Kosovo lifts barriers to imports from Serbia in step towards dialogue

Kosovo lifts barriers to imports from Serbia in step towards dialogue
© Belga

Kosovo’s new government on Saturday lifted all barriers to the importation of Serbian goods, in a step towards the resumption of dialogue with Serbia, which does not recognise the independence of its former province.

Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti told the press after a meeting of his cabinet that his government had taken the “important decision” - which came three days after it took office - in order to lift the obstacles to the pursuit of dialogue.

He said his government expected the Serbian authorities, in turn, to lift “all barriers” to dialogue, a reference to the campaign by Belgrade to prevent international recognition of Kosovo, which declared its independence in 2008.

Belgrade immediately welcomed the gesture from Kosovo’s government. Marco Djuric, a Sebian government official in charge of Kosovo, said strengthening economic cooperation between Belgrade and Pristina was indispensable to the normalisation of ties.

The dialogue, launched in 2011 under the aegis of the European Union, has been at a low ebb since 2018.

The aim of the dialogue is to normalise the relations between Serbia and Kosovo and to enable the two countries to achieve a comprehensive legally binding agreement solving all outstanding issues. But besides some progress in technical matters the core issue of recognition has not been resolved.

On the wider issue of mutual recognition, a condition for joining the EU, not much progress has been made since the EU facilitated high-level dialogue between the two countries started in 2012.

The insistence of Hoti’s predecessor, Albin Kurti, on pursuing the trade war with Serbia despite pressure from Washington and Brussels contributed to the fall of his government, which had been in power since February.

Under pressure from Washington, Kurti’s government had lifted, in early April, the 100% customs duty imposed since late 2018 on Serbian goods.

However, it then began putting “reciprocity measures” in place, banning, in May, the entry of Serbian products not labelled “destined for the Republic of Kosovo”. That decision was annulled on Saturday.

Initially, the taxes on Serbian goods had been imposed by Pristina in reaction to the diplomatic campaign waged by Belgrade against international recognition for Kosovo, blocked with Moscow’s help from becoming a member of the United Nations.

Before the trade war, Serbia exported over 400 million euros’ worth of goods to Kosovo per year.

The Brussels Times

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