Former US President Donald Trump said in Thursday that the agreements between Kosovo and Serbia he brokered during his last year in the White House should be implemented, while his former Balkan envoy, Richard Grenell, called on Joe Biden’s administration to become “more aggressive” in his leadership towards the region.
Highlighting the agreements on economic normalization brokered between the two sides, Trump said in a statement posted on his official website that “the great people of Serbia and Kosovo have overcome tremendous obstacles in their pursuit of economic normalization.
“The agreements my administration brokered are historic and should not be abandoned, many lives are at stake. The region is too important and the people have waited too long for this work to be cast aside,” Trump said.
The statement comes as his former envoy to the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, Richard Grenell, tours the region.
In the statement, Trump referred to Grenell as “my envoy” – a reference which drew criticism from the White House.
“Donald Trump is no longer President and doesn’t have any ‘envoy ambassadors’ representing the United States,” Bloomberg quoted a White House statement as saying.
After visiting Albania, Grenell visited Kosovo and now is in Serbia on a mission “to find economic opportunities” for the region.
On Thursday, he visited the Kosovo-Serbia crossing point of Merdare, where he highlighted the economic agreements that the US mediated and called for their implementation.
Trump appointed Grenell, then US ambassador to Germany, as his special envoy for the stalled Kosovo-Serbia dialogue in October 2019.
Instead of focusing like the EU on political relations, Grenell’s main focus was on economic development. In January 2020, Trump announced an agreement between Kosovo and Serbia on restoring air traffic for the first time in 21 years, which he called “another win”. One month later, Grenell witnessed Kosovo and Serbia official signing another agreement on resuming rail services.
But the biggest agreement came in September, two months before US Presidential elections, when the Kosovo and Serbia leaders, under the auspices of Trump himself, met in the White House and signed an agreement on economic, energy and political issues.
Speaking from Merdare on Thursday, Grenell voiced his frustration that the agreements have not been implemented.
“I come here because we are frustrated. Former Trump administration officials and many American people are frustrated because we saw the historic economic agreement, four economic agreement that were negotiated for the people of Kosovo and for the people of Serbia. This was not done for the government, this was not political. It was solely for economic development,” Grenell said, referring to economic pledges signed between Pristina and Belgrade during 2020.
“There is this idea in this region of a perceived conflict… Many westerners think that there is hostilities going on and they think that there is a conflict going on. What ends up happening is businesses don’t move here because of a perceived conflict,” he added.
Grenell also criticized the European Union, and urged Brussels to take “more action” when it comes to the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue.
“I got criticized a lot when I was in government because they said I did not include the Europeans. That was one of criticism but that’s not true. I included the French and Germans, I briefed them constantly… My idea was to brief French and Germans and then let them go to Brussels [and ask] for more action,” Grenell said.