Increased travel access to the EU for Kosovar citizens remains an interesting sidebar to the upcoming Washington meeting between recently re-elected Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo President Hashim Thaci due to take place June 27.
Although Kosovo appears to have met the stated EU conditions for visa regime liberalisation, the failure to deliver on Brussels’ commitment has remained a lingering problem; many observers assume it is an incentive being held in reserve for Pristina if it signs up to whatever EU-sponsored peace deal eventually emerges, but will not automatically apply in connection with the current Trump Administration initiative.
Tweetstorm reveals hard feelings
A mini-tweetstorm June 19-20 between the European Union’s Rapporteur for Kosovo Viola von Cramon, and American Special Presidential Envoy for Serbia and Kosovo Peace Negotiations Richard Grenell highlighted the fact that the EU’s visa liberalisation decision remains a political football.
Von Cramon initially stated at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Southeast European Co-operation Process (SEECP), held online, that she hoped the upcoming German Presidency of the Council of the European Union, starting in July, would move the visa liberalisation issue forward. She said “It is unfortunate for the visa liberalisation process for Kosovo. I have lobbied a lot for this issue. There is much hesitation as to whether the criteria have been met in many reputable issues such as organised crime in Kosovo. It is not a technical issue, but there is no clear reason why the visa regime is still not being lifted.”
She continued “I hope that with the taking of the Presidency by Germany, visas will be given to Kosovars. It is discrimination and we cannot promise what we cannot do. This frustration is also felt by many of my colleagues in Parliament, particularly in Berlin, but also in many other capitals. I am quite optimistic that the German presidency will accept this situation.”
Grenell, apparently energized by recent interviews he had given in the US and abroad on the upcoming White House meetings and the potential for a Belgrade-Pristina deal, took aim at von Cramon’s statements, challenging the EU to move faster on visa liberalization. He also attempted to blame former National Security Advisor John Bolton for the perception that the US side somehow supported a territorial exchange arrangement as part of a Belgrade-Pristina deal, something Grenell has strenuously denied and the EU strongly opposes.
He tweeted on June 19: “Viola, instead of criticising everything the Trump Administration does to help normalise the economies of Kosovo and Serbia, why don’t you concentrate on the one thing you were supposed to do: visas for Kosovo. You’ve been complaining about others for 20 years. Do your part!”
Von Cramon initially replied: “Interesting. Were there any results from his last „deals“#lufthansa #railway #aviation agreements? Could not find any.” This was a reference to the agreements to improve air and ground links between Serbia and Kosovo that Grenell brokered and announced with great fanfare in January and February.
Another von Cramon reply, which came slightly later the same day, said: “Sure. But as you know it’s unfortunately up to the @EUCouncil and not to the @Europarl_EN to finally decide on VisaLib for #Kosovo. So they must give the green light. But nevertheless what came out of the #aviation and #railway agreement between #Kosovo & #Serbia?
And finally on June 20 after the tweetstorm expanded and new parties entered the fray, von Cramon expanded her arguments in another tweet: “As I explained to @RichardGrenell it’s up to @EUCouncil to decide on this matter. Unfortunately. But if you guys want to play a constructive role here pick up the phone &ask @EmmanuelMacron why he is so reluctant on granting VisaLib to Kosovo. You’ll be surprised by his answer.”