The EU has welcomed plans announced by the Kosovo Prime Minister to remove part of the 100 per cent customs tariff on Serbian goods, while the US has described it as a “serious mistake,” with coalition partner LDK claiming it was “not a government decision.”
The decision to partially lift the 100 percent customs tariff on goods imported to Kosovo from Serbia was publicly criticised by US President Donald Trump’s Special Envoy to the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, Richard Grenell on Thursday night.
“We do not support Prime Minister Kurti’s half measure. Our position is quite clear: the tariffs must be completely dropped. Mr Kurti is making a serious mistake – and that was made clear to President Thaci at the White House today,” Grenell tweeted.
Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti announced earlier on Thursday evening that the tariff would be lifted for raw materials only from 15 March, and would be fully removed for 90 days beginning 1 April if Serbia pledged to halt its ‘de-recognition campaign’ and remove barriers to trade.
Despite the criticism from Grenell, Kurti’s plans were welcomed by the European Union. A statement from the European External Action Service on Friday morning stated that: “This step could have a positive effect on restoring regional trade, and offer an opening for the resumption of the Dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina facilitated by the European Union.”
The EU have repeatedly urged for the tariffs to be dropped in order to resume dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia. “Too much time has been lost,” the statement continues. “Trust needs to be urgently restored. Serbia and Kosovo need to create an environment that is conducive for the Dialogue to resume, to the benefit of both.”
Divisions of opinion on plans to lift the tariff also appear to have emerged among Kosovo’s two major governing parties, Kurti’s Vetevendosje and the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK.
At Thursday’s press conference announcing the partial withdrawal of the tariffs, Kurti stated that the coalition partners are “unified.” However, reports suggest that LDK were not aware that the decision had been taken when it was announced on Thursday evening.
LDK’s Deputy Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti told T7 on Thursday night that Kurti’s plans were “not a decision of the government.”
“Government decisions are made at government meetings, not at a press conference. No decision can go ahead without coordination between governing partners,” Hoti said. A government meeting that was scheduled to take place at 16:00 on Thursday was postponed to 12:00 Friday. Kurti held the press conference announcing the partial withdrawal of the tariff at 18:30.
Hoti also spoke out against the plans to remove the tariff in stages in a Facebook post. “We should lift the tariff without any condition,” said Hoti, while repeatedly emphasizing the need to preserve partnership with the United States.
Opposition leaders have also criticised the plans, with former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj accusing Kurti of “deception,” while Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, leader Kadri Veseli claimed Kurti had borrowed the idea from a proposal he made in January 2019.
The Chairmanship of the Kosovo Assembly will meet at 14:00 on Friday to discuss the request of 41 opposition MPs to hold an extraordinary session to discuss the removal of the tariffs.
28 February 2020 - 10:11
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