PRISTINA / BELGRADE – Kosovo caretaker government has decided at last night’s session to abolish 100% tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which were first introduced in November 2018. While the EU High Representative welcomes the decision, new barriers have been criticized by the Government of Serbia and the US Embassy in Kosovo.
According to KoSSev, the caretaker government decided last night to abolish the tariffs and start gradually applying the reciprocity measure towards Serbia. The first assessment of how the decision is implemented will be made on 15 June.
The caretaker government has also decided to review the implementation of this measure at least once a month.
According to the Government of Kosovo, Serbia has introduced a number of non-tariff barriers to trade to Kosovo, including transit obstacles, technical and political barriers, and that since CEFTA’s accession, Serbia has caused damage to Kosovo exporters and importers, leading to a large trade deficit.
“The Government considers reciprocity measures to be an instrument of relations between sovereign states that recognize the general principles of international law through various international agreements,” it is stated in the decision.
Caretaker Prime Minister Albin Kurti has announced that the reciprocity measure applies only to Serbia, while the tariffs are only completely abolished when it comes to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
EU High Representative Josep Borrell welcomed the decision on Twitter.
“Happy to see the decision on the full lifting of tariffs by Kosovo caretaker government for good coming from Serbia and BiH. This is an important decision. Regional cooperation is key as is maintaining flow of goods, in particular in times of crisis”, wrote Borrell.
Happy to see the decision on the full lifting of tariffs by #Kosovo caretaker government for goods coming from Serbia and BiH. This is an important decision. Regional cooperation is key as is maintaining flow of goods, in particular in times of crisis #COVID19
— Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) March 31, 2020
On the other hand, the Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, Marko Đuric, said that this was only a time-limited suspension of customs duties, and a conditional one, while introducing reciprocity at the same time, which Đuric describes as “punitive measures for our citizens and the economy”.
According to RTS, Đuric emphasized that this decision is a performance intended for a part of the international community.
“However, I believe it is by no means time for measures such as those adopted by Pristina tonight, but this is a time when even deep and substantial differences with Pristina need to be put aside, and when we all need to work strongly and directly to tackle the epidemic which does not know about borders, political orientation, religion and nation,” Đuric said.
In an announcement today, US Ambassador to Kosovo Philip Kosnett reiterated that Kosovo should abolish tariffs but also not create new barriers that will badly reflect to Kosovo’s citizens itself and their economy.
“We remain against the latest step in implementing reciprocity measures on the flow of goods from Serbia. These measures create more problems at a time when the US believes that the agreements on air, rail and road, which both sides have agreed, when implemented, will increase economic development and create the conditions necessary for a successful dialogue,” the Embassy said in a statement.