WASHINGTON -- The U.S. State Department says it has appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary Matthew Palmer as the special representative for the Western Balkans with a mandate to help integrate the region into Western institutions.
In a statement on August 30, the State Department said Palmer will lead U.S. efforts to strengthen “diplomatic engagement in support of peace, stability, and prosperity in the region and focus on integration of the Western Balkan countries into Western institutions.
Palmer will continue to serve as deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, a position he has held since 2018. Previously, he was director of the Office of South Central Europe.
He is scheduled to travel to Slovenia beginning on September 1 to attend the Bled Strategic Forum and will head the U.S. delegation at the Quint Balkan Directors meeting in Brussels and attend meetings in Vienna and Podgorica, Montenegro, on September 4-10.
The Quint group consists of the United States, France, Germany, Italy, and Britain in their dealings with the Western Balkans.
Palmer's deputy assistant position at the State Department already carried responsibilities for the Western Balkans.
He visited Belgrade in June, when he urged neighboring Kosovo to drop its 100 percent tariffs on imports from Serbia, calling them “an obstacle” to the “future of the region.”
The nations of the region -- Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia – have expressed aspirations to join the European Union and NATO, with some more advanced in the process than others.
Concern about corruption in many of the countries has caused delays in accession talks with some of them, most recently Albania and North Macedonia.
But some EU leaders have expressed concerns that too many delays on the EU’s part could allow Russia, Turkey, and China to increase their influence in the region.
Palmer is a graduate of the National War College and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He speaks Serbian, Greek, and Japanese, according to the State Department.