo commentators hope Obama will continue support for its independence. In Macedonia they hope that Obama will maintain Bush’s position and continue to press for a solution to its name dispute with Greece.

Leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina have showed conflicting views on the role the US should play in their country: Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) officials expect support for attempts to further centralize government, while Bosnian Serbs have warned Obama not to interfere with local developments.

Among such expectations there are bound to be disappointments.

“Obama hasn’t changed anything,” said a comment posted on a Croatian newspaper web portal. ”He hasn’t fulfilled expectations,” read another.

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