Serbia's Products return to the Kosovo market after tax removal and reciprocity establishment

Serbia's Products return to the Kosovo market after tax removal and reciprocity establishment
 Kosovo-Serbia border point in Merdare
 Products manufactured in Serbia have returned to the Kosovo market since the Kosovo Government replaced the 100 percent tax on Serbian products with reciprocal measures on April 1 this year.

According to Kosovo Customs, from April 1 to May 25, goods worth 29 million euros, mainly food and wheat products, entered Serbia from Kosovo.

During April, according to the Kosovo Agency of Statistics, the import of goods from Serbia to Kosovo has reached over 15 million euros, while in the same period of 2019, when the 100 percent tax was in force, the value of Serbian goods in Kosovo were 637 thousand euros.

Goods worth 1.1m euros were exported from Kosovo to Serbia in April.

One of the companies that has started importing some products from Serbia is the trading company "Elkos Group". Kushtrim Mujaj, import manager at this company, in a conversation with Radio Free Europe, states that they have imported a small amount of products, mainly those products that have a lower price than in the countries of the European Union.

"There are some facilities for some categories to be supplied by Serbia at cheaper prices than we have been supplied so far by other countries. One of the cheapest products on the Serbian market is the vegetable oil. Some types that we imported earlier, we have started the gradual import in small quantities", said Mujaj.

Kosovo's incumbent government has replaced a 100 percent tax on products from Serbia, set by the government last November 2018, gradually introducing reciprocal measures.

The first such measure concerns the naming of Kosovo in documents that must comply with the Constitution and laws of Kosovo.

These documents are like phytosanitary and veterinary certificates and other food and other ancillary documents of plant of non-animal and animal origin, which are subject to border control.

Adriatik Stavileci, the spokesman for Kosovo Customs, told Radio Free Europe that from April 1 - when the tax was abolished and reciprocity was imposed - so far, the value of goods from Serbia has reached 29 million euros. Most of these products are from the food industry, specifically wheat.

All shipments from Serbia come with documentation that complies with the decision of the Government in office of Kosovo for reciprocity.

"In the beginning we had some problems, but over time all the shipments coming from Serbia are completely in order. So far we have not encountered any document which does not adhere to the decision on reciprocity of the Government of the Republic of Kosovo", Stavileci said.

Even experts on economic issues consider that the elimination of barriers with the countries of the region is in the interest of the business community. Safet Gërxhaliu, former chairman of the Kosovo Chamber of Commerce, told Radio Free Europe that trade with Serbia has exceeded expectations and is an indication of how difficult trade taxes have become between the two countries.

"Barriers do not honor the integration processes and partnership of the countries of the region. It's time to eliminate them and move on. With the abolition of that tax, is another breath of business for Kosovo, where we have increased trade and imports of goods from Kosovo to Serbia. Therefore, in this regard we must learn from all that the dialogue has no alternative, that definitely the elimination of barriers in the interest of business should always be in function and not won by populism", says Gërxhaliu.

On April 1, the incumbent Prime Minister Albin Kurti abolished the 100 percent tax on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, while replacing Serbian goods with reciprocity.

The 100 percent tax was imposed by the previous government headed by Ramush Haradinaj last November 2018.

Since then, the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, mediated by the European Union in Brussels, has been suspended.

The United States has opposed the decision to replace the 100 percent tax on Serbian goods with reciprocity measures.

The US Embassy in Pristina said that Kosovo "should remove all tariffs and not create new barriers because these policies are to the detriment of the citizens of Kosovo and are blocking the economy of Kosovo."
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