The new U.S. special envoy to the Western Balkans, Matthew Palmer, has criticized the European Union for delaying the start of membership talks with North Macedonia and Albania, calling it a “historic mistake” that sends “a bad message” to the region.
“We will do our best to convince the EU to change its position” before a planned leaders’ summit in Croatia in May, Palmer on November 4 told a press conference in Belgrade alongside Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.
Palmer said the United States “wants the Western Balkans to have a European perspective.”
He made the comments after the EU on October 15 failed to give the go-ahead to begin membership negotiations with Skopje and Tirana in another blow to the Western Balkan nations’ hopes of a speedy accession process.
Vucic said that Serbia wants to expand its relations with the United States while renewing an invitation to U.S. President Trump to visit the country, saying such a visit would be “a strong impetus” to bilateral ties.
Palmer’s comments came after another senior U.S. diplomat criticized “certain leaders” in the European Union for holding what he called a “19th century view” of the Western Balkans.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Balkan Service on October 31, Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Reeker said the United States was “disappointed” with the decision, taken by EU ministers on October 15.
The Serbian president on November 4 also said that normalization talks between Serbia and Kosovo could resume “in two to three months.”
Washington has intensified efforts to help relaunch the stalled talks.
The former Serbian province declared independence in 2008 — a move never recognized by Belgrade, its traditional ally Moscow, and five EU member states. It is recognized by more than 110 countries, including Kosovo’s close ally, the United States.