President Trump’s nominee for U.S. Ambassador to Albania, Ms Yuri Kim stated that attempts to change the Kosovo-Serbia borders are not helpful in keeping the peace in the Balkans.
In her hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday, Ms Kim was asked regarding the U.S. Embassy’s potential role on the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia in light of Albin Kurti’s advocating of a stronger integration between Kosovo and Albania.
In replying to Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s question, Ms. Kim argued that the U.S. should protect its investment on peace in the region, object to the change of borders, and keep a strong engagement in resolving Kosovo-Serbia issues.
Ms. Kim stated that:
“The U.S. has made tremendous investment in the region in bringing peace and working with the countries in the region to develop their capacity to stand independently, peacefully and as a team.
[…]Reverting to calls that appeal to ethnicity, as opposed to values and to respecting existing borders is not helpful.
[…] U.S. has not just one special representative but two special envoys to deal with the issue of normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia […] The administration is strongly committed to doing what it can to help resolve the issue.”
The U.S. has recently strengthened its diplomatic presence in the region, with a particular focus on an agreement between Kosovo and Serbia. In the last two months only, President Trump has appointed Matthew Palmer as the new U.S. Special Representative to the Western Balkans, as well as the ambassador to Berlin, Richard Grenell, as the U.S. special envoy for the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue. In between the two appointments, President Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton, who had stated that the U.S. “don’t exclude territorial adjustments” for a Kosovo-Serbia deal, left the White House.
The new appointments come at a time when an alleged plan supported by presidents of both countries, Alexandar Vučić and Hashim Thaçi, to reach an agreement through exchange of territories seems to have failed. Whilst the European Commission’s representative Federica Mogherini supported such agreement while facilitating the dialogue, some EU leaders, Germany’s Angela Merkel in particular strongly opposed it. Following a summit with regional leaders called by Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, Vučić declared that the land swap plan had failed.
President Trump’s nominations also coincide with opposition victory in the last snap elections in Kosovo. Lëvizja Vetëvendosje (Movement for Selfdetermination – LVV) and Lidhja Demokratike e Kosovës (Democratic League of Kosovo – LDK) political parties, who won elections and are expected to form a government led by LVV’s Albin Kurti, are both against the swap of territories.