Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti accused Richard Grenell, US President Donald Trump’s envoy in talks between Kosovo and Serbia of being “directly involved” in overthrowing his government last month and estimates it is part of a plan to achieve a major diplomatic victory in the year of the US presidential election.
Kurti said Grenell is involved in the split between his “Self-determination” party and his coalition partner Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) of Isa Mustafa. After about 50 days in power, the Kurti’s government fell in late March after a no-confidence vote in parliament, initiated by his coalition partner, who, according to Kurti, broke under the pressure of Grenell.
Kurti told at a news conference (20.04): “My government wasn’t overthrown for anything else but simply because Ambassador Grenell is in a hurry to sign an agreement with Serbia which, in my view, is harmful because it involves territorial exchange”.
Dick R. Custin, a spokesman for Grenell, did not address the question of the Associated Press as to whether Grenell was involved in the overthrow of the Kosovo government, citing a recent comment by Grenell in Twitter, stating that “there is absolutely no talk of exchanging territories from me”.
Kurti estimated that Grenell had “deviated” the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue process and was “too interested in the signature at the bottom of the document, not the text itself”.
“What he needs is a quick deal to show that they (the US) can manage crises in the world, unlike Clinton, Bush and Obama, without any military intervention. This can be seen as a success during this electoral year (for US President)”.
Kurti strongly opposes a final deal between Kosovo and Serbia that includes a territorial swap, something politicians in both countries warned was discussed behind the scenes for two years by Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and his Serbian counterpart, Aleksandar Vucic.
“I am ready to discuss the needs of the communities, the rights of the citizens, but not the exchange of territories”, underlined Kurti.
Under international pressure, Kurti canceled 100% tariffs on Serbian goods imposed by his predecessor Ramush Haradnaj in November 2018 in an attempt to put pressure on Serbia, which has blocked Kosovo’s international recognition and has so far prevented Kosovo from joining international organizations.
Despite the abolition of 100% tariffs, Serbia continues to require Kosovo goods to be certified for quality which is why the Kosovo government will also begin to require a similar certificate of quality for Serbian goods imported into Kosovo.
Since the start of the EU-backed normalization talks in 2011, 33 documents have been signed to ensure that countries recognize each other in areas such as education, professional degrees and other areas, but Kosovo claims Serbia has failed to comply with its part of the arrangements. Kosovo recognizes diplomas from Serbian universities but Serbia does not accept degrees of graduates from Kosovo universities. This is also the case with driver’s licenses, which blocks the travel of Kosovo citizens to Serbia and leads to benefits for Serbian carriers.
Kurti insists that his government will monitor whether Serbia will lift those restrictions by June 15, and if the arrangements are not implemented, tariffs will be restored.
Meanwhile, US Special envoy to Kosovo, Ambassador Richard Grenell, said that dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina could be resumed after the 100% tariffs on Serbian goods were unconditionally abolished and the reciprocity for which Kurti insists is not sought.
Grenell says he has spoken with senior officials in Serbia and Kosovo, who have told him they are committed to building trust.
Grenell’s comment comes in response to a statement by Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, who believes tariffs and the demand for reciprocity should be dropped to boost US and EU support for Kosovo. “Next week, I will take the final constitutional steps to allow the formation of a new government with full legitimacy from the parliament, capable of fighting COVID-19 and serving the people. Tariffs and reciprocity need to be abolished to boost US and EU support for Kosovo”, Thaci wrote in Twitter.
Not all Kosovo politicians agree with Thaci’s position. For example, Veton Surroi responded to Thaci as follows: “A reckless political breakup. The top priority now is the fight against COVID-19. Negotiations require a more supportive environment, political consensus in Kosovo and transatlantic unity. At the moment, they are absent, causing instability for the people in Kosovo and the region.