WASHINGTON – In a surprise move, President of the United States Donald Trump named US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell as a Special Envoy for Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, Voice of America reported. He is expected to carry out both responsibilities simultaneously.
Just over a month ago, Matthew Palmer was named US Special Representative for the Western Balkans, stating that the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina will be “at the top of his agenda”. EU is reportedly close to nominating its own Special Envoy for the process.
Washington Post reported that Grenell is a man of Trump’s confidence, who met with President of Kosovo Hashim Thaçi last December, when he was promised that the tariffs on goods from Serbia will be abolished.
He also participated in a Summit hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron with the Western Balkan leaders in April this year.
As a United States Ambassador to Germany, Grenell caused a number of controversies, criticizing Berlin for trade ties with Iran and insufficient defence spending, as well as stating that European right wing parties and movements should be strengthened for the right-wing outlet Breitbart news.
Grenell’s appointment caused surprise among commentators.
“If Trump names Richard Grenell as a special envoy for Serbia & Kosovo, what is the role of Matthew Palmer? Also worrying message for joint EU-US position: Grenell has a history of alienating Germany & EU as ambassador (calls in support of right/far right, for example). Not a good sign”, tweeted Professor at the University of Graz Florian Bieber.
Journalist and correspondent for the Balkans for The Economist Tim Judah called the decision “weird”.
“First the US appoints the well respected Matt Palmer who knows the region and its leaders well as Balkan envoy and now someone else with no Balkan track record or knowledge as far as we know to Serbia-Kosovo talks. Smacks of complete incoherence”, he tweeted.
Minister for the European Integration of Serbia Jadranka Joksimović stated that the appointment signals the increased interest of the United States for the resolution of the issue of Kosovo. She nevertheless said that the dialogue will continue to be facilitated by the European Union.
President of Kosovo Hashim Thaçi tweeted that he is looking forward to cooperating with Grenell so that the lasting peace in the Balkans can be achieved. He assessed that this move implies that the United States are strongly supporting Kosovo.