Hill: Serbia should help neighbors overcome historical legacy and mistrust in the Open Balkan

Kristofer Hil
Source: Kosovo Online

The US Ambassador to Serbia, Christopher Hill, assessed that the Open Balkan initiative was extremely important as it contributed to economic development and better relations in the region. In this context, he emphasized that Serbia bore the greatest responsibility as the largest country in the Western Balkans and must help its neighbors overcome historical legacies and a lack of trust, RTS reports.

Hill stated that the Open Balkan allowed companies to develop their businesses and expand into new markets.

"I can say that the Open Balkan and the concept of the Open Balkan and better relations in the neighborhood are extremely important. From a business perspective – if you open a factory in a country, you might want the market for that factory to be larger than that country and cover more countries. I think the idea of the Open Balkan and the Berlin Process are similar initiatives. That is, if you have a factory, markets of more countries should be open to you, your trucks shouldn't be standing at borders waiting to get a stamp on a piece of paper; they should just be able to pass through", Hill noted.

When asked to compare the Open Balkan with the Berlin Process, Hill stated that any integration project facilitating and accelerating regionalization was a good idea.

"I believe that Serbia has a special responsibility in this, as it is large compared to some other Balkan countries. I think Serbia must help some of these countries overcome historical legacies and a lack of trust. Once this is done, and I am confident it will happen, I think this initiative will be beneficial not only for Serbia but for all its neighbors", Hill said.

Hill emphasized that interest in investments in Serbia was growing, considering that Serbia would eventually become an EU member.

"I know that many Serbs are worried about whether this will ever happen, but US companies believe that Serbia will be in the European Union. And when you look at the map, which is important for everyone, you will see that Serbia is in a very good position. If you build a factory here, you are very close to the European Union, and soon you will be in the European Union. I think Serbia's position is very important. Another thing is that Serbia is known for a very skilled workforce, especially in terms of technologically literate young people", the US Ambassador assessed.

He noted that the US IT sector was quite interested in investing in Serbia as a result.

He expressed confidence that the cooperation between Serbia and the United States would only strengthen over time, regardless of geographic distance.

"The United States invests in many different places. We have a lot of investments around the world. I think US companies look at whether a country has a future, and whether it has laws and procedures. Stability and clear rules of the game are necessary for businesses to operate. Serbia has made a lot of progress in this area, and I think US companies see that. The exchange figure of four billion will grow in the future, and I think the United States will become a major investor in this country", Hill emphasized in an interview for RTS.

In response to the observation that the impression among the Serbian public is that US money always comes with some political cost and the question of whether there are any political conditions for investments, such as the implementation of the Ohrid Agreement or Kosovo's UN membership, Hill states that US companies do not impose political conditions.

"These are not state-owned companies; they are private companies. I think you will see that US companies have very diverse boards of directors, and their members, as managers of the companies, want to know why they are investing in a particular country. 'We heard there are problems there; we heard that the country has issues with its neighbors...' These are the kinds of questions they ask", he says.

He emphasizes that such questions from US entrepreneurs should not be seen as conditionalities but rather as a desire to know that the place will be peaceful, and they won't have to explain to their shareholders and boards of directors why their expectations were not met.

"It has nothing to do with conditioning; it's good business practice", Hill pointed out.