By Fatos Bytyci
LONDON (Reuters) – The European Union called on Kosovo on Wednesday to revoke its decision to impose an import tax on goods coming from Serbia and Bosnia, a move that is likely to further sour relations between Pristina and Belgrade.
Kosovo said on Monday it was imposing an import tax of 10 percent on all goods produced in Serbia and Bosnia but not on international brands. Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj said the move was aimed at “protecting local goods”.
Bosnia, Kosovo and Serbia along with Albania, Montenegro, Moldova are all part of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) set up to help ex-communist states harmonise their economic and legal systems with European Union demands.
“The EU is seeking urgent clarifications about the unexpected decision by the Kosovo government,” said Maja Kocijancic, the spokeswoman of the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
“These measures are a clear violation of Kosovo’s obligations under CEFTA,” she said. “This decision undermines regional cooperation.”
Balkan countries have used trade barriers in the past over political disagreements, and Bosnia and Serbia halted all imports from Kosovo when it declared independence in 2008.
That ban was only lifted in 2011 when the government in Pristina introduced retaliatory measures against the two countries that still refuse to recognise Kosovo as an independent state.
Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic said talks on Thursday with his Kosovo counterpart Hashim Thaci and EU officials in Brussels, aimed at normalising ties, would be very difficult.
“One cannot act as a drunkard in an airplane … , someone has to say when enough is enough,” the state-run Tanjug news agency quoted Vucic as saying.
The EU has made the condition of Serbia and Kosovo normalising their relations crucial for advancing towards membership in the bloc. The two countries agreed in 2013 to resolve pending issues but have made little progress since.
Kosovo, whose population of 1.8 million is mainly ethnic Albanian, declared independence from Belgrade in 2008, a decade after NATO bombed rump-Yugoslavia to end the killing of Albanian civilians by Serb forces during a two-year insurgency.
It is now recognised by more than 110 nations but not by Serbia, Russia or five EU states. Belgrade and Moscow have blocked Kosovo from joining the United Nations.
(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Additional reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic in Belgrade; Editing by Alison Williams)