Rasim Ljajic, Serbia’s Trade Minister, called on Monday on the European Commission (EC) to use its influence to persuade Pristina to withdraw its decision to introduce import taxes on goods from Serbia, adding it was a political move without any economic reasoning, the Beta news agency reported.
Ljajic told the Pink TV that the 10 percent taxes violated the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA), but that CEFTA could not do anything about it, while the European Union (EU) could since one of its goals was a creation of a shared economic environment.
Pristina’s move “makes that goal senseless,” Ljajic added, warning that “this is not leading to instability only but could be a trigger for others. If there is no pressure to withdraw the measure, any other country could do the same in which case CEFTA would not exist any more.”
He reiterated Serbia would not take part in the CEFTA meetings held this year in Pristina.
“Since the foundation of CEFTA in 2006, not a single member country has put up such barriers to the partners,” Ljajic said.
Pristina introduced 10 percent import taxes for goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina on November 6 in response to what it felt was Serbia’s destructive behaviour.
The next day, the EU said Pristina’s decision was unexpected and demanded an immediate explanation and annulment of the move which violated the CEFTA agreement.
Pristina said it would not revoke the decision, and the Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj added the taxes could be even higher.
Although the Pristina government did not explicitly explain the move, it is thought that the decision came in response to Belgrade's diplomacy offensive to pressure countries into rescinding their recognition of Kosovo's unilaterally declared 2008 independence from Serbia.
Asked to comment on the decision, Kosovo's Deputy Prime Minister, Enver Hoxhaj, said last week that the decision was made "in order to prevent Belgrade from financing campaigns against Pristina," and added that "decisions like these protect the interests of Kosovo, its sovereignty, territorial integrity, and above all, it protects its businesses."
Over the first ten months of 2018, Serbian exports to Kosovo were worth €360 million, mostly in processed food, cereals, and construction material. On the other hand, Kosovo exported €23 million worth of goods to Serbia - mostly fruits and vegetables, wine, and leather products.
In the meantime, Ljajic said Belgrade could not introduce any retaliating measure since Serbia’s import from Kosovo was insignificant.