Europeans receive excellent cooperation from the US despite their own disagreements. But their lack of unity prevents the EU from taking the larger leadership role to it aspires.
Getting American cooperation on the Western Balkans and presenting a united front enhances the ability and credibility of EU countries in promoting stability there – especially vis-à-vis Bosnian Muslims or Kosovo Albanians – and transatlantic cooperation has worked well in this regard during recent years. A second, more long-term objective is to gradually decrease US involvement in the Balkans. While officially welcomed in Washington, this objective runs counter to its impulse to keep things under American control and its scepticism about whether Europeans can handle the situation on their own.
Although cooperation has been good on Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) in 2010, Americans have disagreed with most Europeans on closing the Office of the High Representative (OHR) and replacing it with an EU Special Representative. Doing so would move BiH from international trusteeship towards greater independence and eventual EU membership. However, the failure of the Butmir constitutional reform process, launched by the US and the EU in 2009, and the murky results of the October 2010 elections, have dampened European enthusiasm. On Kosovo, the US is cooperative (800 American soldiers are part of KFOR, and a few dozen Americans even serve in EULEX, the EU’s rule-of-law mission) and supported Brussels in its successful attempt to get Serbia to tone down its UN General Assembly resolution. More generally, American officials like Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg coordinate closely with their EU counterparts when dealing with the region.
However, cooperation with the US – for example, on the reach of the EULEX mission – is hampered by the decision of five EU countries (Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Spain and Slovakia) to not recognise Kosovo’s independence. While they generally abstain rather than obstruct, their position reinforces American misgivings about letting Europeans take full leadership. Similarly, persistent Greek objections to Macedonia’s name make it impossible to move the country towards EU or NATO membership and damages EU credibility.