100 percent tariff replaced with reciprocity

The acting Kosovo Government has lifted the 100 per cent tariff placed on Serbian and Bosnian goods and introduced reciprocal trade measures towards Serbia until June 15.

Late on Wednesday night, the acting government approved a decision repealing the 100 per cent tariff on imported Serbian and Bosnian goods that has been in place since November 2018, and introducing reciprocal measures in trade with Serbia. 

The decision will be in force until June 15 when the impact of the measures will be assessed, while its implementation and enforceability will be continually reviewed at least once a month.

The reciprocal trade measures outlined in the decision require official documentation for goods imported from Serbia to comply with the Kosovo Constitution, as well as the Kosovo legislation in force.

In a press conference on Wednesday night, acting Prime Minister Albin Kurti stated that this matches the requirements stipulated by Belgrade for Kosovo goods entering Serbia. However, it could also require that all imported goods have the stamp of the Republic of Kosovo, which Kurti stated would be a “de facto recognition of Kosovo statehood.” 

Kurti added that “reciprocal measures are not revenge but a call for equality, as we feel discriminated.”

The Director of the Serbian Government’s so-called Office for Kosovo and Metohija, Marko Djuric, responded by calling the announcement “fake news.”

“Kurti did not abolish taxes,” Djuric wrote on Facebook. “Don’t fall for fake news. The Prime Minister of temporary institutions of self-government in Pristina announced, to be quite precise, a broken suspension of the tariff and a probation, while at the same time introducing new punitive measures for our citizens and the economy, which he calls reciprocity.”

Serbia has previously conditioned its return to the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue with the removal of the tariffs.

The decision was also criticised by former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, whose government imposed the tariff in 2018, following reports that Serbia had taken steps to prevent Kosovo from becoming a member of INTERPOL.

“The lifting of the 100 per cent tax on Serbia’s Vucic and the Bosnian Serb Republic’s Dodik, is a signature which allows the Serbian economic recapture of Kosovo,” said Haradinaj. “With this scam, Kurti lost Kosovo the political capital created by the 100% tax, which was designed to be used in exchange for a final agreement on mutual recognition between Kosovo and Serbia with the existing borders.”

The EU’s representative of Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Joseph Borell, however, hailed the decision of the Kosovo Government. “This is an important decision. Regional cooperation is key as is maintaining flow of goods, in particular in times of crisis #Covid19,” Borell wrote on Twitter.

While the tariff was applied to imports from both Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, reciprocal measures will only be applied to Serbia.

“We don’t want to treat Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia the same,” Kurti stated at the press conference. “We know that Bosnia suffers at Serbia’s hands. Serbia attacks us from the outside and Bosnia from the inside.”

Kurti added that he hopes that this gesture of good will is followed by the lifting of the visa regime that exists between Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The decision to repeal the tariffs follows a decision on March 20, when the government voted to remove the 100 per cent tariff on raw materials.

Kurti originally outlined plans in February to remove the tariff on raw materials on March 15, followed by a 90-day suspension of the tariff from April 1 if Serbia pledged to halt its ‘de-recognition campaign.’

However, Kurti was unable to convince his then-partners in the coalition government, the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK to enact his plans through a government decision. The proposals were strongly criticised by US Special Envoy for the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue Richard Grenell and a number of senior US political figures.

LDK filed a motion of no confidence against the government on March 20, which was approved by the Kosovo Assembly on March 25. Introducing the motion, head of LDK’s parliamentary group Arben Gashi stated that Kurti’s position on the removal of the tariffs had jeopardised Kosovo’s relationship with the United States.

01/04/2020 - 11:35

01 April 2020 - 11:35

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.