Deputy Assistant Secretary of the United States Gabriel Escobar said today that the current Montenegrin Government would have the U.S. support as long as it remained democratic and focused on its European future.

Participating at the 11th 2BS Forum, Escobar said that the only solution to the tensions in the Balkans is a European membership for all the countries of the region.

We have always believed that the key to stability of this region is its EU membership, he said. Even though he believes that the U.S. politics towards the region has not changed through any of the administrations and that they all have a goal to implement the rule of law, fight corruption, and develop democratic institutions, he announced, however, an increased presence and commitment of the Unites States to the region, including a clear focus of the President Biden himself.

Answering to the question on how the United States can help the Balkan countries to achieve stability, he said that the United States had a big package in the region that was aimed at helping countries make the gains.

We use every opportunity at the high level to encourage our European partners to accelerate the Balkans’ integration process, the region of tremendous potential. Commenting on Russia’s interference in the internal affairs of Montenegro, Escobar said that the United States would respond diplomatically and politically in working to isolate those forces that really do not want a sovereign and democratic Montenegro.

He makes a distinction between pro-Russian and pro-Serbian forces. Pro-Serbian forces in Montenegro should recognize that Montenegro needs to be democratic, independent, sovereign, and West-focused, and remain part of NATO, Escobar said, adding that for those parties that are working to undermine those aspect of Montenegro, which has been a success over the last 25 years, the United States have a lot of ways to respond, some of those are sanctions, political isolation, and engagement with those who have the capacity to isolate such parties in Montenegro as well.

He confirmed that at the latest NATO Summit, though unofficially, there were concerns that it was dangerous to share all information with the new Government in Podgorica, adding that the concerns are real and that they should be taken very seriously by the Montenegrin people. NATO has a mechanism on which he can share or withhold information, but every government should be aware that this is something that weakens the government and the country.

Escobar agrees that the current situation in the Balkans is a lot similar to that of the 90s when ethnic tensions were sprouted and when there were lots of people who wanted to create political opportunities for themselves through these tensions. When you look at all of the positive things that have happened in the Balkans from the Dayton through last month, everything in that period and everything positive and everything dynamic is happened through European and American partnership, he said.

Therefore, we say to our European partners to accelerate the integration process; that is the reason way the Balkans have always been a big part of our agenda with Europe when we speak to them, Escobar said. He is convinced that Europe would understand the enormous potential of the Balkans and that three years from now, this region would become more prosperous.