07 qershor 2023
Misinterpretation by the Ministry of Defense regarding the exclusion from “Defender Europe 2023”
Prepared by: Ridona Berisha
The government of Kosovo has attempted to distort the consequence of the United States' decision to exclude Kosovo from this year's international exercise, "Defender Europe 23," following developments in the northern part of the country.
On May 30 at 03:48, the Ministry of Defense of Kosovo issued a media notification stating that as a result of the situation in the north, the planned activity for May 30 within the framework of the international exercise "Defender Europe '23" is canceled. Later that same day, at 10:40, the Ministry of Defense released another statement on Facebook, stating that the two-year objective of the "Defender Europe '23" training, to validate the capabilities of the Infantry Regiment, has been achieved.
"While the Kosovo Security Force continues its daily activities within the framework of cooperation with our strategic partners," the communication concludes.
However, on the same day, a few hours later, the American ambassador to Kosovo, Jeffrey Hovenier, revealed the true reasons behind the cancellation of the activity from which the Kosovo Security Force would have benefited. During a meeting with a group of journalists in Pristina, Hovenier stated that the Government of Kosovo did not coordinate with the United States regarding the actions taken in the north. He referred to the insistence of the Kosovo government on appointing Albanian mayors in the predominantly Serbian municipalities in northern Kosovo – Zvečan, Zubin Potok, and Leposavić – despite continuous resistance from local residents, which escalated into violence.
“There were no activities related to Defender Europe 23 today and there won’t be anymore. For Kosovo that exercise is over”, said Hovenier, describing this as the first consequence for Kosovo from the USA. He added that they are thinking about what the next actions will be. Ambassador Hovenier stated that at the moment "there is no enthusiasm" on the United State’s part to work on behalf of Kosovo's interests, "such as engaging with non-recognizers or working actively to advance Kosovo’s European or Euro-Atlantic trajectory.".
Prime Minister Albin Kurti described Kosovo’s exclusion from "Defender 2023" as a disaster.
"I don't think it's right, but who am I to decide," he said.
The exclusion of Kosovo from this exercise was considered a significant loss for Kosovo due to the experience that the soldiers would have gained in joint exercises with NATO states.
"Kosovo lost a great opportunity for soldiers, non-commissioned officers, and officers of the Kosovo Security Force to gain valuable experience from NATO states," said the former commander of the KSF, Kadri Kastrati.
"Defender 2023" is the largest military exercise of NATO allies in the Balkan region. The Kosovo Security Force would have participated in this event, which started on May 21 and was expected to continue until June 2. There were 25 NATO countries with over 22,000 troops taking part in it.
The opening ceremony took place on May 21st. “Skenderbeu” square and “Ibrahim Rugova” in Prishtina were crowded by the Kosovo Security Force soldiers and their equipment. President Vjosa Osmani, Prime Minister Albin Kurti, Minister of Defense Armend Mehaj, Commander of the KSF Bashkim Jashari, and US Ambassador Jeffrey Hovenier were present at this ceremony. Albin Kurti, in his speech, expressed that it is an honor for Kosovo to be among the organizing countries of this exercise for the second time. Meanwhile, President Vjosa Osmani stated that in this international exercise, alongside armies from different nations, everyone stands united around a single cause.
“The common cause is to strengthen cooperation, build trust, and enhance interaction among allied forces.'" she stated.
*This article is published as part of the Western Balkans Regional Initiative against disinformation. Western Balkans Anti-Disinformation Hub: exposing malign influences through watchdog journalism.
07 qershor 2023