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Western Balkans: Dayton Peace Agreement

Volume 833: debated on Tuesday 17 October 2023

Question for Short Debate

Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to the security and political situation in the Western Balkans and challenges to the Dayton Peace Agreement within and outside Bosnia and Herzegovina.

My Lords, I declare my interest as a vice-chair of the APPG for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

This debate comes at a time of global insecurity: from Ukraine to Sudan, from Kosovo to Nagorno-Karabakh, from Israel and Gaza to the Sahel and the South China Sea, frozen conflicts are all heating up. Collectively we bear some responsibility. We are often too ready to believe that the conflicts will go away, will sort themselves out, that they do not concern us. The tragic situation in Israel and Gaza reminds us that that is not the case; foreign conflicts can quickly become domestic issues. But it is my hope—even though peace and security are based not on hope but on realities on the ground—that as frozen conflicts are reignited one by one, the western Balkans will avoid that fate.

For 30 years, Britain has played an important role in the region, learning some painful lessons in the early 1990s and leading in driving forward progress in the early 2000s, not least through the work of champions of justice and peace such as the late Lord Ashdown, which is carried on now through the expert contribution of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Peach. Today, as the world is ever more unstable, we must look at our policy in the Balkans and ask: is it working?

For two decades, our policy was predicated on the idea that the prospect of EU membership would be enough to encourage reform and progress and deter warmongering and attempts to redraw borders. But the pull of EU membership has lacked credibility for years and has been undermined by concerted efforts by Moscow to reshape the region and challenge NATO and the EU there. Perhaps, as the EU thinks about the future of Ukraine and Moldova and more actively pursues enlargement in the Balkans, that will change over the long term.

However, we cannot rely on hope: not in Kosovo, with the recent killing of a police officer there by heavily armed Serbian militants, or the injuring of 30 NATO soldiers earlier this year, accompanied by the movement of significant Serbian armed forces units to the border with Kosovo; not in Montenegro, where Russia pursues destabilisation operations, sowing division and seeking to undermine Montenegro’s democracy and Euro-Atlantic direction; not in North Macedonia, where Russia has been spreading disinformation, seeking to exploit the Orthodox Church for propaganda purposes, and to prevent the resolution of disputes with Bulgaria which are holding up EU accession; and not in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where separatists work with Moscow and Budapest to weaken the capacity of the Bosnian state and its institutions, seeking to undermine the integrity of the country.

The Dayton peace agreement brought peace to Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995 through skilful diplomacy, trade-offs, and military pressure on the combatants. Over the last decade, the leadership of the Bosnian entity of Republika Srpska—the entity constructed by the Dayton agreement—has repeatedly sought to pick apart, render irrelevant, and ultimately destroy the peace accords and with them the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the last year alone, RS leaders have passed illegitimate laws seeking to ignore rulings of the constitutional court, created parallel state structures, armed police not for policing but for other scenarios, adopted laws to appropriate state property, and sought to frame the administrative boundary between the two Bosnian entities as a hard border that can be closed off by barricades and the local police rather than be passed freely like we do here when we pass from Kent to Surrey. Citizens of Bosnia fear that this is preparation for secession.

Most worryingly, in Brussels, Washington and even here in London, at times our western Balkans policy seems to have alarming echoes of the 1990s: a baseless hope that no one would dare or want to challenge the peace, that there is no intention to challenge internationally recognised borders, and that we can find an accommodation with Belgrade if only we concede a little more. Yet, whether in Montenegro, North Macedonia, Kosovo or Bosnia and Herzegovina, there is no evidence that the current Serbian Government, our chosen partner in the region, are committed to being a benign neighbour. President Vučić does not sign up to the agreements that he negotiates, and if he does, they are not implemented. Senior government figures continue to speak about and plan for a “Serbian world” just as Russia speaks and acts on the “Russian world”. Serbia’s rearmament speaks even more clearly: procuring planes from Russia, surface-to-air missiles and drones from China and, most recently, up to 1,000 kamikaze drones from Iran, I regret to say that this is not the sign of a Government committed to peace but of one flexing their military capability. I hope the Ministry of Defence has taken note and will review our arms exports to Serbia in view of this development.

The foundation of peace and security is deterrence. Taking on the threat of aggression or violent secession is a crucial prerequisite to creating confidence and the space for political progress. Maintaining and strengthening the deployment of KFOR troops in Kosovo is crucial. I therefore pay tribute to the men and women of our Armed Forces who serve in Kosovo and I commend the Defence Secretary on his quick and decisive action in authorising the recent extra deployment. But a similar level of deterrence is needed in Bosnia and Herzegovina too. My noble friend the Minister knows that I have already called for the UK to rejoin EUFOR. A modest deployment by the UK would have an outsized impact, strengthening the deterrent against attempts to break up the country with violence, and avoiding the need for the larger response that would be required if the situation were to escalate unchecked. EUFOR’s mandate is up for renewal at the UN Security Council next month. If Russia, which has used its veto over Bosnia before, blocks it or tries to weaken it yet again, we must be prepared for NATO to step into the role, as it has the legal authority to do under the Dayton peace accords. Whether under EUFOR or NATO, there is a need for more troops and more capable equipment. Bosnia and Herzegovina is almost five times the size of Kosovo and has nearly twice as many citizens, yet EUFOR has only 1,100 troops, about a quarter of the number in KFOR.

Almost 30 years on from Dayton, the focus in Bosnia and Herzegovina should be on political reform: taking the next steps beyond the peace of Dayton to being a prosperous civic democracy. But, so long as the sovereignty and security of Bosnia and Herzegovina are under threat, the space for reform will be severely limited. It is desperately necessary, but without security it will not happen.

In the 1990s, the ex-Yugoslav states were more advanced and richer than the Baltic states. Today, the security provided by NATO membership and the opportunities of the EU have helped the Baltic countries leap ahead of the western Balkans. That is the journey which the region must hope to replicate, but if we do not confront Russian malign influence and backward interference, it will not be possible.

I therefore suggest that His Majesty’s Government work actively to agree a new joint strategy with our partners in the United States and the EU to ensure that we represent a united front making clear that there is no space for violence in the Balkans. Together, we can and must send a strong message about the cost for anyone who tries to drag the region back to the 1990s.

We have a choice to make. We can wake up one day to face a serious crisis, an escalation bringing conflict, instability and insecurity into the heart of Europe, or we can invest in a credible deterrent now, recalibrate our diplomacy and work with our allies to reduce the threats of instability to the western Balkans and to our own interests.

My Lords, I thank my colleague, the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, for initiating this debate today.

The Dayton accords were signed nearly three decades ago. They were worthy of applause. Because of this important document, a modicum of normality was able to resume in Bosnian life: children returned to school, businesses reopened and families were reunited. Dayton has the shadow of all the lives lost during the Bosnian war looming over it: some 100,000 dead, 2.5 million displaced and between 20,000 and 50,000 women and girls raped. We cannot think about Dayton without thinking of those women and girls whose lives were shattered, and all the lives that were lost.

Thanks to the accords, a whole generation has been able to grow up without the threat of being shot in the street, but that does not mean they are perfect. To this day, Bosnia-Herzegovina remains mired by a series of serious structural and functional problems. Its complex political and administrative power-sharing system lends itself to an environment marred by ethnonationalistic sentiment and political in-fighting. The mechanisms implemented in Bosnia have resulted in gridlocks and tension between ethnic groups because of what the European Commission has called

“Deep political polarisation and disagreement among the main parties”.

The true spirit of Dayton—an agreement that created a consolidational democracy based on the notion of co-operative power-sharing—must be protected from rising nationalistic sentiment in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Dayton may need reform, but it cannot be done away with entirely. To do so would be to bend to the likes of Milorad Dodik, leader of Republika Srbska who advocates its independence from Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The Dayton accords contain crucial elements for the building of a Bosnian society based on respect for human rights and the rule of law, and they also require its adherence to the European Convention on Human Rights above all. The political discourse in Bosnia today is one tarnished by genocide denial and historical revisionism. Attempts are being made to undermine the judgments of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and war criminals are being lauded as heroes. The very ethnic divisions that Dayton sought to heal are creeping their way back into Bosnian society—into their classrooms, their media and their politics.

This situation does not only affect the Bosniaks and Bosnian Serbs living within Bosnia-Herzegovina. We must consider the effects of such profoundly negative ethnic discourse in the heart of eastern Europe. Ethnonationalistic movements tend to have a domino effect on one another, and we must be mindful of the delicate situation many countries find themselves in— I am thinking of Albania and Romania, to name just two. Political representation and minority rights are a problem right now not just in Bosnia-Herzegovina but around the world, and we must think of the precedent set by our action—or inaction.

We saw during the Bosnian war the cost that such highly charged nationalistic sentiments have. The majority of women who were brutally raped as part of the Bosnian Serb policy of ethnic cleansing have still not received justice or reparations for the immense harm done to them. Survivors continue to be ignored and stigmatised, whilst the likes of Dodik glorify the war criminals who committed these very crimes.

Currently, Bosnian society is riddled with poor and ineffective institutions. Investment in infrastructure, education and jobs is, as we know, crucial to curb the tide of disfranchisement we see taking hold, which only paves the way to extremism. The state of fragility in Bosnia-Herzegovina places great threats on the security of women and girls in an area of the world where female bodies have been used as a weapon of war and a way through which ethnonationalist battles can be fought. Conflict and fragility exacerbate existing inequalities within societies and break down social networks, making women more vulnerable to sexual violence and exploitation. The women of Bosnia-Herzegovina have been through this plight before, and do not deserve to have hardship thrust on them a second time.

An effective solution sets a good precedent, and we have the opportunity to stand strong in the face of nationalistic fervour. Investing in women and girls must be seen as the cornerstone of any policy, as it has been proved time and time again that, when the women of a society are allowed to prosper, peace is more likely to last—I can give many examples.

I hope that His Majesty’s Government use this opportunity to understand the cost of ethnonationalism in the region of Bosnia-Herzegovina and protect the core principles set out in Dayton—adherence to the protection of human rights and the liberties of the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina. May we remember the cost of western inaction in the early years of the Yugoslav wars.

My Lords, during a meeting earlier this year in Sarajevo, I stood with some colleagues at the spot where the Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated, triggering a series of events that resulted in the First World War. It was a moving and troubling reminder of how things can deteriorate quickly and catastrophically. I remember being there in the city many years previously, in 2002—actually, at an event organised by the OSCE, which we were talking about just now, and the Human Rights Committee of the BiH Parliament in Sarajevo.

At that time, my old, much-missed friend Paddy Ashdown was the governor. He was there from 2002 to 2006 and, when he left and came back to London, he gave an important lecture later in 2006 at the LSE. He was able to give a remarkable list of achievements during those years of governorship. It is worth reflecting for a few minutes in this important debate, which we owe to the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, that progress was possible but did not happen without important contributions.

The first of those, of course, was the Dayton agreement itself. I have to say that I have always had some reservations about the process by which it came into being and, indeed, some of the content, but the fact that an agreement is there is important. No agreement or process is perfect, but having an agreement makes it easier to make progress than moving from a context of violent political conflict, and it is there to be worked with, so at least there is something on which to base progress.

The second lesson that I think emerged in listening to him speak was the vital element of leadership. Paddy was a leader. Some might argue, and some in the region argued at the time, that he was a bit authoritarian as a leader. In fact, I remember having a conversation with him when I was criticising another leader and said that he was a control freak, and Paddy said, “Well, what’s wrong with that?”

Of course, in truth, you must be careful about the form of your leadership. However, no progress is possible in such contexts without real leadership, courageous leadership and leadership that will undoubtedly be criticised by some who do not want to see it happening. One of the great dangers of the current crisis-ridden agenda—Russia-Ukraine, Israel-Gaza, China-Taiwan and so much more—is that it is a challenge for the western Balkans to retain European attention, never mind European leadership. It is crucial that we do not allow other pressures to obscure our view of what is happening in the western Balkans and that there is real leadership from outside, as well as hoping for leadership from inside.

Earlier today, a colleague from the region explained to me how there was now profound frustration that the promises of EU membership seemed continually to slip into the future, to the point where many there have no sense that it is ever going to come around. Each time the promise is made of process, it makes people more angry and more frustrated, and so some are turning to Russia and China. The noble Baroness, Lady Helic, outlined very clearly with her particular and personal knowledge of the situation how these many conflicts in the area are re-emerging in a way that is extremely dangerous. She spoke of the western approach being one of baseless optimism that no one wants to return to violent conflict. I am sure that she is right to be concerned about that.

Sadly, however, for some, it may be even more like another comment that Paddy made in that lecture. He recalled going to see the then British Foreign Secretary when the Bosnian war was at its height, in about 1993, and pleading for the intervention which was not to come for nearly two more years and after countless tens of thousands more deaths. His response was, “But they’ve always been like this, Paddy. The best thing to do is build a firebreak around the region and let it burn itself out”. Whatever might be said privately like that, that is no stance for a Government of this country to take.

Whatever the reason, the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, is certainly right to say that simply ignoring the problem and hoping for the best is not enough. Can the Minister not only assure us that the re-emergence of conflict in the western Balkans is something that concerns His Majesty’s Government but let us know what His Majesty’s Government are doing in collaboration with our European colleagues? We certainly cannot do it without collaboration but what is being done with them to pay attention to the deterioration and to do what we can to arrest it?

My Lords, once again, the noble Baroness has tabled an important debate. I thank her sincerely for this opportunity and for bringing such valuable experience to the House. After all, as she said, we were at one time a spearhead of enlargement of the EU and we are now in danger of losing our enthusiasm. Back in 1997, all our political parties had long been agreed that we did not want a small, tidy, wealthy Europe. As an EU member we wanted to reach out to countries still recovering from their Soviet past and hoping to join in a Europe-wide economic recovery. Of course, there were benefits for us in doing that as well.

By then, war had broken out between Serbia and its satellites in former Yugoslavia, and it was clear that we had an urgent new role as peacekeeper and NATO member. This time the policy was called “the responsibility to protect”. Much has been written about R2P and much of it has been written off as outdated. It was only formally adopted in 2005 and it failed in Libya. Nevertheless, it was one of the most important doctrines introduced by the UN and we can all recognise its value at the time of the Bosnia and Kosovo genocides. Criminal tribunals were set up and cases are still ongoing, as the noble Baroness mentioned.

There are many other examples of protection or attempted protection from genocide around the world. The Minister is in a better position than any of us to know how many there are, such as Darfur in Sudan. Unfortunately, we must accept that the UN is no longer capable of reaching out in the way that it did. In the case of the Balkans, only NATO has had the muscle to contain trouble. Do we still have the commitment to R2P in the Balkans? Are we as ready as we were to send troops to Bosnia and Kosovo to prevent the worst happening again? I hope that we are.

The incidents in Kosovo during the last few weeks have certainly justified a swift NATO response, which they got. We can all understand how easy it is for the Serbian president to stir up trouble. He has been doing it for years, with or without Russian advice, following his predecessor—Slobodan Milošević. It used to be called “dirty tricks” but that is too kind a phrase. Serbia took advantage of a very poor decision by Kosovo in May to impose non-Serbian mayors in the north after a turnout of less than 4%. The result was a huge crowd of protesting Serbs, many of them armed, and clashes led to injuries to over 30 fully armed KFOR troops. Then came the incident at the monastery in Banjska last month, when Kosovo confronted about 30 armed Serbs attacking a police post. Three of them and a Kosovar policeman were killed. This seemed to Washington to be part of an insidious and gradual movement of Serbian troops closer to the border, although Serbia denies this and has since withdrawn some. Nevertheless, it was unmistakably a hint of the threat of a Donetsk factor, whereby protection of your kith and kin in another country is a justifiable reason for invasion. Well, it is not—not in any existing international law—but that does not concern Russia.

NATO moved fast during the operation in May, but this was not always the case. The Kosovo war was not anticipated and came as a second barrel after the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Dayton accords did not even mention Kosovo and at least one historian believes that they contributed to the collapse of the Albanian Government and the outbreak of war.

Therefore, what should be the political solution? There is a plan, brokered by Brussels, to give the Serbs more autonomy in Kosovo through an association of Serb-majority municipalities. This was even agreed by the two leaders in Ohrid in March but rejected in May by both of them. Vučić fears that it would assist Kosovo towards full independence, while the Kosovan Prime Minister, Albin Kurti, now sees it as a path to the pattern set by Republika Srpska. The governance arrangements in Bosnia and Herzegovina have been carefully constructed but they are difficult to deal with, as we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, regarding Paddy Ashdown’s efforts.

Brussels will just have to provide more reassurance. The route to peace can only be part of the wider EU-sponsored dialogue alongside Serbia’s application. We were one of the architects of this dialogue. It is harder now, Kosovo being some way behind as a candidate owing to its uncertain status, but it is necessary. The majority of Serbs would like to live comfortable lives as Europeans, whatever border they live behind. That can be the only way forward for both countries. Slow and difficult as it is, we the UK must stay as close as possible to the EU formula, and re-address the balance of troops—as the noble Baroness mentioned.

There are many reasons for stability in the Balkans, migration being one of them. With the Ukraine war dragging on, it has become even more urgent to get the formula right, yet I fear inaction may be the most likely outcome of all.

My Lords, I thank and congratulate my noble friend Lady Helic. We are very fortunate to have her in your Lordships’ House; she knows more about the subjects we are discussing than anybody else—possibly more than all of us put together —and she has highlighted a situation that we have rather neglected.

Next Tuesday, your Lordships’ House will be full. There will be a debate on the ghastly event that took place in Israel just a little over a week ago. People will quite rightly condemn Hamas, as it is responsible for every spot of blood that has been shed in these awful last two weeks.

As I was listening to my noble friend Lady Helic, I thought back to the early 1990s, some 30 years ago. Had it not been for Paddy Ashdown and a group from his party, Bosnia-Herzegovina would not really have featured, despite the carnage that was occurring there. As we were reminded earlier, mass rapes were occurring there and some 7,500 Muslim men and boys were massacred in Srebrenica. For a time, I was the only member of the government party speaking out and, on occasions, voting with the Liberal Democrats and some others on this. We should have learned that lesson.

We did come in and the Dayton accords came about, but they were more of a truce than a settlement. Although he did not use those words, the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, made that point a little while ago.

We have to be mindful that there is a real danger in what could be called the soft underbelly of Europe. We live in a world that is in more turmoil and danger than at any time since the Second World War. There is the ghastly invasion of Ukraine, but Mr Putin is not limiting his ambitions to Ukraine.

Just two or three weeks ago, I met an old friend from Bosnia who came to have coffee with me in your Lordships’ House. He made the point that the danger today is, if anything, worse than it was in the early 1990s. Russia is determined on the destabilisation of Europe and the re-creation of a world power similar to the Soviet Union. We have to recognise that and to be prepared.

I have made speeches in your Lordships’ House calling for more defence expenditure; that need is implicit in every remark I make today. We have to recognise that our continent of Europe, which came together and added members in the years after the war—with the creation and signing of the treaty of Rome and the creation of what became the European Union—is in very real danger today. Thank God we had a hopeful sign from Poland on Sunday—an indication that Poland may be going in a more moderate and stable way than it appeared to have been—but we must not lose sight of the danger in the western Balkans.

It is vital that we are prepared to do what we have been doing in the Baltic states. The point was made earlier that there has been a reversal of fortune: 30 years ago, the Baltic states were weak and vulnerable; now the Balkans are. I hope that we see more following Croatia and being admitted to the European Union. I hope NATO will consider what it can do, because we are defending ourselves in coming to the aid of those who are subject to insidious Russian incursion. There is a real danger that, by using Serbia, Russia will totally destabilise and undermine Bosnia-Herzegovina. The breakaway of Republika Srpska is by no means impossible. When my noble friend winds up this debate, I hope he shows a recognition from our Government, which is shared across the House, of just what dangers we face.

One real light in recent days was the cross-party accord. I sat in the Gallery of the other place the other day and heard a statesmanlike Statement from the Prime Minister and an equally statesmanlike statement from the leader of the Opposition. We have to keep together.

My Lords, I join in congratulating the noble Baroness on her choice of subject and her presentation of it. I also join the noble Lords, Lord Alderdice and Lord Cormack, in praising the remarkable contribution of Paddy Ashdown. He was so committed that he bought a house in Bosnia, although it became too dangerous to keep.

I add my own tribute to my noble friend Lord Robertson who, as NATO’s Secretary-General, played a positive role, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, who tried very much to broker a deal between Serbia and Kosovo. So we had some good British contributions.

After the Dayton agreement of 1995 and the mass application of Balkan countries to join the European Union in 2003, I visited the then Greek Foreign Minister Papandreou in his office. He showed me a large map of the region on the wall, pointed out the Balkans and said, “That problem is manageable and should be managed”. We have not yet managed it successfully.

We have had some positive developments. Croatia and Slovenia—the more prosperous northern part of the Balkans—have joined the European Union. All the countries, save Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo, are members of NATO. Both NATO and the EU have similar criteria for human rights, but the problem has not been managed well overall in the past 20-plus years. The extent of the problem was shown graphically in Freedom House’s Nations in Transit, which was published this year.

The very term “Balkans” is pejorative. Croatia, for example, prefers to be called a part of central Europe—Mitteleuropa. It is significant that the Dayton agreement was signed in the USA, brokered by Holbrooke on behalf on the US Government, and designed as an interim agreement until permanent arrangements could be negotiated. The difference, of course, between 1995, Holbrooke and Dayton, and today is that the US is not now prepared fully to join in the process. After Afghanistan and Iraq, the US is largely leaving the problem to the Europeans. Does the Minister agree that any progress by outside forces now largely depends on the European Union?

Serbia was the core country in the former Yugoslavia, and now is central to a resolution of the regional challenges. Yet President Vučić tries to ride two horses; he is close to President Putin, as indeed the country is historically and culturally, and is close also to President Dodik of Republika Srpska. How do the Government view his role? Is it positive or negative? Does he countenance the detachment of Republika Srpska from the federation, which will lead to an unravelling of the Dayton agreement? Does he indeed consider the possible amalgamation of Serbia and Republika Srpska?

Clearly Russia, as has been said by a number of colleagues, is playing a spoiling game, not only in Serbia but in Montenegro, North Macedonia and Kosovo, where the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, tried unsuccessfully to broker a deal on the matter. Does the Minister see the hand of Russia in the current disturbances in Kosovo? Has the invasion of Ukraine made Russia less welcome in the region?

Our interests as the UK are engaged, but limited. It surely makes sense for us now to join with the European Union. How closely are our policies aligned? What form does consultation take? I well understand the hesitation of the European Union about membership of the area. Even if Monsieur Michel speaks of the first accessions by 2030, I recently spoke to several MEPs who said that it was really a pipe dream and were very sceptical of that date. The dangers include enlargement fatigue, budgetary problems and the effect on the decision-making process within the European Union.

My conclusion is this: there is no doubt that it is in our interest that the gap pointed out by Papandreou be filled. Equally, there is no doubt of the aspirations of Bosnia and others to be fully part of the western political and defence institutions. The challenge for Bosnia, in particular, is to move beyond aspiration to reach some internal agreement. The disputes include obviously Srebrenica, the high representative’s role, and the role of the multi-ethnic constitutional court. Bosnia and Herzegovina has seen a decline recently in democracy and in governance. There is more polarisation in the region. But we see, alas, more possibility of fragmentation. Do the Government see any hopeful signs, especially in Bosnia? Do local politicians recognise that they must change if they are to fulfil their aspirations?

There is a French saying that happy is the country that has no history. Alas, the region has too much history.

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lady Helic on the good timing of this debate and on the excellent way in which she has focused and addressed the question.

It is a very great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Swansea, a much-esteemed former colleague in the Council of Europe parliament in Strasbourg.

Briefly in my remarks today, I will touch on three aspects: how reform of Dayton now presents a positive and realistic opportunity; the necessary framework of actions for a new partnership between Brussels and the United States; and then the long-term benefits to south-east Europe and international security, to which so many of your Lordships have referred.

In 1995, Dayton was a huge triumph. It stopped the war in the former Yugoslavia; it affirmed the continuation of Bosnia-Herzegovina as a sovereign country; its guarantors were obliged to make sure that the decrees were properly respected; it set up the Office of the High Representative to see to this; and the truce, not least, has indeed proved to last.

However, as is increasingly recognised, while an effective stopgap at the time, since the late 1990s, the nature of the Dayton accords has itself been responsible for holding back democracy and economic development in Bosnia-Herzegovina. One measure of this is that it is only just behind Haiti and Venezuela as the country with the most severe brain drain in the world. Nearly half the people born there now live in another country and the numbers of those leaving or seeking to do so continue to rise.

Another measure is our own assessment from the beginning that the same arrangements which successfully ended the war, and until they might be revised at the right time, were nevertheless bound to lead to disaster in peace. They would always threaten democracy, since the Dayton architects had to give special rights to “constituent peoples”—Bosnian Croats, Bosnian Serbs and Bosniaks—over the rights of individual citizens. Equally, Dayton would always undermine good decision-making, since it vested more powers in the entities than in the weak central government, consisting of a rotating tripartite presidency and a council of ministers, also divided among the three constituent peoples. In view of these inbuilt restrictions, the Dayton accords would always aid and abet as well, as they have done, a dysfunctional judicial system, a distorted economy and a culture of corruption.

From outside the country, two different attitudes have prevailed. The first is that after the provision of Dayton, it was then up to Bosnia-Herzegovina to sort itself out. Yet recently, the second is that, following the conflict in Ukraine, the West is now sufficiently united and prepared to protect democracy and human rights and should therefore make every effort to do so, particularly in Europe.

That reflects the case for a new partnership between the European Union and the United States, to which my noble friend Lady Helic referred, and the necessary framework for its joint actions. Here, there is growing consensus on a variety of expedients, starting with the need for the European Union Force or EUFOR to redeploy itself more efficiently, as my noble friend has also just urged. It should do so in Brčko district, while utilising in Sarajevo mobile units so that they can move anywhere in the country at short notice. Such redeployments would then give a much clearer sign to the Bosnian Serb leadership that obstruction and separatism will not succeed.

Washington and Brussels must insist that carrying out the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights is essential to reform, as it also already is a precondition for Bosnia-Herzegovina’s membership of the European Union. The high representative should remove officials standing against ECHR rulings, while at the same time protecting media and other independent parties who investigate legal evasion, corruption and police abuse. In so doing he has to use the Bonn powers —his authority to restrict those who deny and seek to undermine legal commitments.

Bosnia-Herzegovina’s neighbouring states must support the United States and European Union agendas for reform. These states include Serbia, a candidate for the European Union, along with Slovenia and Croatia, already full members. Here I declare an interest as current chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Croatia, as well as, within the United Kingdom, the consul for Croatia in Scotland.

Conversely, Brussels and Washington can back up western Balkan initiatives to forge a regional common market, both as an economic end in itself and as a facilitator of European Union membership. In that connection the United States International Development Finance Corporation should make use of its new and only office outside the United States, which happens to be in Belgrade, to assist all countries within the western Balkans.

On conditionality, the European Union ought to identify projects inducing reform, yet indicating that receipt of funds in the first place is dependent upon subsequent measures of intended reform not being blocked. Brussels already applies rule of law requirements attached to funds designed to help countries recovering from Covid. Thus, similar conditions should now come to apply to Bosnia-Herzegovina and other parts of the region.

These are just some of the prescribed actions that can improve stability in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the western Balkans. Their delivery should no longer be delayed.

My Lords, the tragic events in Israel and Gaza, consequent on the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas’s unprecedented attack on Israel are, sadly, an appropriately sobering backdrop against which to debate this Question before your Lordships’ House.

Before getting into the substance of my remarks, I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, whose commitment and depth of expertise both found expression in her characteristically forensic opening speech. I thank her for securing this important and timely—nay, urgent—debate.

I say that the events in the Middle East are an appropriate backdrop because the reaction in Bosnia and Herzegovina to those dreadful events has served to further exemplify the fragility of its own peace. In the city of Mostar, the Palestinian flag is raised above the Old Bridge in the predominantly Bosniak eastern section of the city, while support for Israel is increasingly vociferous in the western, predominantly Croatian, side. The chairwoman of the Council of Ministers, who unequivocally condemned Hamas violence, was publicly rebuked by the chairman of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s tripartite presidency for “carelessly” and “selfishly” failing to explain the historical suffering which, in his view, partially justified the actions of Hamas. These are senior members of a single, fragile polity.

The ease with which divisions on this question can be mapped on to the ethnic and civilisational division within Bosnia and Herzegovina is worrying. It should make us all consider how we can avoid ethnic conflicts in other geopolitical spheres being weaponised as proxies for regional frustrations. In the western Balkans, history—or, perhaps more correctly, historiography—is not an exercise in retrospection but the currency of the present. Russia uses that fact to inflame division, promote anti-western narratives, propagate disinformation and weaken those institutions upon which an often-fragile peace depends.

There are other important factors, too. Both China and Russia used vaccine diplomacy very effectively in the region, exploiting the rocky start to the EU’s vaccination programme. In this context, the fact that the 2022 Balkan Barometer indicated a 6% decline in support for EU membership across the region should cause us to ask ourselves how successful we have been in counteracting not just Russian disinformation but its more conventional deployment of soft power. Of course, enlargement fatigue does play a large part in this—not necessarily an ebbing of support for EU membership in principle, but a frustration that accession has begun to feel more like a distant mirage than an approaching geopolitical fact. Although we have rather diminished our influence over the EU accession process, I urge our Government, in this regard, to do what they can to narrow the gap between aspiration and reality.

While it is true that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may weaken its capacity to foment division in the Balkans, it is equally true that it has much to gain by so doing. But a weakened Russia may also create problems in the region given the fragile equilibrium which allows peace to continue. The rapidity with which Nagorno-Karabakh receded into history last month was a direct consequence of Russia’s inability to project its power into areas where it had previously been decisive. Indeed, Armenia’s Prime Minister, just a few weeks before Azerbaijan moved to erase Nagorno-Karabakh, conceded that his country’s reliance on Russian military influence for its security was a “strategic mistake”. Although no one can expect Russian disengagement from the western Balkans, any change in its ability to project influence that results from the war in Ukraine will also reverberate throughout the region, with unpredictable consequences.

In terms of the long-term constitutional settlement in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the actions of the Bosnian Serb Republic over the last 18 months have been deeply concerning. The Bosnian Republika Srpska has gravitated towards Russia to the extent that the relationship between President Dodik and President Putin now resembles that between a pilot fish and a shark. However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, reminded us, more tangibly we have seen attempts by the Republika Srpska to de-legitimise the Dayton accords altogether; an attempt to formally annex all rivers, forests and agricultural land that fall within its territory; a refusal by the Republika Srpska to recognise the legitimacy of the high representative and any decisions made under the Bonn powers, as well as systematic attacks on press freedom. Given the gridlock that is an inevitable consequence of this hardening of attitudes by the Republika Srpska, it is perhaps no surprise that Freedom House ranks Bosnia and Herzegovina the lowest among all countries in the region in terms of the viability of its democratic institutions and democratic accountability more broadly.

When we think about the Dayton accords, it is worth recognising that while the peace they brought was, in human terms, beyond price, in political terms it has come at a heavy cost. As the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights acknowledges, the Dayton accords entrenched ethnic divisions and created a governing structure whose complexity renders it vulnerable to the aspirations of ethno-nationalists.

In the time available I have been able to touch on only one or two critical elements in the region. But we know there are tensions in several countries across the region—tensions that require constant attention if they are not to lead to violence. If we are to ensure that these frozen conflicts remain frozen and not kindled into flame by malicious external actors, the West will have to exert the same, or greater, commitment to the exercise of soft power—and to the projection of force when needed—as that exerted by our strategic adversaries. For the reasons set out by the noble Baroness in her excellent opening speech, if ever there was a time for the international community to rise to this challenge in the western Balkans, it is now.

My Lords, I had been reflecting that every other speech after that made by the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, would probably be superfluous, because she set out very clearly the comprehensive warnings that I hope the Minister can reply to in an equally comprehensive way—I am sure he will—but the other contributions to this debate have all been sober and characteristically eloquent.

The noble Baroness set the backcloth to this debate with regard to other conflicts. That allowed me to reflect that at this time last year I was in a village on the Gaza border where 16 people have been murdered over the last two weeks, and over the summer—just a few days before the outbreak of full-scale war in Sudan —I was in Khartoum. Indeed, we are living in a period of conflict and it will require, I hope, a comprehensive response from leading Governments, such as the United Kingdom’s, to put peacebuilding at the heart of our forward strategies. This afternoon, I had the opportunity to meet Andrew Mitchell to discuss the Government’s proposed White Paper on development—of which the need for peacebuilding should be a central part of the consideration. I declare that I chair the UK board of the peacebuilding charity Search for Common Ground.

The warning that the noble Baroness indicated, as reflected by the noble Lord, Lord Browne—it is a pleasure to follow his contribution—is that frozen conflicts often remain frozen with a degree of complacency and are often ignited with little warning, but the warnings have been heard today. As the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, indicated, some of the assumptions we made 30 years ago cannot be made today, such as the responsibility to protect and the concept of liberal interventionism, which we thought were being established as part of our collective foreign policies. I contributed to a book on the withdrawal from Afghanistan in which I tried to make the case that there was still going to be the concept of liberal interventionism, but it was incredibly hard to do so.

As my former noble friend, the much-missed Paddy Ashdown, indicated, Dayton was a floor, not a ceiling. As my noble friend Lord Alderdice indicated, he was very open that it could not be a static mechanism: it had to be the basis on which there would be nation-building, and the necessity of having the key characteristics of nation-building was to avoid potential areas of political cleavage. He had a great ability to spot these. I fear that those areas of political cleavage are now well established. As my noble friend Lord Alderdice said so eloquently, without constant leadership and a direction of travel that is understood by the population, there can be vacuums. We know all too well that vacuums can be filled by those who do not have the same good motives that we have. As we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, and others, Russia has deliberately sought to fund and promote disinformation, and actively seeks to disrupt good governance. That provides the basis for destabilisation. It wishes to distract our Foreign Office and our parliaments. We cannot allow that to happen.

The Minister knows well that I have been campaigning for the proscription of the Wagner Group. I welcome very warmly the Government’s move on that. I would be interested to know, because I have been following concerns that the Wagner Group had been operating in Republika Srpska and active in some of the disinformation and protests that were falsely put forward against the Kosovan leadership, the Government’s estimate of the Wagner Group’s activities in the area. Is it still active? What would the consequences of the UK proscription be for the Wagner Group in particular? Are we getting traction with other countries following our lead on that? We know that Russia will continue to move on its disruptive policies.

A number of years ago I had the opportunity of visiting the region when the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, and I served on the International Relations Committee. I went back and looked at our report. I quote from it again. The committee’s third conclusion was:

“The region still suffers from the legacy of the wars of the 1990s. Some political leaders are pursuing the aims of those wars by different, political and diplomatic, means including calls for redrawing national borders and secessionism. Any such act would be regressive, dangerous and destabilising for the region. Progress cannot be taken for granted”.

That still stands. I would be grateful if the Minister could outline the Government’s assessment of the area’s future stability. What technical support is the UK providing to the Berlin process? What support is the UK offering on technical assistance and on the disruption of organised crime, which is linked with state capture of the state organs there? There continue to be British casualties from organised crime in the Balkans and close to 160 tonnes of cocaine and heroin: according to the National Crime Agency, the largest part of the organised crime gangs producing drugs to be consumed in the UK are from the western Balkans.

These are all interconnected but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, indicated, the area seeks more support. Will the Government think again regarding active participation in EUFOR? It was a sad moment when we withdrew from it. There is an opportunity to rebuild some of those connections and rejoin actively.

We have heard that the area suffers from too much history, and in many respects too many memories, so that, as the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, said, young people wish to leave. I hope that, with the UK’s continued support and leadership in certain areas, as requested, we will be able to provide a future so that there is not a vacuum that will be filled by those with the worst motives.

My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, for introducing this debate. I also pay tribute to her ongoing work. As the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, said, we are very lucky to have her in this House and to hear her contributions. We can take pride not only in her work but in our country’s vital and historic role in securing peace in the western Balkans, but with that comes a special responsibility to support stability and democracy in the region. The horrors of the past can never be repeated, and together we must hold to account those who aim to destabilise the region’s delicate balance.

The April 2022 targeted measures to sanction Milorad Dodik and others who continue to undermine the institutions that are integral to the region’s stability are welcome. Dodik’s decision to declare rulings of Bosnia’s constitutional court, which is defined in the Dayton agreement, as non-applicable was a clear attack on the Dayton peace agreement and the constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina. What assessment have the Government made of the effectiveness of those sanctions and measures to date? What further plans do they have to work with our partners across the Balkans to exert further diplomatic pressure on those who are determined to undermine the Dayton agreement?

The Minister will know, as he constantly repeats in debates in this House, that the UK’s sanctions are the most effective tools at our disposal, but they are effective only when the designations are applied across our international allies. Can he tell us what we are doing to encourage other Governments to reflect those sanctions?

Along with other European partners, we must also continue to press for the full recognition of Kosovo by the international community, as well as for that country to take its place in institutions such as the Council of Europe. I am pleased that the United Kingdom continues to call at the UN for Kosovo’s full participation in the international system, but exactly how are we offering political support and leadership for this? How are we engaging others?

As the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, highlighted, September’s violence near the village of Banjska was a stark reminder of the dangers of escalation within Kosovo and the importance of peaceful dialogue. The EU-mediated negotiations should receive the UK’s full backing. I know that the Prime Minister spoke to President Vučić of Serbia and President Osmani of Kosovo at the European Political Community meeting earlier this month. I ask the Minister for further details on how we are supporting those bilateral meetings. Last week I had the opportunity to have dinner with Albin Kurti. I had a long discussion with him about how we can support social democratic movements in Kosovo and engagement with other multilateral institutions.

I certainly welcome the MoD’s deployment to support NATO’s Kosovo Force and note the new commitment to providing assistance until 2026. I join other noble Lords in asking what specific additional specialist equipment will be provided.

The noble Baroness, Lady Helic, opened by quoting the words of Lord Ashdown, whom other noble Lords also mentioned. I want to conclude my remarks by quoting his words in 2005, I think, reflecting on the progress in the Balkans. Paddy Ashdown told the Guardian:

“The greatest failure is that although we created institutions, we have not created a civil society”.

I know from my own work in the area, particularly with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, how important civil society groups that are not restricted to politicians and Governments are as an important ingredient of a healthy democracy. Will the Minister stress the importance of how we can continue that work? Many noble Lords mentioned what Russia is trying to do. We can counter that effectively and certainly can support civil society. I am sure he will agree that, when national Governments fail to protect the rights of their people, it is almost always civil society which stands in people’s defence.

My Lords, first, I join noble Lords in rightly praising and recognising the expertise and insights that have been brought by my noble friend Lady Helic to this debate and also her continued commitment not just on this issue but on the wider impact of the region and issues of security. My noble friend and I have had extensive discussions and debates on this. I pay tribute to her efforts, which ensure that this is at the forefront of the Government’s thinking. In this regard—I will come on to it in a moment—I had a very constructive meeting with the Minister for Armed Forces earlier today, and I will certainly pick up on a couple of my noble friend’s suggestions.

The noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, and my noble friend Lord Cormack reminded us of the history of the issues in the Western Balkans. I have said before, and I say again, that I remember visiting Bosnia-Herzegovina right at the start of my professional career, and then we saw Slovenia, then Croatia and Serbia. The war in Bosnia was etched in people’s memories. My noble friend Lord Cormack reminded us of the tragedy that remains the legacy of Srebrenica. I am proud that, over many years, the United Kingdom Government have remained one of those Governments who mark that particular event, that tragedy, the genocide that took place against the Bosnian people quite specifically, and it is right that we do so.

I assure noble Lords that the Western Balkans matters to His Majesty’s Government. Its security is critical to our security. We want to see all six countries become stable, inclusive and resilient democracies, no longer scarred by the legacy of conflict. My noble friend Lord Dundee made that comment extremely well. We want to see them making progress to Euro-Atlantic integration, which, from the Government’s perspective— I am sure noble Lords agree—is the surest route to the security and prosperity that their citizens deserve.

However, as we have seen from recent events, many remain vulnerable from within and from outside their borders. A small handful of powerful people profit from stoking ethno-nationalist sentiment and exploit vulnerabilities within their system for their own ends. Russia was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, and others. It stokes those very flames of division, plays on the local tensions and uses them as a distraction from its illegal war in Ukraine and as a way to obstruct Euro-Atlantic integration. Any return to conflict could spread across the region, with serious political and humanitarian consequences.

Several noble Lords referred to the current conflict in the Middle East and contagion. That is why I, the Foreign Secretary, and, importantly, the Prime Minister, have been engaged in ensuring that when a conflict occurs, particularly in that part of the world, there are lessons to be learned elsewhere so that we contain conflicts, because the danger of them spreading is very real. The Government share the concerns expressed by my noble friend in her opening remarks and others, including the noble Baroness, Lady Goudie, about the growing instability that we are seeing.

Turning to Bosnia-Herzegovina, the president of Republika Srpska, Mr Dodik, is escalating his rhetoric around secession. That is very clear. These threats are accompanied not just by rhetoric alone but by sustained efforts to undermine the legitimacy and authority of the state. In the same way, he continues to confront the high representative, at times almost disabling his impact and effect, whose executive powers represent the greatest challenge to Mr Dodik’s ambitions.

I share the sentiments expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, as he reflected on the important role of the late, much respected Lord Ashdown. I remember many a discussion on this issue with the noble Lord. The leadership that the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, mentioned is needed now to be able to engage in a direct manner to ensure that those who seek to divide are challenged quite directly.

Recently, we have seen Mr Dodik sign into force legislation to block decisions by the high representative and by the BiH Constitutional Court in Republika Srpska. This stands in direct contradiction to the constitutional order of Bosnia-Herzegovina as set out in the Dayton accords, a point emphasised by the noble Lord, Lord Browne, and my noble friend Lady Helic. He has also threatened directly to ban the high representative entering Republika Srpska, stating that he would be arrested and deported if he did so. Within Republika Srpska, Mr Dodik continues to tighten his grip on power. Recent legislation has reduced the space for independent media by recriminalising defamation.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, focused on civil society, and I agree with him totally. The Republika Srpska National Assembly is considering a new law that would prohibit political activity by NGOs which receive foreign funding, with troubling and disabling implications for civil society.

We also see tensions rising in Kosovo following the shocking events of 24 September. We strongly condemn the violent attack against the Kosovo police. I am sure this House’s thoughts are with the family, friends and colleagues of the fallen police officer Afrim Bunjaku. It is crucial that the full facts are established and that those responsible face justice.

The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, also talked about the importance of ensuring that we act against Russia. I have already talked about how it is seeking to distract. While it is welcome that the Serbian president has announced reduced numbers of forces near the border, the build-up in the first place sent an unwelcome and destabilising signal. Serbia needs to complete the return of its troops to their usual bases without delay, co-operate fully with the investigation and play its part to disrupt disinformation and inflammatory rhetoric.

Many noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Purvis, Lord Alderdice and Lord Collins, focused on the UK response. I agree about the importance of peacebuilding. The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, reflected on the inability of the UN today to impose itself in ensuring that peacebuilding plays a role. I have been talking on other matters with the UN leadership, including the Secretary-General, but I assure my noble friend that, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, we are working with international partners to deter further secessionist action from Mr Dodik. Alongside members of the Quint and the Peace Implementation Council, we have been vocal in condemning Mr Dodik’s actions and reiterating our firm support for the high representative.

As noble Lords mentioned, Mr Dodik is already subject to UK sanctions, and we will consider designating others who support his drive for secession. On the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Collins, it is a matter of regret that, because of pressures within the European Union, it has not followed suit. That is something that we continue to advocate for because it allows a degree of free rein for Mr Dodik.

I turn to other specific measures we have been taking. At our instigation, the Media Freedom Coalition published a statement expressing its concern at declining media freedom in Bosnia-Herzegovina and at recent legislative changes in Republika Srpska. Over 20 countries have given their support to this statement.

We are also helping to maintain a secure environment by developing the capacity of the Bosnian armed forces; I know that my noble friend Lady Helic is very much focused on that. In addition to bilateral training and donations of equipment, we have contributed £1 million to NATO’s defence capacity-building initiative. The presence of EUFOR Operation Althea remains vital to peace and security; the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, focused on this, as did my noble friend. I assure all noble Lords that we will work with allies to see the executive mandate renewed at the UN Security Council in November.

I am aware that my noble friend has written to the Secretary of State for Defence. In my meeting with the Minister for the Armed Forces I raised these issues directly. He assured me that we continue to support security and stability in Bosnia-Herzegovina and our contributions to NATO HQ, to which I have referred. We are keeping the UK position on rejoining EUFOR under review, but we have not yet formally engaged with the EU; as my noble friend is aware, this would require approval from all member states.

However, at the invitation of the Bosnian Government, I can confirm today that next week the UK will be deploying up to 80 personnel from the First Royal Anglian to train alongside the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina personnel. I emphasise that this deployment is part of our bilateral defence relationship with Bosnia-Herzegovina, not an operational deployment, but it again sends a strong signal from the UK. The deployment presents a good opportunity for capacity building and developing interoperability between UK and Bosnian forces. I know that the Secretary of State will be writing to my noble friend in response to her letter specifically.

We are taking further steps. Noble Lords mentioned the wider region, Serbia directly, the situation in Kosovo and the need to avoid further escalation. The Prime Minister reinforced this message with both President Vučić of Serbia and President Osmani of Kosovo at the European Political Community on 5 October. This will be key to moving beyond the current situation and finding acceptable solutions. We also continue to make it clear to the Serbian authorities that they need to co-operate fully with Kosovo’s investigation, now under way in co-ordination with EULEX, and fully reverse the build-up of troops. We are likewise clear with the Kosovo authorities on the need to communicate positively and effectively with citizens from minority communities.

Our engagement with the Western Balkans is not limited to addressing these immediate concerns. We have a political relationship with all six countries. Ministers from the FCDO have made over a dozen trips to the region since 2021; in the last month alone, the Minister for Europe has visited Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia, as well as Croatia and Slovenia. Most recently, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary visited Tirana for the Berlin process Foreign Ministers’ and leaders’ meetings on 6 and 16 October respectively—a key opportunity to engage with the political leadership of all six western Balkan countries.

We engage directly with the provision of troops in support of KFOR. The Prime Minister’s Special Envoy, our noble and gallant friend Lord Peach, is frequently in contact with regional Governments. In August, together with the noble and gallant Lord, I attended the Bled Strategic Forum where the future of the Western Balkans was a central theme. I spoke at the Western Balkans breakfast and had bilateral meetings with the deputy Foreign Minister of Bosnia-Herzegovina as well as meeting with the Serbian and Bosnian Foreign Ministers.

There is much happening in this area. My noble friend Lord Dundee focused on some of the economic opportunities. The UK is providing up to £14 billion for major projects through UK Export Finance, as well as looking at the current situation. We are also working with transatlantic partners. I attended an event hosted by Secretary Blinken in New York last month, during which I underlined the need for the international community to use all its tools to put the Western Balkans back on the path towards greater stability and progress.

We are undertaking several other initiatives but, in closing this debate, I assure noble Lords that we are fully committed to ensuring the long-term security, stability, sovereignty and integrity of the different countries of the Western Balkans. We are also aware of the current challenges and those forces that seek to cause further division. The Government are fully committed to the security and stability of that region, and we will continue to focus in this respect by working with our international partners, as my noble friend suggests.

We are also working directly with the Governments of the Western Balkans to build those inclusive, sustainable, democratic societies that have resolved the grievances of so many in the past. We will remain focused in this way on ensuring that the current instability is replaced by stability and that the current insecurities are dealt with by co-operation. Together, and working together, we can ensure a prosperous future for the citizens of the wider Balkans.