Photo from the archives: US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Gabriel Escobar attends a joint press conference in Skopje, North Macedonia, 6 December 2021. Photo: EPA-EFE/GEORGI LICOVSKI

Escobar: We do not want a Republika Srpska in Kosovo

On Thursday, Derek Chollet, Senior Advisor of the US Department of State, and Gabriel Escobar, Washington’s envoy for the Western Balkans, reported to the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the United States Senate.

One of the topics discussed was the establishment of the Association of Municipalities with a Serbian Majority in Kosovo, which is part of the Brussels Agreement between Kosovo and Serbia. Gabriel Escobar expressed his opposition to the Association becoming a “Republic of Serbia” and emphasized the need for it to be in line with Kosovo’s Constitution.

“We would like to use the Association to unwind what Serbia is doing in the Northern Kosovo and put it under Kosovan structure, that they control and that is under Kosovan law”, he declared.

Escobar reported that EU member states also expect the implementation of the Association because it is a legal obligation and that ‘there is no getting around the ASM for Kosovo to move closer to the European Union”.

Derek Chollet echoed the significance of this issue and expressed concern over the lack of implementation by both sides. He mentioned discussions with the European Union and their shared commitment to seeing the agreement implemented.

“We are not seeing the implementation of this agreement by either side. It is something that my colleague, Escobar, has focused on and had the opportunity to talk with Borrell from the European Union as well. Even the EU is focused, that’s why we are committed to the implementation of the agreement by both parties… We must start to see the implementation of this agreement”, said Chollet.

Another topic discussed was the Open Balkans, a joint initiative of Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia, which aims at the free movement of people and goods between the participating states.

Escobar stated that the US supports the Open Balkans but with conditions.

“We support the Open Balkan and we support the common market as much as we support the Berlin Process. We will continue to watch them carefully”, he declared.

While Kosovo, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina have not officially joined, representatives of Bosnia have attended meetings as guests. He emphasized the need for it to be open and equal for all participants.

“Open Balkan is one of the many economic opportunities. […] Our position in the Open Balkan is that it should be complementary and not competitive with all the other initiatives that are bringing it closer to Europe. Our condition for supporting the Open Balkan as part of the other initiatives is that it be open to all of them [countries] equally as full members,” he said.

“It would require Serbia to accept Kosovo as a full member and unfortunately a lot of other initiatives, including European ones caveat Kosovo’s participation. So for us this is an opportunity to create further integration of Kosovo”, concluded Escobar.

Derek Chollet acknowledged the potential benefits of such an initiative.

19/05/2023 - 11:30

19 May 2023 - 11:30

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