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Biden signs order to sanction threats to stability in Western Balkans

U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed an executive order giving more powers to the State Department and Treasury to sanction those threatening stability in the Western Balkans. Photo by Samuel Corum/UPI
U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed an executive order giving more powers to the State Department and Treasury to sanction those threatening stability in the Western Balkans. Photo by Samuel Corum/UPI | License Photo

June 9 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden has signed an executive order to sanction those who threaten the stability of the Western Balkans amid support for its states to join the European Union.

The order signed Tuesday gives the State and Treasury Departments more power to impose targeted sanctions against those who threaten the peace, security, stability or territorial integrity of the Western Balkans as well as those who undermine the area's democratic processes and engage in serious human rights violations and corruption, the White House said.

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Specifically, it expands the United States' ability to punish actors threatening the implementation of regional peace, security and cooperation agreements, including the Prespa Agreement of 2018 between Greece and Macedonia, and the International residual Mechanism of Criminal Tribunals, among others.

"Corruption anywhere directly damages the foreign policy, national security and economic health of the United States and our partners and allies," the White House said. "That is why the United States is committed to promoting accountability and combating impunity for those involved in significant corruption in the Western Balkans and throughout the world."

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The sanctions specifically freeze the U.S. assets and properties of those targeted.

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Biden signed the executive order amid a push to integrate Western Balkan states into the European Union.

According to the website of the European Council, which oversees the politics of the EU, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina are currently in accession negotiations while Serbia and Albania have been granted candidate status.

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Earlier this week, European Parliament President David Sassoli called for the states to be allowed into the 27-member bloc.

Last month, 13 ambassadors to the EU issued a joint recorded message on Europe Day, May 9, in support of the Western Balkans inclusion in the EU.

"The Western Balkans are at the heart of Europe, and we are more than ever committed to anchoring you firmly to the EU," they said.

Weeks earlier, Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, issued a statement April 26 amid speculation over redrawing borders in the region to reiterate the United States' commitment to supporting Western Balkans states' European integration.

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"We are committed to helping the countries of the Western Balkans deepen their own regional economic partnerships, achieve their climate goals, counter Russia's energy coercion through diversification and clean energy development and combat corruption and organized crime," he said. "We also want to help the region grow and prosper while protecting strategic infrastructure and industries against China's malign practices."

Concerning the speculation about changing borders along ethnic lines, Price said this would risk fostering instability in the region and "evokes memories of past tensions."

"A stable, prosperous future for the Western Balkans must be based on good governance, rule of law, multi-ethnic democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms," he said.

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