WASHINGTON–U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-Mich.), a member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, on Friday concluded their congressional delegation visit to the Western Balkans to discuss how the U.S. can promote stability and cooperation in the region. Murphy and Peters stopped in Kosovo, Albania, Montenegro, and Serbia, and Murphy also visited North Macedonia.
“Over the last week, I traveled throughout the Western Balkans to show that the United States is invested in the future of this region. It’s a part of the world that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves, but these countries are some of our most important economic and security partners,” said Murphy. “Kosovo and Serbia came to a historic agreement to normalize relations back in March, and I reiterated to leaders in both countries that time is of the essence to do the hard work of making good on those promises. In Albania, Montenegro, and North Macedonia, I also met with political leaders and members of civil society to discuss their paths toward EU integration and the progress they have made on democratic and anti-corruption reforms. This was my sixth trip to the Balkans, and I always appreciate our candid conversations about how to strengthen the ties between our countries. I was glad to be joined by Senator Peters on this trip, and we’re grateful to our hosts and the embassy staff in each country for their help throughout the visit.”
“America’s strong partnerships in the Western Balkans are critical for our shared strategic goals – which Senator Murphy and I emphasized as we traveled across the region,” said Peters. “The United States is committed to working with these partners to support normalized relations between Kosovo and Serbia – and lasting peace in the region. I’ll continue to work on behalf of my many Albanian and Kosovar constituents to support accession to the EU for Albania, ensure that Kosovo is well-represented in international organizations, and work towards the shared prosperity of the entire region.”
In Kosovo, the senators met with President Vjosa Osmani, Speaker of the Assembly Glauk Konjufca, and Prime Minister Albin Kurti to discuss implementation of the Kosovo-Serbia normalization agreement, including the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities. They also met with a group of Kosovan Serb civil society representatives and members of the opposition parties.
In Albania, Murphy and Peters met with Prime Minister Edi Rama and President Bajram Begaj to discuss progress on democratic and anti-corruption reforms, the path toward EU accession, and strengthening bilateral ties. The senators also met with a group of Afghans living in Albania, the first country to offer safe haven to Afghans fleeing the Taliban, as they wait for their visas to the United States to process.
As the first congressional delegation to meet with Montenegro’s new leadership, the senators met with President Jakov Milatovic on his first day in office as well as Caretaker Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic to strengthen our security ties and discuss the country’s path toward EU accession. Murphy and Peters also met with members of Montenegro’s political parties ahead of upcoming parliamentary elections.
In Serbia, Murphy and Peters paid their respects at the Vladislav Ribnikar School where nine students and one adult were killed in a mass shooting earlier this month before meeting with President Aleksandar Vucic to discuss the war in Ukraine, the Kosovo-Serbia normalization agreement, and gun violence. The senators also met with Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and representatives of the ethnic Albanian community in Serbia. Murphy and Peters also engaged with USAID partners who are implementing programs to help connect Serbia with European markets.
Murphy also met with North Macedonia’s President Stevo Pendarovski and Prime Minister Dimitar Kovachevski in Skopje, as well as members of the opposition to discuss the country’s path toward joining the EU.