Despite historic tensions, Serbia and Kosovo have taken courageous steps to normalize economic relations. On September 4, the two countries signed agreements, brokered by the United States, finalizing commitments to cooperate on a broad range of economic issues.
During the signing ceremony at the White House, President Donald Trump said the decision by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti to work together has made the region and the world safer.
“After a violent and tragic history, and years of failed negotiations, my administration proposed a new way of bridging the divide. By focusing on job creation and economic growth, the two countries were able to reach a major breakthrough…We’re very proud of these two great leaders and for getting this done. And their people are very proud of them, maybe more importantly. It’s historic.”
Following the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s and the subsequent Balkan wars, Kosovo broke from Serbia and declared its independence in 2008, a status Serbia has refused to recognize. Over the past 20 years, Western efforts to broker a comprehensive political normalization agreement between the two countries remained elusive. President Trump’s Special Envoy to Serbia and Kosovo Richard Grennell said President Trump was determined to break the stalemate:
“What President Trump did from the very beginning is say: Let’s show them how to develop [economically], how to take industries and grow them. Let’s flip it. Let’s figure out how to do economics first. And let’s see if the concentration on economics and job creation can unstick the political stuff. That remains to be seen.”
The U.S.-brokered economic normalization agreement between Belgrade and Pristina seeks to increase economic growth and job creation, and demonstrate the tangible benefits of cooperation. The historic agreement also opens up border crossings and encourages Serbia and Kosovo to recognize each other’s diplomas and licenses.
In addition, Serbia and Kosovo are participating in the growing movement toward peace in the Middle East. Kosovo and Israel have agreed to normalize ties and establish diplomatic relations; Serbia has committed to moving its embassy to Jerusalem -- key steps in strengthening ties between European and Middle Eastern countries.
At the White House, President Trump acknowledged Serbia and Kosovo’s “deep seated” feelings from the past, but he predicted a brighter future: “I think they’re going to have a tremendous relationship. And the economic is going to bring them together.”