On June 8, 2021, President Biden signed an Executive Order (“Order”) aimed at combating what his administration described as “destabilization” in the Western Balkans. This Order builds on Order 13219 of June 26, 2001 (Blocking Property of Persons Who Threaten International Stabilization Efforts in the Western Balkans), as amended by Executive Order 13304 of May 28, 2003 (Termination of Emergencies with Respect to Yugoslavia and Modification of Executive Order 13219 of June 26, 2001). In summary, the Order provides the administration with expanded sanctions authorities, including the authority to target individuals and entities whom the United States deem to be a threat to “peace and stability” in the Western Balkans.
The Order contains several mechanisms that taken together the administration hopes will allow the United States to better pursue its foreign policy objectives of promoting peace and stability in the region. First, the Order expands Balkan related sanctions designation criteria to include activities which “threaten the peace, security, stability, or territorial integrity of any area or state in the Western Balkans.” These activities include any which undermine democratic processes or institutions, those deemed to be human rights abuses, and those related to corruption. Second, the Order expands the United States’ ability to target individuals engaged in any violation of, or who have obstructed or threatened the implementation of any regional security, peace, cooperation, or mutual recognition agreement, including any framework or accountability mechanism related to the Western Balkans. This move expands the criteria to specifically include the Prespa Agreement, the Conclusions of the Peace Implementation Conference, and the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals. Third, the Order clarifies the geographic scope of the term “Western Balkans” to include all territory of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as well as the Republic of Albania.
While the administration has expressed a variety of concerns in relation to the current state of affairs in the region, as articulated in an April 26, 2021 State Department press statement, corruption seems to be one of the primary concerns of the Biden administration. According to an accompany Fact Sheet published alongside the Order, “Corruption anywhere directly damages the foreign policy, national security, and economic health of the United States and our partners and allies,” further stating that, “These forces open the door for our strategic adversaries to undermine democracy, stymie progress toward effective and accountable governance and prevent the Western Balkans region from achieving full integration into transatlantic institutions.”
While the Order clearly signals that the Biden administration is paying close attention to the state of play in the Western Balkans, at this point the Order serves as more of a warning to perceived bad actors than anything else. While the Order expands the designation criteria related to the sanctioning of individuals and entities, it stops short of imposing any new sanctions. At this point the Order simply provides the Biden administration with the tools necessary to quickly impose sanctions in the future if or when it feels such a move is necessary.
If you have any questions relating to this Executive Order or United States sanctions do not hesitate to contact an attorney at Barnes, Richardson & Colburn LLP.