The EU cautioned Serbia and Kosovo on Monday that they could squash their EU membership ambitions if they move their Israeli embassies to Jerusalem. The threat came as US President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement about the change left officials in Belgrade and Pristina scrambling to mitigate the potential damage.
In a shocking move last week, Trump announced that Serbia and Kosovo have agreed to normalize economic ties as part of a US-mediated discussions that involve Belgrade moving its embassy to Jerusalem, as well as a shared recognition between Israel and Kosovo.
The development surprised the European Union, who is also heading complex discussions between Serbia and its former territory of Kosovo with regards to improving their tense relations. Meanwhile, Serbian officials seem to be distancing their commitment to Trump, as Kosovo is seeking to calm concerns among other Muslim countries.
The EU’s policy is that the status of Jerusalem should be solved between Israel and the ‘Palestinians’ as part of a broader peace deal, and that Serbia — as a candidate to join the EU — must respect that.
“There is no EU member state with an embassy in Jerusalem,” European Commission spokesman Peter Stano said. “Any diplomatic steps that could call into question the EU’s common position on Jerusalem are a matter of serious concern and regret.”
In the midst of his campaign,Trump also announced that Serbia committed to opening a commercial office in Jerusalem this month and will move its embassy there in July. The Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital back in 2017 and moved its US embassy there in 2018.
Meanwhile PM Netanyahu expressed appreciation towards Serbia’s president while confirming that Israel and Kosovo, a Muslim majority country, will establish diplomatic relations adding that Pristina also will open its embassy in Jerusalem.
Stano, speaking as Serbian President Aleksander Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minster Avdullah Hoti were holding a new round of talks in Brussels on normalizing their relations, said the EU was given advanced notice only about the economic aspects of the White House event, but not about the developments regarding Jerusalem.
In Belgrade, Serbian officials seem to be shying away from the embassy pledge, as Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said that the final decision will need to be discussed by the government and will depend on “a number of factors” such as future development of ties with Israel.
Meanwhile, Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci, spoke with with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in an effort to assuage concerns about the decision to recognize Israel expressed by Turkey and the Arab League group of countries.
“Such a recognition will not violate under any circumstances the strategic, friendly and fraternal partnership with Turkey,” Thaci said after the conversation.
If Serbia and Kosovo move forward with the embassy move,they will be joning the ranks of the US and Guatemala as the only countries with embassies in the Holy City.
“We will continue efforts so that additional European countries will transfer their embassies to Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said on Friday noting that Kosovo will be the first Muslim-majority country to open an embassy in Jerusalem.