“The Committee on Armed Services of the House of Representatives to the US Congress approved the National Defense Authorization Act for the fiscal year of 2019, which includes a section calling for the Department of Defense to continue increasing “military-to-military cooperation and engagements” in the Western Balkans region.

‘This section would authorize the Secretary of Defense to increase engagement and military-to-military cooperation utilizing authorized programs and activities under chapter 16 of title 10, United States Code, for the Western Balkans region including the Republic of Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Kosovo, and the Republic of Macedonia,’ the approved Act states.

The Committee said it is concerned about long-term stability and security in the Western Balkans, saying that ‘ethnic tensions, economic challenges, and malign outside influences’ contribute to instability.

The upcoming October elections in Bosnia were pointed out as an issue of concern.

‘Since the signing of the Dayton Accords in 1995, Bosnia and Herzegovina has maintained growth in developing democratic institutions and elections. The committee encourages the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina to promptly and effectively address their constitutional challenges and hold fair and free elections in October 2018,’ the Act states.

Concerns have also been raised over ‘the Russian Federation’s intensifying efforts to assert its influence in the Western Balkans,’ with the Committee condemning ‘Russia’s involvement in the attempted coup against the Government of the newest member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Montenegro, in October 2016.'” (N1)