Press Release

Welch Delivers Remarks on the Shared Goals of Advancing Democracy at Sarajevo Security Conference

Oct 20, 2023

Welch Calls for Security, Stability, and Prosperity in Western Balkans Amid Russian Aggression Against Ukraine

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On October 15, United States Senator Peter Welch (D-VT) delivered remarks at the Sarajevo Security Conference in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In his remarks, he recognized America’s shared goal with the Western Balkans of promoting democratic values around the world. Senator Welch urged continued collaboration amongst nations to ensure long-lasting regional security, stability, and prosperity. 

Senator Welch traveled to the Western Balkans with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chair of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation and a senior member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, as part of a Congressional Delegation to North Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina to convey continued U.S. support for its allies amid Russian aggression against Ukraine and to discuss the implications for European security in the region. The Senators also reinforced U.S. support for the Western Balkan nations on their respective democratic trajectories and encouraged their paths towards European integration.

Excerpts from the speech are included below: 

“My home state of Vermont has a strong connection [to the Western Balkans]. We’re a small state of 650,000 or so, and our Vermont National Guard, with the Balkans, has had a 30-year relationship with North Macedonia. And then, in between 1994, when you were still in the height of the troubles, and 2003, nearly 2,000 Bosnian refugees came to Vermont. And you know what? They made Vermont a better state, and I want to thank you for that.  

“Several speakers have mentioned about the importance of values, and this—your presence, our presence—is an affirmation of those values. And it’s an affirmation of the importance of living those values and what they can do to benefit us all.  

“The United States has a shared interest in Western Balkan regional stability. We’ve supported Bosnian stability initiatives in North Macedonia, Kosovo, and Bosnia among others. We know that the security of the region affects the entire continent of Europe and definitely America very much as well.  

“We are in this together.  

“A liberal, democratic system guided by shared values was reinforced and expanded after World War II, is under stress now. But that structure, it does promote civil liberties. It promotes free enterprise. And it promotes tolerance. And it has promoted security and prosperity in Europe and beyond. And democracy is always a work in progress, never without challenges. It’s complicated and it’s difficult. But that process is the best device we have to resolve conflict, to create understanding, and to build community and share prosperity.  

“Many of the challenges we face today in Sarajevo, or in Washington, D.C., or around the world are not so much due to the defects or deficiencies in democracy – quite the opposite. They are struggles against right-wing ethnonationalists trying to take control by force. Not by democratic debate. They are often self-anointed, acting like bullies and thugs. That’s the truth. And we definitely see this in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin chose to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and territory. The international efforts to defend Ukraine have reinforced our shared governing values and transatlantic alliances, including expanding NATO. It has advanced the goals of Europe and the United States.  

“We have to stick with it, and we will. We will. 

“…I believe that the future of the Balkans is with the West. And I believe that the future of Bosnia must be solidly in Europe.   

 “Whole, free, and at peace.” 

© Strategic Analysis Initiative 

© Strategic Analysis Initiative 

© Strategic Analysis Initiative 

© Strategic Analysis Initiative 

To read the full transcript of the speech, please click here