The appointment of Matthew Palmer as the US special envoy to the Western Balkans proves how much it is important for the American diplomacy that Kosovo and Serbia reach a long-lasting solution, a retired US Army General Ben Hodges has told the Voice of America (VOA) on Thursday, adding Belgarde and Pristina leaders should have some economic incentives to offer to their peoples “immediately” to persuade them that a solution they will reach is for their benefit.
He added that “the things in the Balkans will not get better on its own.”
Hodges, who took part at the annual conference of the Washington-based Centre for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) praised the US efforts to contribute to the solving of not only complicated relations between Kosovo and Serbia, but to the stabilisation of the broader region including Bosnia and Herzegovina, and to the empowering North Macedonia’s path to the European Union.
“Palmer’s appointment is important first of all because it presents how seriously America treats the region. When the US sends it special representative, it’s a message to all sides that we want to help in solving problems,” the General said.
According to him, the whole Western Balkans region was significant as “a part of the great powers competition.”
“I believe that Moscow is doing everything to keep the region unstable. It is not interested in any stabilisation. The US has to engage undoubtedly. The situation won’t improve on its own,” Hodges said.
Regarding Kosovo, he said that presidents Aleksandar Vucic and Hashim Thaci should be provided negotiating space without either internal or external pressure.
Commenting on rumours that Washington prepared some economic arrangements for both Serbia and Kosovo, the General said Vucic and Thaci needed a real economic incentive they could offer to their peoples immediately as a proof that a successful outcome of the dispute would lead to a better life and higher living standard.
“In the meantime, Vucic’s and Thaci’s failure to reach an agreement so far only empowered anxiety about the diplomatic stagnation, political radicalism and regional instability,” the General told VOA.