Opening embassies in Jerusalem runs counter to Brussels’s expectations for Kosovo and Serbia, which seek to join the European Union, External Affairs spokesperson Peter Stano said on Monday, September 7. The EU warned Serbia and Kosovo that they could undermine their EU membership hopes by moving their Israeli embassies to Jerusalem, as US President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement about the change left officials in Belgrade and Pristina scrambling to limit the political fallout.
In an unexpected move last week, Trump said that Serbia and Kosovo had agreed to normalize economic ties as part of US-brokered talks that include Belgrade moving its embassy to Jerusalem, and mutual recognition between Israel and Kosovo. Trump also said that Serbia has committed to open a commercial office in Jerusalem this month and move its embassy there in July. The Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in late 2017 and moved the US embassy there in May 2018. The US and Guatemala are the only countries with embassies to Israel in Jerusalem, while the 87 others states having diplomatic relations with Israel have their embassies in the Tel Aviv area.
The 27-nation EU’s long-held policy is that Jerusalem’s status should be worked out between Israel and the Palestinians as part of broader peace negotiations, and that Serbia and Kosovo — as candidates to join the bloc — should respect that. “There is no EU member state with an embassy in Jerusalem,” 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.”
Stano, speaking as Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Kosovo Prime Minster Avdullah Hoti were holding a new round of talks in Brussels on normalizing their relations, said the EU was told in advance only about the economic aspects of the White House event, not about movements in Jerusalem.
“We will continue efforts so that additional European countries will transfer their embassies to Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said Friday, September 4. The Israeli prime minister noted that Kosovo will becomes the first Muslim-majority country to open an embassy in Jerusalem, if indeed it decides to follow through with its surprise commitment. In addition, Monday, Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman met with Israeli officials, who encouraged that EU member state to join its neighbors in the Balkans in moving their embassy to Jerusalem. Croatia should join its neighbors in the Balkans and move its embassy to Jerusalem, Israeli officials told Croatian Foreign Minister during his visit to Israel’s capital on Monday.
Israeli Foreign Minister, Gabi Ashkenazi, called Croatia “one of our best friends in Europe. It’s about time for Croatia to join in…and move its embassy to Jerusalem.” Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Radman discussed cooperation on military matters, with Gantz calling for “a determined international front…at this time against Iranian aggression.”