Why is America Eclipsing the EU in the Balkans?

On 20 January, Belgrade and Pristina agreed to launch direct commercial flights after more than 20 years.

Direct flights were halted in 1998 when war broke out in Kosovo between ethnic Albanian insurgents and Serbian security forces. Serbia lost control of its former province after the NATO bombing in 1999 ended the ethnic conflict in which more than 13,000 people, mainly Kosovo Albanians, were killed.

Then, on 6 February the new Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, pledged to abolish the 100% tariffs on Serbian imports, an impediment to normalisation efforts between the two countries enforced by his hardline predecessor Ramush Haradinaj in 2018.

But there was more. On 15 February, the presidents of Serbia and Kosovo, Alexandar Vučić and Hashim Thaçi, announced during the Munich Security Conference deals to work on building rail and road links between their capitals.

Whereas getting them in the same room was already difficult enough until now, there are even rumours Washington wants the Serbia-Kosovo issue done and dusted this year.

There is one thing in common in all these three developments: the broker was the United States, represented by the country’s hyperactive ambassador to Berlin, Richard Grenell.

The EU had tried and failed to fix the tariffs crisis. In a typical American style, Grenell reportedly told Pristina that the US will annul its investment in Kosovo unless the tariffs are revoked. He may have said other things as well, for all we know.

One of the obvious reasons for the sudden US activism in the Balkans is Russia, which has always had appetites for the region. The other, less visible one, is Turkey, which is no longer the reliable ally the US needs in the region

The resumption of flights was hailed by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, but no similar congratulations came from the EU side. The same goes for the other breakthroughs. It really looks like the EU is jealous of America’s success in the Balkans.

On 14 February, journalists asked the Commission to comment the US successes, as there is a lot of EU money being spent in the region without any such visible results. In reply, the EU executive was on the defensive during the next 18 minutes.

The questions remain: why is the US more successful than the EU in our immediate neighbourhood? Is it because Grenell is more talented as a diplomat than Borrell or his predecessor Mogherini? Or is it because the EU only relies on soft power, while the US also uses other, more effective methods, such as blackmail of corrupt politicians?

In any case, the US is much more active on the wider Balkans these days. US pressure can also be felt in North Macedonia and even in EU member Bulgaria. In the latter, State Secretary Mike Pompeo for the first time named a corrupt official, and it is expected that more such “public designations” will follow.

One of the obvious reasons for the sudden US activism in the Balkans is Russia, which has always had appetites for the region. The other, less visible one, is Turkey, which is no longer the reliable ally the US needs in the region. Washington needs reliable allies in the corrupt Balkans – and it seems to be getting them rather easily.


Haunted March

Ferragosto, the feast of the Holy Mother of God, is a special day in Italy, and on that day, 15th August, the entire country...

Bojan Elek, Researcher At The Belgrade Centre For Security Policy

Criminals Must Remain Behind Bars

What is lacking in order for the public to believe that this is really a showdown and not just another media manipulation is the...

Marko Nicović Lawyer, Former Chief Of Police Of The City Of Belgrade

Supporters And Judges

Criminals under the guise of “supporters” are a big problem, but they’ve strengthened under the protection of part of the establishment. Testifying to this...

Vladimir Đukanović, Serbian Progressive Party MP, Lawyer

Courts Are Key

It is very important to have cooperation between the executive government and the judiciary in the segment of gathering enough solid evidence with which...


Novak Djokovic Starts His 311th Week As #1 On ATP List

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic reached on Monday the 311th week in a row as the best ranking tennis player on...

Porsche Raises Stake In Croatia’s Rimac Automobili To 24%

German sports car manufacturer Porsche increased its stake in Croatian electric vehicle developer and producer Rimac Automobili to 24%...

Continental Automotive Factory Opens In Serbia

The Continental Automotive Serbia factory was opened in Novi Sad, which will employ more than 500 workers. Representatives of Continental...

Famous World Fashion Designer Philippe Plein visits The Serbian Company Luss Textile

Serbian company Luss Textile​ is holding talks to become a supplier to German fashion group Philipp Plein, the Serbian...

Tamara Klarić And Bogdan Stevanović: A Good Idea Inspired People To Do Good Deeds

This year, Trag Foundation is presenting the 14th VIRTUS Philanthropy Award. Last year, the VIRTUS award for individual contribution...