Serbia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade Rasim Ljajić has said that the country will not commit to new dialogue regarding the normalisation of relations between the two countries until Kosovo lifts trade tariffs.
Kosovo’s government imposed a customs tariff of 10 per cent on goods entering the country from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina earliert this month, in retaliation for what it has called the two countries’ “lack of recognition and savage policies.”
Mr Ljajić said that Kosovo is not only failing to respect the agreements reached through the Brussels dialogue that commenced in 2011, but that it is introducing further barriers to free trade.
“Such actions have put in question the whole dialogue and the process of normalization between Serbs and Albanians,” Mr Ljajić told the Serbian news agency Novosti.
Serbia’s Chamber of Commerce said on November 19 that exports to Kosovo had plunged by 50 per cent since the tariffs were introduced.
“About 130 trucks full of goods were entering Kosovo daily at the most commonly used crossing point at Merdare. This has dropped to 60,” the Chamber of Commerce said in a statement.
Kosovo’s Ministry of Trade and Industry also said that imports from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina had decreased by 50 per cent.
Spokesperson Elhami Ismaili said the ministry wanted the measure kept in place “because Serbia and Bosnia are damaging any Kosovo initiatives to join international mechanisms,” he told Balkan Insight.
The European Union has asked the Kosovo authorities for an explanation about the tariffs, considering it a “violation” of Central European Free Trade Agreement, CEFTA.
Federica Mogherini, the European Commission’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy met with Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi and his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vučić the day after the tariffs were introduced, but it is understood that the trade dispute was not discussed.