EU diplomats are furious that President Donald Trump has excluded them from the talks between Serbia and Kosovo, fearing not only that EU interests will be sidelined, but also that the long-term interests of the two countries will suffer.
Three officials familiar with behind-the-scenes manoeuvres in the Balkans have said that the transatlantic rivalry ignores years of EU reconciliation efforts between the two sides, and they suspect that the focus of U.S. Special Envoy Richard Grennell is on a quick win to boost his boss’ campaign.
The EU’s withdrawal from the process now makes no sense, as the future prospects are linked to their efforts to join the block of 27 countries, diplomats said.
U.S. intervention is tantamount to a diplomatic seizure of territory previously occupied by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who initiated negotiations between the two sides and a supporter of EU enlargement in the Balkans.
But Grenell built his international reputation on what made Merkel’s government more difficult. As U.S. ambassador to Berlin until the beginning of this month, he made a special effort to put pressure on Merkel on issues ranging from defense spending, Iran and trade to German-Russian relations. It was seen by many German officials as a symbol of worsening transatlantic relations.
On Monday, Grenell announced a meeting on June 27 at the White House between former wartime enemies, while EU representative Miroslav Lajčák was on his way to Kosovo in his own attempt to start negotiations. Lajčák, the Slovak Foreign Minister who leads EU efforts on this issue, was not invited to the talks.
Competing proposals highlight the growing gap between the U.S. and Europe, which is struggling to find its place in a world where China is becoming a global superpower and traditional ties with the U.S. under Trump are worn out.
Germany and France moved forward this week with a plan for the EU to increase their joint defense capabilities just as Trump threatened to withdraw almost 10,000 U.S. troops from Germany.
Losing control of the Balkan negotiations would be a special blow to Merkel, who spent a lot of time in the region.Expert says police reform is not likely to pull US out of crisis