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“Great Progress Is Occurring” in the Balkans, US Senator Tells VOA

Senator Chris Murphy (L) talks with VOA Albanian Service reporter Armand Mero at the U.S. Embassy in Tirana.

“The western Balkans needs an active U.S. presence,” U.S. Senator Chris Murphy told VOA in an exclusive interview at the end of a six-day tour of the Balkans.

Speaking with Albanian Service reporter Armand Mero in Tirana, Senator Murphy, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Eurasian Affairs, said that he is leaving the area more optimistic than pessimistic. He noted regional successes, such as NATO and EU membership for several Balkan nations and the normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo.

“Great progress is occurring,” said Murphy, a Democratic senator from Connecticut, and this is one of the reasons he is encouraging an active U.S. presence in the region. This is a “pivotal moment for the Balkans,” he said. “Nations want to turn towards the Euro-Atlantic community towards the Euro-Atlantic institutions”.

At the same time he acknowledged that the region still faces challenges. He said corruption and crime are deterring foreign investment in the Balkans but he added that efforts are being made to address those problems and he hoped foreign companies would take note. “I want American businesses to be here,” he said.

On the subject of the recent visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Belgrade, Senator Murphy dismissed the idea that the visit hurt U.S.-Serbian relations, but he cautioned that the U.S., the EU and the Balkans should have no illusions of Putin’s intentions in the area.

The VOA Albanian Service broadcast the interview with Senator Murphy in full, and it was carried by five TV networks in Albania. The interview was also republished by at least seven newspapers and web portals in the region.