America And The EU—A One-Way Alliance | Opinion

The economic normalization deal that President Donald Trump reached September 4 with President Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia and Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti of Kosovo was a diplomatic masterstroke. As Ambassador Richard Grenell, special envoy for the Serbia-Kosovo dialogue, explained last week, the deal was born of Trump's recognition that the longstanding diplomatic approach to the decades-long conflict between the two former Yugoslav republics would never move them towards peaceful relations. A new approach was needed.

For years, under the EU aegis, peace talks stagnated because they centered on an issue about which the two sides share no common ground: Kosovo's independence. After a long, bitter conflict, Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008. Ever since, the chief goal of Serbian foreign policy has been to block Kosovo from joining international organizations and to block other states from recognizing Kosovo's independence. Unsurprisingly, by starting with a non-starter, the talks never went anywhere.

Grenell's team decided that the best way to foster peace was to improve relations between Kosovo and Serbia in areas where the sides had common interests. The first place where such interests were apparent was in normalizing economic ties. And so that is what Grenell and his team set out to do.

Lo and behold, rather than hit an iceberg at the outset of their discussions, the sides hit the jackpot. Last week at the White House, they made it formal. Their agreements will advance the prosperity of both Serbia and Kosovo and, along the way, improve their relations, which in turn will increase stability in the Balkans and advance the cause of peace in a way no talks on normalization and recognition of Kosovar independence could.

The deal they concluded is extremely creative and deserves to be studied closely at schools of diplomacy. It brings together disparate interests of the three parties in a manner that gives all three specific benefits. One of the surprising pieces of the agreement is the issue of Jerusalem. Both Serbia and Kosovo agreed to recognize that Jerusalem is Israel's capital. Serbia agreed to move its embassy to Jerusalem by July 2021 and Kosovo agreed to normalize its diplomatic ties to the Jewish state and open its diplomatic mission in Jerusalem (although whether that mission is an embassy or something more along the lines of Taiwan's diplomatic legations remains to be seen). Kosovo's move is significant because it has now become the first Muslim-majority nation to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Pristina has long sought to normalize its ties with Israel, but Jerusalem has avoided acceding to Kosovar efforts, so as to prevent a clash with Belgrade. By turning the move into a joint initiative by both sides, the Trump administration enabled Kosovo to gain the relations it has sought with Jerusalem without provoking a dispute between Israel and Serbia.

Kosovo's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital reinforces the momentum of warming Muslim relations with Israel, so powerfully exemplified by the normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates scheduled to be signed at the White House on September 15.

For Serbia, the deal is a major achievement because it is predicated on the reality that Serbia is far more powerful economically than Kosovo. The political talks overseen by the EU have treated the two countries as equals. In fact, Serbia has been treated as if it is single-handedly blocking peace. The economic deal starts from the opposite assumption. To reach the agreement, Kosovo agreed to suspend its efforts to join international organizations for a year.

As for the U.S., the deal is a net gain. Beyond the fact that it stabilizes the Balkans and opens new investment opportunities for U.S. firms, the deal blunts China's efforts to impose in the region.

Trump EU
President Donald Trump leaves after a meeting with EU officials in Brussels Getty

Shortly after COVID-19 made its way from China to Europe, Chinese personnel descended on Belgrade armed with planeloads of personal protective gear, ventilators and medical teams as part of Beijing's aggressive COVID-19 diplomacy. A testament to the success of Beijing's efforts came in the spring when Vucic signed a deal with Huawei for the Chinese firm to install a thousand security cameras in Belgrade.

Last Friday, both Serbia and Kosovo agreed not to use 5G equipment provided by any "untrusted vendor"—that is, Huawei. By overseeing the deal, the U.S. blocked China from installing its 5G network in the Balkans. This is a notable achievement given that U.S. efforts to convince its major European allies to refuse to sign onto China's 5G networks have largely been unsuccessful.

Given the ingenuity of the deal, and the fact that it achieves multiple goals, one might have expected that U.S. allies who share the goal of peace in the Balkans and the Middle East would welcome the deal and do everything they can to help it succeed. The first party who ought to have congratulated the Serbs, Kosovars and the Americans is the EU, ostensibly a friend to all three.

But stunningly, EU leaders responded with furious threats that, if heeded, will scuttle all that has been accomplished. While Vucic and Hoti held another round of meetings with EU officials in Brussels Monday, EU Commission spokesman Peter Stano issued a clear threat against both nations.

"There is no EU member state with an embassy in Jerusalem," Stano said, adding ominously that "any diplomatic steps that could call into question the EU's common position on Jerusalem are a matter of serious concern and regret."

Both Serbia and Kosovo have been in membership talks with the EU since 2011. So far, the talks have led to a dozen unimplemented deals. They fizzled out altogether in 2018 and only restarted in the spring after the Trump administration ramped up its efforts to mediate the countries' long-running dispute.

No doubt rattled by the EU's open threat, the Serbs have begun backtracking on their commitment to move their embassy. If that happens, it is likely that much of the rest of the deal will also fall apart and Serbian-U.S. relations will deteriorate, as will Balkan stability.

The EU's response to the deal is as revealing as it is astounding.

Brussels' hostile reaction shows that for all the flowery rhetoric about peace in the Balkans and the Middle East, what motivates European leaders has little to do with either.

Whether the issue is Balkan peace, the International Criminal Court, Iran's nuclear program, Russian gas deals or China's 5G network, the EU always adopts positions that reject American leadership. Whatever issue is on the table at any particular moment, if the U.S. has a strong interest in a certain outcome—even if Europe ostensibly shares the U.S.'s goal—the EU adopts a policy opposed to the U.S.

Part of this owes to a freeloader mentality. The EU trusts that the U.S. will achieve its goals and Europe will be the beneficiary of American victories. At the same time, by opposing the U.S., Europe will maintain its close ties with America's enemies at America's expense and to Europe's financial and diplomatic benefit.

Israel is a story in and of itself. The EU doesn't have a unified policy about Kosovar independence. States with separatist minorities like Spain oppose it. States that have no such issues support it. The EU is similarly divided on all issues—except Israel.

The EU's only consistent foreign policy is its hostility towards Israel. When Stano said the notion that a state seeking EU membership would locate its embassy in Israel's capital city is "a matter of serious concern and regret," he was saying that no opposition is possible in the EU's passive-aggressive and continuous drive to weaken and delegitimize the Jewish state.

The Trump administration's domestic opponents have consistently blamed the president for "alienating our European allies." But the fact is, the administration has done nothing hostile to the EU. U.S. foreign policy under Trump aims at advancing U.S. interests by, among other things, promoting the cause of peace in the Middle East, blocking the spread of weapons of mass destruction to rogue regimes, defeating terror forces and blunting China's rise as a global superpower.

U.S. allies, whether in Europe or elsewhere, should applaud and support these efforts. The EU's vicious and sinister response to the Serbia-Kosovo agreement indicates that for all the talk of the Atlantic alliance, that alliance is in reality a one-way street.

Caroline B. Glick is a senior columnist at Israel Hayom and the author of The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East, (Crown Forum, 2014). From 1994 to 1996, she served as a core member of Israel's negotiating team with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.​​