US Ambassador, Jeffrey Hovenier

Kosovo’s Euro-Only Push is Damaging Relations With US, Ambassador Warns

Ambassador Jeffrey Hovenier warned Kosovo on Thursday that the imposition of a euro-only policy, against US advice, was putting relations under a severe strain – and repeated demands for a postponement of the decision.

The United States Ambassador to Kosovo, Jeffrey Hovenier, on Thursday told journalists in front of his office that US-Kosovo relations have been affected by the recent decision to impose use of the euro as the only currency for payments in Kosovo, a move that has disturbed the international community.

Hovenier said: “There needs to be a procedure in place for Serbia to transfer funds consistent with the Central Bank regulation”, and the establishment of that procedure needs to be discussed “in the context of the EU-facilitated dialogue”.

“We look to both, Kosovo and Serbia, to engage constructively on this,” he said.

Hovenier spoke two days after US Assistant Secretary of State James O’Brien urged Kosovo to withdraw the decision. “If we are not treated as partners, we will not treat the Kosovo government as a partner,” O’Brien told Voice of America on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Albin Kurti downplayed the message when he said Kosovo’s partnership with the US “is not being compromised”. “Kosovo does not have a more important partner, ally and friend than the US,” Kurti said.

But Hovenier disagreed. “This situation has already affected the quality of our partnership between our two governments. Any suggestion to the contrary reflects a fundamental misunderstanding or misrepresentation of the importance we place on resolving this issue on the manner that is responsive to our concerns,” he said.

“We have repeatedly asked the government of Kosovo to postpone enforcement of this regulation as greater preparatory work is needed particularly with regard to the effect of the enforcement of the regulation on vulnerable members of minority communities,” he added.

The Central Bank regulation, which entered into force on February 1, despite international calls for a postponement, aims to fight counterfeit money. It enforces a euro-only policy, so banning transactions in Serbia’s currency, the dinar, which is still used daily by Kosovo Serbs, especially in the Serb-majority north.

On Monday, thousands of Kosovo Serbs held a protest in North Mitrovica against the new rule while the Central Bank announced a three-month ‘transition’ period and measures to ease implementation of the policy – which has not satisfied the international community.

Last week, Serbia’s President, Aleksandar Vucic, said Belgrade will keep paying Kosovo Serbs in dinars.

As the debate continues, the American Chamber of Commerce in Kosovo on Thursday offered three alternatives under which a solution could be found.

The first option, considered less feasible and more expensive, includes use of money transfer institutions for the transfer of funds between Kosovo and Serbia.

The second option suggests the creation of a bank account by the government of Serbia for interstate transactions with corresponding dinar-denominated accounts in Kosovo banks.

The third option includes direct transfers of funds from any bank in Serbia to any designated bank in Kosovo for distribution to the accounts of individuals. “This option simplifies the process while ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements,” the Chamber said.

15/02/2024 - 17:41

15 February 2024 - 17:41

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