European Western Balkans

Appointment of Richard Grenell: A signal of support for border change?

Ambassador Richard Grenell; Photo: Wikimedia Commons

WASHINGTON / BELGRADE – According to some interpretations, the appointment of Richard Grenell as United States Special Envoy for Belgrade-Pristina dialogue is a good news for the supporters of the idea of border change. Matthew Palmer will continue to be responsible for “bringing the region closer to the West”, announced the State Department.

In a statement for N1, foreign affairs commentator of the Politika daily Boško Jakšić pointed at the closeness between Grenell and, until recently, Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton.

“Ambassador Grenell is known for close ties to John Bolton, who was one of the first to support to the idea of demarcation, land swap, border change, however you want to define it, and this is an idea that is close to President Vučić’s heart, so, at this moment, both Vučić and Thaçi can be satisfied with the appointment of Grenell”, assessed Jakšić.

US media reported last week that Richard Grenell was appointed to the position of US President’s Special Envoy for Belgrade-Pristina negotiations, receiving a mandate for peace negotiations.

According to the Washington Times, Grenell, US Ambassador to Berlin, will keep that position and simultaneously help in decreasing tensions between Serbia and Kosovo.

In August, State Department named Matthew Palmer as United States Special Representative for the Western Balkans. He singled out a re-launch of Belgrade-Pristina dialogue as one of his priorities.

State Department announced for Radio Free Europe that the United States recognizes the historical possibility for Kosovo and Serbia to achieve an agreement on normalisation of their relations.

“The decision of the President to appoint the Envoy for peace negotiations underlines the commitment of the United States to peace, stability and prosperity for the people of Serbia and Kosovo”, the announcement reads.

It also stressed that Matthew Palmer will continue to work on getting the region closer to the West, cooperating with the governments on the improvement of reforms, helping them to overcome the problems preventing their European and Euro-Atlantic integrations.

Matthew Palmer; Photo: Tanjug / Rade Prelić

Deutsche Welle reports that Grenell, US Ambassador to Berlin, is seen as Trump’s confidant, a blunt diplomat without reservations when it comes to interfering in German politics.

Journalist of DW Nemanja Rujević assessed for N1 that this political profile is what qualified Grenell for the position of Special Envoy.

“He is probably a man that will put his foot down, where Matthew Palmer perhaps will not. However, it is completely unclear why there was a need for appointing Grenell, when Palmer was already appointed by the State Department. My guess was that those were two competing steps and not, as Washington claims, that they will be working together”, thinks Rujević.

Voice of America also reported that Grenell’s mandate in Berlin was controversial from day one. He caused criticism of the German government by demanding that German companies should cease doing business with Iran, and that Germany should by American instead of Russian gas.

His appointment also caused significant attention in the Western Balkans.

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.

On the other hand, President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić announced a meeting with Grenell, while some media report that the discussion already took place. The details remain unknown to the public.

Finally, European Union sees Grenell’s appointement as a welcome assistance but emphasises that it is not unfamiliar who is facilitating the dialogue.

“United States and the European Union share the common interest when it comes to stability and progress of the Western Balkans. This is why we hope that the close cooperation with the United States will continue”, said EU Spokesperson Maja Kocijančič for Tanjug.

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