Daniel Korski

Balkan promises still to keep

Balkan promises still to keep
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One of the many areas that the Conservative Party took a very different line from Labour was on the Western Balkans. William Hague travelled to the region, frequently asked questions in Parliament and had the war-torn region written into the Coalition Agreement as a government priority.

Seven months into the government's mandate, how has Britain's Balkan policy changed? How has Britain been able to affect things for the better?

The answer is a tad disappointing. There are no more British soldiers or diplomats in the region than there were before the election. Reconstruction funds are slated to decrease. At the Sarajevo Summit earlier this year,  the Foreign Secretary had the choice to push for a more forward-leaning EU position to encourage the region to reform - but did not go out of his way to do so.

If all was well in the region this might not matter. But things are not as well as they could be. Post-election, Bosnia looks as divided as it has ever been. No EU envoy has been appointed despite talk earlier in the year that the UK wanted a heavy-hitter for the post. Kosovo faces new elections and remains in a fragile situation. Prospects for a deal with Serbia are slim.

Macedonia is run increasingly for Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's benefit, rather than the country's progress. And while Albanians were granted visa-free access to the EU last week, in recognition of the government's rule-of-law reforms the European Commission lambasted the government for its lack of democratic reforms. Ministries, Parliament and other key bodies are seen as under-developed and controlled by the governing party.

There are bright spots. William Hague deserves a lot of personal credit for bringing Serbia closer to a negotiated settlement with Kosovo. But for an area that the Tory party itself highlighted as one their foreign policy priorities - and therefore presumably would not mind being measured against - progress is limited. Luckily, there is still time to change.