New Kosovo government lifts ban on Serbian imports

Kosovo’s new government said Saturday it was lifting a ban on Serbian imports, ending a potentially damaging trade spat and taking a step towards the resumption of talks between the rivals.

“We have taken an important decision to remove the obstacles to pursuing dialogue,” Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

The decision came three days after the new government took charge.

Belgrade has rejected Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence in 2008, and refused to resume EU-led negotiations launched in 2011 aimed at resolving tensions between the rivals.

“We are waiting for the Serbian side to also lift the barriers” to dialogue, Hoti said, referring to Belgrade’s refusal to recognise Kosovo’s independence.

Hoti’s predecessor Albin Kurti had launched a trade war with Serbia, despite pressure from the United States and the European Union not to do so.

He abolished a 100-percent tariff on Serbian imports on April 1, ending a blockade that had poisoned ties. However, he then announced a ban on all imports from former war foe Serbia that were not stamped “for the Republic of Kosovo”.

This measure was scrapped on Saturday by Kosovo’s new prime minister.

Kurti has accused Washington, and his top rival President Hashim Thaci, of working in tandem to remove him from power in order to push through a deal with Serbia - which both deny.

In the end of May, Kosovo bans import of Serbian goods again. Vehicles transporting Serbian goods cannot enter Kosovo unless the words “The Republic of Kosovo” are not indicated in the accompanying documents, the Kosovo government has decided. Also, the government ordered the Food and Veterinary Agency to use the name and emblem of the Republic of Kosovo on phytosanitary and veterinary certificates. According to the government’s decision, Serbian companies must provide an entry permit for each vehicle with goods entering Kosovo, and the request for a permit must be submitted to the Kosovo Liaison Office in Serbia, by letter or e-mail.

In response, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said that the decision of the Pristina government was unacceptable and that the Brussels dialogue would not continue until all such decisions were abolished.

“This annuls all Brussels agreements, and we rightly expect the decision to be withdrawn,” Dacic said while speaking for RTS, adding that Serbia has never accepted for goods coming from Serbia to be labeled with “The Republic of Kosovo because it would mean a recognition of Kosovo’s statehood.

The special representative of the European Union for the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, Miroslav Lajcak, stated that he was disappointed with the reciprocal measures that Pristina introduced and asked for its immediate withdrawal.

“Disappointed about new reciprocity measures introduced by care-taker government of Kosovo. Such unilateral actions undermine the Dialogue-resumption & should be removed immediately. As consistently said, we expect both parties to the Dialogue to implement & respect past agreements,” Lajcak tweeted.

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