Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Serbia and Kosovo at odds again over trade embargo

Evelina Topalova, July 22, 2011

Tension between Serbia and Kosovo has risen these days after the authorities in Pristina decided to impose embargo on products imported from Serbia. The decision came into force as of July 20, when all trucks transporting goods from Serbia were stopped at the administrative border.

Pristina has decided to resort to the restrictions as a counter-measure as Serbia does not allow import of goods with stamps of the Republic of Kosovo whose independence it refuses to recognize.

Serbian authorities reacted immediately by saying that they were awaiting swift reaction from the EU and CEFTA member states, because of a breach of the free trade agreement. President Boris Tadic called Pristina's decision a provocation but said Belgrade would not take counter-measures. He even implied that such a move could not be made without some support from outside. Ministry for Kosovo, on its turn warned, that the embargo could affect negatively the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and could even make it pointless.

As a matter of fact, Kosovo's decision came a day after the announcement that the next, sixth, round of talks on technical issues, held under EU mediation, is postponed to early September. The head of the Belgrade delegation, Borislav Stefanovic, explained that the postponement was needed as the two sides failed to reach an agreement on the agenda that was supposed to include issues as customs stamps, cadastres, telecommunications, electricity supply, mutual recognition of university diplomas.

Experts, quoted by Belgrade-based daily Blic, estimated that other countries in the region, like Macedonia, would benefit the most from the blockade. Serbian Chamber of Commerce's estimations say that merchandise trade between Serbia and Kosovo amounted to 400 million dollars in 2010. Serbia exported mainly electricity, wheat, sugar, good products, oil to Kosovo.

The strained relations between Belgrade and Pristina will affect inevitably Serbia's EU membership bid. The country met its obligations towards the international justice by arresting and extraditing the last remaining war crimes refugees - Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic, thus boosting its chances to get an EU candidate status by year's end.

Kosovo case however continues to be a burden to its Euro-ambitions

Although the EU has never set explicitly as a precondition for EU membership the recognition of Kosovo's independence, EU officials have repeatedly highlighted that bilateral relations should heat up and a solution to the issue must be found. That's why the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina has been launched - to find a solution to daily life problems of those living in Kosovo.

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