Hovenier: The method of enforcement of the CBK regulation should be discussed in Brussels, Serbia to be consulted

Džefri Hovenijer
FOTO: Ambasada SAD u Prištini

The US is not working to make the CBK regulation a dialogue issue, but rather the manner of its implementation by the Kosovo government. It is largely a dialogue issue due to its direct impact on the Serbian community, said the US ambassador in Pristina, Jeffrey Hovenier, yesterday.

He asked the Kosovo government to send a representative to the next meetings in Brussels in order to find a solution to the new situation. In the search for a solution, Hovenier calls for Serbia to be consulted, that is, „to have its own voice“ on how to provide support, which is guaranteed by Ahtisaari’s plan.

The US ambassador, Jeffrey Hovenier, addressed several media outlets, including KoSSev, at the headquarters of the representative office of this country in Pristina.

We are not trying to defend the dinar, but we are concerned about the way the regulation is enforced and the effect it has on the Serbian community

When asked about the CBK regulation, Hovenier said that there is a misunderstanding, or misrepresentation, of what the international community is concerned about.

“We would agree that the dialogue is not necessarily appropriate to discuss internal issues of Kosovo. And so as I have said, myself, as other US government officials have said, we are not challenging the responsibility or the authorities of the Central Bank. We are not trying to defend the dinar. The United States government does not take a position on what is the currency circulating in Kosovo. That is for Kosovo authorities to determine,” the ambassador said.

He added that the US is concerned on how the Central Bank regulation is being enforced and the effect of that enforcement on the Kosovo Serb community.

“What we’re concerned about is quite different. And it is very much a dialogue issue and very much something that we have expressed on several occasions, and that we believe, requires discussion within the dialogue. And that is the question of how the Central Bank regulation is being enforced and the effect of that enforcement on minority communities and vulnerable communities in Kosovo, including the ethnic Serb community.

He underscored that the issue should be discussed within the dialogue.

“Under the Ahtisaari plan, under the conditions under which Kosovo received our support for its independence, commitments were made with regard to specific protections and specific arrangements for minority communities and Kosovo. Amongst those were very specific promises that Serbia would be able to, should it choose to exercise this right, to provide support to individuals through social benefit payments, and for social services such as health care and education. The manner in which Serbia exercises that right, if it chooses to exercise, is an important bilateral issue.”

Although saying that he will “push back on anybody” who says the United States is trying to make currency regulation a dialogue issue, the ambassador reiterated that the US is concerned over the regulation’s effect on individuals who receive payments from Serbia.

He also linked the question of financing Serbian citizens in Kosovo to Ahtisaari’s plan.

“We are not doing that. We are trying to take and have be discussed in the dialogue, the manner in which this regulation is enforced, to ensure that it is done in a way that is responsive to and sensitive to the affected community. And that Serbia also has had some voice in the system under which it will exercise or use the right it has to provide support, which as I said, is based on Ahtisaari.”

Rushed, ill-considered, ill-planned

He also addressed the US criticism of the regulation of the Central Bank of Kosovo.

“It’s as other US government officials have said – it felt both rush some of use the word hasty, Ill considered, Ill-planned. It has a direct effect on individuals who are vulnerable.”

He reminded of his previously used example of a hypothetical 70 year old who has been used to going to a post office to get a payment.

“It’s reasonable for that process to change. But it seems quite irresponsible for that process to change without preparatory work, without working with the affected community, in this case, without working with Serbia, the government that is putting the money into the system to support them. Individuals are indeed receiving pensions, individuals are indeed receiving single parent stipends and things like that. There is an education system and a health care system that provides services to tens of thousands of people.”

No one wants to see children no longer having access to education, and sick people access to health care

The US ambassador, on the other hand, states that the stance of the Kosovo government is that these benefit systems from Serbia should, in the long term, be integrated into the Kosovo system, through the ASM.

“We’ve worked on this for over a decade. But we have to acknowledge that isn’t the case right now. So there has to be some acknowledgement of the existing system and some sympathy for how that will work. I suspect none of us want to see children who are used to receiving education no longer having access to it because the system that’s educating them, doesn’t have sufficient funds. People who are sick no longer being able to access health care because the system supporting them doesn’t have adequate supplies or salaries to doctors.”

Serbia should not have a veto, but it must be consulted

He reiterated that the issue should be discussed within the dialogue, stressing that this is not just a technical issue.

“We don’t believe Serbia should have a veto on how it will provide that support, but we think it has to be consulted and it has to acquiesce to it because it has to participate into the system.”

We expect a Kosovo government representative at the Brussels meetings

Speaking about this week’s meeting in Brussels as part of the BG-PR dialogue, or whether the parties have come close to a solution, Hovenier recalled the statement of the EU envoy, Miroslav Lajčak, adding that he would have nothing more to say.

After the meeting, Lajčak hailed the „commitment of the parties to find a sustainable solution for the communities affected by the recent CBK regulation“, stating that the meeting was an important first step.

On the other hand, he said that many political questions remain unanswered, and therefore additional meetings will be needed.

Hovenier noted that important talks were held in Brussels, but he also says that political issues must be discussed as well.

“While we have the highest respect for the Central Bank, we would also have individuals representing Kosovo in these discussions who are empowered and have the ability and authority to help address some of the political issues that are very much a part of this issue.”

On the possibility of new unrests over the dinar: There is logic to it, but there won’t be any

Asked about the possibility of new unrests over the CBK regulation, Hovenier says that he is not in a position to assess such a thing, but also that „there is logic in it“.

“When people suddenly stop receiving pensions or social benefit payments, they’re going to be irritated. When parents are concerned about the quality and access to education, they’re going to be irritated. When individuals don’t necessarily have the same competence in a health care system that they once had. They’re going to be irritated and irritated people at times express their irritation in different ways.”
On the other hand, he said that the US is trying to work with the government of Kosovo “to address these concerns.”

“So there isn’t a possibility of more unrest or problems.”

“Because since people who are vulnerable, who are feeling irritated can be stirred up in ways that are also deeply unhelpful to what we’re all trying to achieve. I hope we all want to avoid that possibility,” Hovenier added, once again calling on the Kosovo government to engage with the West and find a solution.

No international conference needed, but political will and fulfilling existing commitments

Addressing the BG-PR dialogue, the ambassador said that there is “a need for stronger political will, from both sides to actually fulfill the obligations they have entered into, and completely implement their commitments”.
“And we’re disappointed that that doesn’t seem to be the case.”

On the other hand, asked about a possibility of an international conference as a way to tackle the Kosovo issue, Hovenier said that there is no need for one.

“We have a good agreement. It was reached almost exactly a year ago. International conferences usually have a role to negotiate texts. Well, there’s a very good agreement that has been reached between Kosovo and Serbia at the time it was reached the United States and the European Union said – we considered it legally binding on both parties. We do. And we’ve consistently said since that what we expect is the full and complete implementation by both sides of all of their obligations under the agreement. And of course, the Implementation Annex was agreed a month later in Ohrid. That remains our position. We do not see a need for an international conference,” Hovenier stated.

Basic agreement and the Ohrid Annex are legally-binding, Lajčak presented options to Pristina

When asked about the formalization of the obligations assumed by the Basic Agreement and the Implementation Annex, and given that they have not been signed, Hovenier repeated the position of the US is that these agreements are legally binding.

However, he added that the EU envoy for dialogue, Miroslav Lajčak, offered the Kosovo government „a number of other ideas or options“:

“My understanding is he has given the government a number of other ideas or options for them to consider of how this thing could be formalized in a way that is more satisfactory to the government of Kosovo because I am aware this is a concern that the Prime Minister has raised frequently, as have other government officials. But I think you’d have to ask them whether any of those options have been seen as sufficient or not.”

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