Department Spokesperson Ned Price [State Department Photo by Freddie Everett/ Public Domain]

President Biden is getting Western Balkans back on a geopolitical map. His latest E.O. expands the US efforts against malign actors who want to undermine democracy in Albania and the countries of former Yugoslavia. 

Western Balkans is back on the geopolitical map. Before departing on his first overseas trip, the Biden administration placed malign actors on the Western Balkans on notice. 

On June 8, 2021, President Biden signed a new Executive Order related to the Western Balkans. It   builds on and modernizes the existing national emergency declared in Executive Order (E.O.) 13219 of June 26, 2001, under George W. Bush and (E.O.) 13304 of May 28, 2003.

To best address region-wide corruption networks,  the new E.O. explicitly defines the Western Balkans region to include the territory of the former Yugoslavia and the Republic of  Albania.  

Biden’s expanded E.O. provides authorities to target individuals who threaten the peace, security, stability, or territorial integrity of any area of the Western Balkans. In addition, the E.O. can target those responsible for or complicit in, or who have directly or indirectly engaged in, severe human rights abuse in the region. 

The move, although it concerns a specific region, should be looked at through a geopolitical lens and America’s effort to eradicate corruption and defend democratic values globally. Speaking at RAF in Mildenhall UK on Wednesday, Biden set the tone for America’s action on the global stage. “We’re at an inflection point in world history — the moment where it falls to us to prove that democracies will not just endure, but they will excel as we rise to seize the enormous opportunities of a new age,” the President said.

At the G7 Summit, Biden knows that there is an opportunity to rebuild international cooperation and commit to the defense of democracy post-Trump. 

“We have to discredit those who believe that the age of democracy is over, as some of our fellow nations believe. We have to expose as false the narrative that decrees of dictators can match the speed and scale of the 21st-century challenge,” added Biden at RAF in Midenhall, UK.  

Western Balkans falls within the US geopolitical efforts to deter Russian influence and bring the countries of the former Yugoslavia closer to the transatlantic alliance. 

“The United States is committed to promoting democracy, transparency, accountability, and democratic governance across the Western Balkans, consistent with the standards the countries of the region must meet  to  secure their goals of advancing on the European path ,” said the State Department Spokesperson for The Pavlovic Today. 

The new E.O.  now  includes  references to the 2018  Prespa  Agreement between Greece and, henceforth North Macedonia and the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals.  Additionally, it aims to address region-wide corruption networks  , and Albania  has been added to the scope of the E.O. 

“The update is based  on  our desire to modernize the sanctions regime to incorporate important regional developments such as the 2018 Prespa agreement, the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals,  and  the clearer definition of the Western Balkans region to include  Albania to address region-wide networks of corruption,” the State Department Spokesperson told The Pavlovic Today.

The United States views sanctions targeting  corruption and  the undermining of stability  as  an essential  tool.  “The  new  E.O. ensures this  tool’s  effectiveness in addressing the most serious threats to stability across the region, including corruption, actions that undermine democratic governance, and  serious human rights abuse,” the Spokesperson added. 

The Biden administration deems that corruption has a damaging effect on foreign policy, national security, and economic health of the United States and our partners and allies. The expanded E.O. aims to demand accountability and combat impunity for those involved in significant corruption in the Western Balkans and throughout the world.  

From the U.S. standpoint, corruption serves the interests of those who engage in it, not the interests of a country or its people.  

Corruption saps economic growth, facilitates organized crime, and undermines confidence in democratic processes. These forces allow American strategic adversaries to undermine democracy, hinder progress toward effective and accountable governance, and prevent the Western Balkans region from achieving full integration into transatlantic institutions.  

According to the Biden administration, they allow individuals to exploit the weak rule of law to profit from systemic corruption at the expense of citizens. They constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. 

In the Western Balkans, many are interested to know if there are specific names on the list. 

“The United States has not yet announced any new designations under this E.O., but  this tool  allows  us to address the most pressing threats to stability and democratic institutions going forward,” the Spokesperson told The Pavlovic Today.

All property and interests in property of persons designated under this E.O. that are in the United States, or come within the United States, or the possession or control of U.S., persons will be blocked. U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them. In addition, individuals sanctioned under this E.O. will be banned from entering the United States or holding a U.S. visa.  

“We are expanding  our sanctions program to ensure we can target a wider range of malign activity in the region,” the Spokesperson of the State Department added.   

All previous designations are unaffected and still stand. 

“The United States remains committed to a Europe whole, free, and at peace. Ensuring stability, prosperity, and closer integration of the Western Balkans states into European institutions is central to that vision. The new Western Balkans sanctions E.O. helps reinforce that goal by  promoting accountability,” the Spokesperson concluded.

Ksenija Pavlovic McAteer

Ksenija Pavlovic is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Pavlovic Today, The Chief White House Correspondent. Pavlovic was a Teaching Fellow and Doctoral Fellow in the Political Science department...