Hovenier: Deteriorated partnership relations between the US and Kosovo

Džefri Hovenijer
Source: Kosovo Online

Ambassador of the United States in Pristina, Jeffrey Hovenier, stated today that the relations between the US and Kosovo had been strained due to the refusal of Albin Kurti’s Government to consider Washington's concerns regarding the implementation of the Central Bank of Kosovo (CBK) regulation prohibiting the use of the dinar.

He reiterated the request for the implementation of the decision regarding payment transactions to be postponed.

"I deemed it important to seize this opportunity to ensure that there is no misunderstanding regarding the US concerns about the implementation of the CBK regulation. The message from the US Assistant Secretary of State James O'Brien earlier this week was clear, my message was clear, and the message from the US Ambassador to the UN was clear. The US is very concerned about the way the CBK regulation has been implemented. We have expressed this concern publicly as well as privately," Hovenier emphasized in a statement to journalists.

He emphasized that the US did not interfere in how Kosovo regulated its financial sector or what measures it took to reduce the risk of financial crime, nor in Kosovo's Constitution or the authority of the CBK.

"But we have repeatedly called on the government to postpone the implementation of the regulation because much preparatory work is needed to prevent adverse effects on the affected population. We specifically requested two things. One is the need for a procedure that would allow Serbia to transfer funds in accordance with the CBK regulation and in compliance with European standards. Establishing such procedures requires dialogue. We call on Kosovo and Serbia to engage constructively on this matter. Until then, transitional solutions are necessary to enable Serbia to continue providing funds for social services, such as pensions, assistance to single parents, social welfare, healthcare, and the education system. So far, there have been no efforts to do so," Hovenier said.

He noted with regret the tone in which O'Brien spoke about the relationship with Kosovo.

"He called on Kosovo for partnership on this issue and expressed regret that Kurti’s Government had not responded to the demands and concerns of the US. He made it clear that if Kurti continued to treat the US as a partner, it raised questions about how much Washington could consider this government a partner," the US Ambassador stated.

He noted that after O'Brien's messages, there had been assessments that the partnership had not been compromised and that such messages did not reflect the true state of affairs, which, he said, was not accurate.

"That's not the case. As O'Brien said, this situation has already affected the quality of the partnership between the two governments. Anyone saying otherwise misinterprets what we have said. We have sought ways to assist the affected population," Hovenier emphasized.

He pointed out that Serbia must be involved in finding a solution, and this could only be done within the framework of dialogue mediated by the EU.

"We said it, the EU said it, as did many members of the UN Security Council. My government has been clear; we sought a postponement of the regulation's implementation, and that is our stance. I hope the Kosovo Government will consider our request," Hovenier reiterated.

Asked about possible consequences, Hovenier said that a State Department spokesperson had been asked such a question yesterday, who said he was not in a position to discuss specific measures, just as he could not do so today.

"But O'Brien expressed hope that Kurti would engage as a partner to resolve this issue together and not take unilateral actions. We are concerned, I wouldn't say frustrated, that he has not done so. It is very rare in the UN Security Council for a US representative to criticize actions taken by the Kosovo Government, and that has now happened. It's rare for an assistant secretary of state to criticize Kosovo," the ambassador added.

Hovenier emphasized that O'Brien had a very important role.

"When negotiations were underway for the Dayton Agreement on behalf of the United States, it was Richard Holbrooke who did so, and he held the position that O'Brien holds now. He is the boss of Gabriel Escobar and my boss. When he uses such a tone with such content in an interview, it is rare and reflects a problem," he emphasized.

He expressed hope that circumstances would change.

Hovenier also stated that the United States was committed to the citizens of Kosovo, and he expected to attend the celebration of the anniversary of Kosovo's independence declaration to jointly mark everything that had been accomplished to date.

He recalled that the request to postpone the implementation of the CBK regulation was not only US demand but also of all the countries on which Kosovo relied in Euro-Atlantic integrations and accession to international organizations, and all had expressed genuine concern.

"It is not wise for the government not to respond to this concern, as is the case now," Hovenier concluded.