Kosovo slaps 100% customs fees on Serbia, Bosnia

The import tax comes a day after Serbia blocked Kosovo’s admission into Interpol

Photo: EPA Kosovar Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj

Kosovo has imposed a 100 percent tax on products from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in a move the government said is aimed at defending the country’s “vital interest" following Belgrade's "aggressive campaign” against the young republic on the international stage. The retaliation also requires authorities to remove or prevent from entering any goods that did not address Kosovo by its constitutional name, Republic of Kosovo, which Serbia and Bosnia do not recognise. 

“The government has decided to impose a tax of 100% on imported goods coming from Serbia and Bosnia,” Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj said, adding that the increased import tax comes into force immediately and will not be applied to products of international brands made in Serbia and Bosnia.

The Kosovar government announced the new tariffs on 21 November, almost two weeks after it announced it would hit its two neighboring states with a 10 percent tax on imports, drawing angry reactions from Belgrade and Sarajevo and calls from the EU to reverse the decision. Nevertheless, the move comes a day after Interpol, the international police organisation, rejected Kosovo's membership for a third time due to what Pristina claimed was campaigning by Serbia.

“Serbia is continuing its aggressive campaign against Kosovo in the international stage. It is also undermining the normalisation process. To defend our vital interest, the government of Kosovo has decided today to increase the customs tariff to 100%. Further measures to be announced soon,” Deputy Prime Minister Enver Hoxhaj wrote in a Twitter post.

“This will halt any trade between Serbia and Kosovo,” Serbia’s Trade Minister Rasim Ljajić warned in response to the new tariffs, while county's President Aleksandar Vucic called a meeting of Serbia’s National Security Council to review the tariffs.

Bosnia’s Foreign Trade and Economic Relations Minister Mirko Sarovic also commented on the matter, claiming that “this is the biggest blow to the regional free trade zone.”

Bosnia, Kosovo and Serbia – along with Albania, Montenegro and Moldova – are part of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) set up to help ex-communist states harmonise their economic and legal systems with EU demands. Thus, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said Kosovo’s move was a clear violation of CEFTA and of the spirit of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the European Union and Kosovo.

“The Kosovo government has to immediately revoke these decisions,” Mogherini said in a statement.

According to official figures, Serbia’s exports to Kosovo amounted to €440m, while imports amounted to €21m. Bosnia’s exports to Kosovo reached €80m last year. Yet, imports from the two countries had decreased by 50 percent since the previous tax came into force, according to Kosovo's Trade and Industry Ministry.

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