The Serbian and Bosnian trade ministers will not be taking part in the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) ministerial conference next month to protest against Pristina’s decision to raise customs duties on products from those two countries.
Speaking after a meeting with Serbian Minister Rasim Ljajic in Sarajevo, Bosnian Trade Minister Mirko Sarovic said he would attend the conference early in December only if the Kosovo authorities withdraw the decision to raise tariffs by 10 percent. “We sent letters to a number of addresses including Brussels calling for a greater engagement by the European Commission since it is a CEFTA sponsor and one of its important financiers,” Sarovic said.
Sarovic said they did not discuss counter-measures because “Kosovo should be sticking to the foreign trade agreement, the rules which were established long ago and not isolate itself”.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that Pristina imposed the higher tariffs to destroy the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue and prevent a compromise solution. He said that “someone needs Serbs and Albanians to be in constant latent conflict which will turn into an open conflict,” he said.
Ljajic said Pristina’s decision was taken because Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina do not recognize Kosovo as independent. “These economy and trade counter-measures which are completely senseless are the answer to a political stand. This is about domestic political fighting,” he said and added that this is how Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj “flexes his political muscles”.
Ljajic said the measures were introduced for the sake of “the economic motives of interest lobbies in Kosovo”. “Some manufacturers wanted to eliminate their competition and profit from the measures,” he said.
The Serbian minister said the only way to solve the problem is through Brussels, Washington and international organizations which can pressure Pristina.