World Bulletin/News Desk
The European Union urged Russia on Friday not to drag the Western Balkans into its deepening rift with the West over Ukraine, reflecting concern that the region risks becoming another point of East-West tension.
The countries of the Western Balkans have their sights set on membership of the EU, but diplomats say Russia is exploiting economic hard times and pro-Russian sentiment among some Orthodox Christian Slavs to build influence in the region.
Noting "tensions" between the EU and Russia, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, on a visit to Bosnia, said it was in the interest of both "to find and develop ways of cooperation, and not of confrontation".
"For sure, it would be a good idea to keep the Western Balkans out of these dynamics and thinking, and I would expect everybody in the Russian leadership to consider this in the same way," she told a news conference.
Germany, in particular, has made clear its concern over Russia's role in the Balkans, which remains politically and economically fragile two decades after the bloody breakup of socialist Yugoslavia.
While Slovenia and Croatia have both joined the EU, expansion to the likes of Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo has been slowed by foot-dragging on reform and deep unease within the EU itself over the wisdom of further enlargement.
Western diplomats are particularly concerned at signs of creeping Russian influence in Serbia and among ethnic Serbs in Bosnia, who share Russians' Orthodox Christian faith.Last Mod: 05 Aralık 2014, 16:49