Washington—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today made the following statement:
“To say that the United States and Kosovo have a warm and close relationship would be understating the depth of our ties. The United States led the campaign to end Milosevic’s genocidal ethnic cleansing and has been the most powerful and consistent friend of the independent and sovereign Republic of Kosovo. I’ve visited Kosovo many times and can confidently say Americans do not receive a warmer welcome anywhere else around the world.
“I’ve been proud to be a partner of Kosovo governments led by a variety of political parties. I do not take sides on who should run Kosovo. That is a decision for the people of Kosovo. I will always work with whomever they choose.
“This is why I have been increasingly concerned with the heavy-handed tactics the Trump Administration is using with Prishtina. The State Department has long called for Kosovo to lift its tariffs on Serbia. But this Administration turned to economic penalties just a few short weeks after the Kurti government took office. Rather than letting a new government facing a pandemic staff its agencies and set up internal procedures, the U.S. contributed to a political crisis in Prishtina over the tariffs on Serbia.
“There are good reasons for Kosovo to lift tariffs, mostly that they are hurting Kosovo more than they are providing leverage to reach a peace deal with Serbia. Regardless, tariffs are a legitimate tool of a sovereign nation. As such, they’ve been imposed around the world by President Trump against friends and foes, alike, for economic and political reasons.
“Rather than using overbearing tactics with a friend which relies on our support, the United States should have patiently worked with the now-outgoing Kosovo government—as it sought to work with the previous Kosovo government—to improve policies which promote prosperity and a lasting peace. Strong-arming a small democracy is the act of a bully, not a mature partner. Regardless, I will continue to work with whatever government the people of Kosovo select now and in the future.
“Moreover, the pressure imposed on Prishtina for its tariffs is decidedly unbalanced. Serbian diplomats are transiting the globe pressing countries to derecognize Kosovo, and Serbia is deepening relations with Moscow and purchasing significant amounts of Russian weaponry. In fact, under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) passed by Congress in the aftermath of Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, these arms purchases require the Administration to impose sanctions on Serbia. Neither have we imposed those sanctions, nor have we energetically pressed Serbia to end its derecognition efforts.
“Something’s wrong with U.S. policy and we need to correct it. We should start with rebalancing our approaches toward Serbia and Kosovo. We should work with our European allies to treat both countries as independent and sovereign partners, applying consistent standards to both sides as we try to restart peace talks. When U.S. law says we should sanction Serbia due to its security ties with Russia, we should.
“Additionally, the U.S. should immediately restart its assistance through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). The MCC model is based on objective, data-driven indicators and a mutually agreed upon compact between the U.S. and the recipient country. Using this assistance as a bludgeon for actions not related to MCC or its mission twists the agency into just another transactional pressure tool—precisely what it was not intended to be.”
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