Representative Eliot L. Engel has slammed the U.S. administration’s “heavy-handed tactics” used with Kosovo’s government of Albin Kurti, and based on US legislation has called for sanctions on Serbia over arms purchased from Russia.
“Strong-arming a small democracy is the act of a bully, not a mature partner,” Engel stated.
Engel is Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs an Co-chair of the Senate Albanian Issues Caucus.
“Rather than letting a new government facing a pandemic, staff its agencies and set up internal procedures, the U.S. contributed to a political crisis in Prishtina over the tariffs on Serbia,” he said.
Engel further stated that although tariffs are hurting Kosovo’s economy more than providing it with a leverage toward Serbia, they “are a legitimate tool of a sovereign nation”, also vastly used by President Trump “against friends and foes, alike, for economic and political reasons.”
In an interview aired on Friday, President Trump’s Special Envoy for the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue downplayed the U.S. pressure on the Kurti government, insisting that the only rationale behind it was to improve Kosovo’s economy and create new jobs for young people.
Engel pointed at the “decidedly unbalanced” pressure imposed on Kosovo’s government by the U.S administration.
PM Kurti had also urged the US and EU to pressure Serbia over its undermining of Kosovo’s statehood, after he decided to gradually lift tariffs on Serbian imports. However, the Serbian government vowed not to stop the campaign until a deal in reached between the two countries.
Four days later the US administration increased its pressure on Kurti to unconditionally lift the tariff by pausing assistance by one of its aid agencies, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).
Engel reminded that not only is Serbia continuing its lobbying for derecognitions, but it’s also deepening relations with Russia and purchasing Russian weaponry. He called for sanctions against Serbia based on US legislation.
“In fact, under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) passed by Congress in the aftermath of Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, these arms purchases require the Administration to impose sanctions on Serbia. Neither have we imposed those sanctions, nor have we energetically pressed Serbia to end its derecognition efforts.”
Engel called on the U.S. administration to rebalance its approaches toward Kosovo and Serbia, in collaboration with European countries. He asked for the U.S. aid agency MCC to immediately restart its assistance to Kosovo.