Former US Ambassador to NATO: The West should oppose Serbian nationalism

2023-05-31 20:15:11, Kosova & Bota CNA
Former US Ambassador to NATO: The West should oppose Serbian nationalism
Former US Ambassador to NATO, Kurt Volker

Former US ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker says the Kosovo government was wrong to act in the North without consulting the US and the EU, but adds that the West should not overlook the nationalist tendencies he says are following Serbia in the region. In an interview for the Voice of America, Mr. Volker, an expert at the Center for European Policy Analysis, calls on the Kosovo government to take measures to reduce tensions, but says that the United States and the European Union must also commit to repelled efforts that risk eroding Kosovo's sovereignty. Colleague Keida Kostreci talked with Mr. Volker.

VOA: Ambassador Volker, what is your opinion about the recent tensions in the North of Kosovo and the escalations there?

Kurt Volker:First I must say that it is a very dangerous condition. We have seen many times in the past how ethnic nationalism has erupted into open conflict in the Balkans. Such a thing must be prevented at all costs. Bearing this in mind, I think that the actions of the Kosovo police were excessive. They should have acted with more discretion. But on the other hand, we must understand that the reason why it all started was Serbia's several years of nationalist activity in Kosovo, in Bosnia, in Montenegro and in Serbia itself, and there was no attempt to stop it. I think that this created a situation where Kosovo felt that its sovereignty was being eroded. The refusal of the Serbian community (in Kosovo) to participate in local elections, the efforts to create the Association of Municipalities with the support of Serbia,

Under these conditions, the solution is more commitment from the United States, from the European Union, which must repel these nationalist tendencies and must focus efforts on creating stability and economic growth and development for all.

Voice of America: The American Secretary of State directly blamed the government of Kosovo for "forcibly entering the municipalities", stressing that the actions were taken without consulting the United States. Do you think that the government of Kosovo should have been more prudent and considered the possible consequences before taking those steps?

Kurt Volker: First, the close relationship with the United States is vital for Kosovo. It was therefore rash and imprudent on their part to take these actions without consulting the United States. And I think that is reflected in Secretary Blinken's statement. At the same time, I think the statement overlooks part of the responsibility of the US and the European Union for failing to control some of these Serbian nationalist actions over time, which was also the reason that irritated Kosovo.

So, from Kosovo's perspective, it was a combination of factors. However, it is important that Kosovo takes steps to reduce tensions, work with the international community, because it will not be in a more favorable situation to face Serbian nationalism by acting alone, than if it works with the community international.

Voice of America: However, from the interviews and statements of Prime Minister Albin Kurti, it seems that he is not taking a step back, but is emphasizing that in the face of a regime like that of Serbia, the government will not back down and will defend its democracy. Are these statements constructive?

Kurt Volker: I understand his point of view, as well as the fact that it is politically important for him not to appear weak. But at the same time, I think that he and the Kosovo authorities in general should find a way to defuse the situation, to return to cooperation with the US and the European Union, while simultaneously insisting that the international community undertake a a more powerful role than it has played so far in the repulsion of nationalist actions.

I think it is also important that the United States also make efforts to de-escalate, so that the situation does not get even worse.

VOA: The US ambassador to Kosovo, Jeff Hovenier, said that in response to Kosovo's stance, NATO canceled Kosovo's participation in the Defender 23 exercise. Do you think this was an appropriate response?

Kurt Volker: I think it's a matter of judgment. It is clear that the government of the United States is unhappy with the government of Kosovo and they wanted to do something to express this dissatisfaction. I think that because of the way Kosovo acted, without directly consulting the United States, the US is trying to take a stand. Personally, I think that we should support the independence and sovereignty of Kosovo, advise them to take a step back, calm down, not escalate the situation and maintain a more balanced attitude regarding the role that nationalism is playing in the region in these moments.

Voice of America: Given how tough this American stance was, how much do you think the relationship between the two countries that both sides considered special has been damaged?

Kurt Volker: I guess I would characterize the current situation as frustration and nervousness. I hope that the situation will get back on track./ VOA

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