Acting Prime Minister Albin Kurti has stated that U.S. envoy for the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue Richard Grenell has sided with the stronger side, Serbia, and exerted pressure on the weaker Kosovo in order to reach a quick deal discussed behind closed doors by presidents Hashim Thaçi and Aleksandar Vučić.
Kurti spoke to Foreign Policy in an interview published on Thursday:
“I think Ambassador Grenell is using the situation, utilizing the shortcut between Thaci and Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić toward a certain agreement, to facilitate it and to crown it with a fiesta as a success in the international arena for himself and perhaps this administration. So he saw this potential for a quick deal, for a quick fix between the two presidents, and he doesn’t care very much about the contents [of the agreement].
He cares about time, and he needs it fast. He is focused on the signatures at the bottom of the agreement, not on the text of the agreement. And if you want to do it fast, you pressure the weaker side. And Serbia is stronger, bigger. He doesn’t care about history. And in the Balkans, if you neglect history, it will backfire. It always comes back. I think that these kinds of quick fixes are the problem itself.”
Kurti has argued that Grenell stopped to demand Serbia to stop the derecognition campaign against Kosovo, and focused all pressure only on Kosovo to drop tariffs. This made Grenell, for the first time in the history of the U.S. administration’s approach toward Kosovo, to have an identical one-sided stance with Serbia regarding the dialogue.
“I met first Ambassador Grenell immediately after elections where we won in October last year. Back then, he said Kosovo had to lift the 100 percent tariff on Serbian goods and in return Serbia has to quit with its derecognition campaign […] Later on he went to Kosovo again in January and reiterated the same thing. But after coming back from Belgrade, he started to abandon, bit by bit, the second part—for Serbia to quit the derecognition campaign. It was just, “You [Kosovo] have to drop the tariffs.” He changed his stance for the stance of Serbia. This is something unique when it comes to the relationship between Kosovo and the United States. We always had our stance. Serbia has its own stance. The United States was meeting us halfway and usually with the potential to move forward.
I’m not saying that the United States is now equal to Serbia, far from it. This specific official has this specific stance, which is identical to that of Belgrade. And this is a first. Never, in our 30-year relationship since 1989, has an American envoy to the Balkans had an identical stance with Belgrade.”
Kurti further argued that his government wouldn’t have been ousted if it weren’t for Grenell’s pressure and promises to his coalition partner Democratic League of Kosovo, who brought a successful no-confidence vote against their own government due to Kurti’s disagreement with Grenell on when and how to drop tariffs on Serbian goods. “I think that the motor, the international motor behind the motion of no confidence, was definitely Ambassador Grenell,” he told FP.
The acting prime minister argued that the Constitution stipulates that new elections must be held when a government is voted out in a no-confidence vote. The president and the old political establishment are trying to impose the establishment of a new government controlled by them, against the will of people and the Constitution. Kurti told FP that polls show his Self-Determination Movement would win over 50 percent of votes if elections were held now in Kosovo.
The people of Kosovo are worried about a deal with Serbia based on the secret talks between Thaçi and Vučić for land swaps, with Grenell standing behind them, which “for sure will create new conflicts and new bloodshed,” according to Kurti.