Xhorxhina Bami Pristina BIRN June 1, 2020


Kosovo’s incumbent government has defended its decision to introduce new reciprocity measures against Serbia after the EU, the Kosovo President and other key politicians in the country condemned them as divisive and unnecessary.

The decision by the Kosovo government at the weekend to introduce new reciprocity measures against Serbia has sharply divided opinion at home and abroad, with the EU slating the move and some domestic leaders, including the President, also condemning it.

Division emerged as soon as the incumbent government on Saturday obliged the Food and Veterinary Agency to use the emblem and name “Republic of Kosovo” on all sanitary and veterinary certificates, while economic operators from Serbia must now obtain an entry permit for each vehicle transporting goods entering Kosovo from the Liaison Office of the Republic of Kosovo in Serbia.

Incumbent Prime Minister Albin Kurti – whose government lost a no-confidence vote in parliament in March defended the decision on Facebook, insisting that it was Serbia that had “changed its approach, making the use of the name ‘Republic of Serbia’ conditional. We oppose them with reciprocity”.

He was supported by the speaker of parliament, Vjosa Osmani, also deputy leader of the former junior governing party, the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, who said Kosovo was merely following international trade practice.

But Miroslav Lajcak, EU Special Representative to the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, slated the move in a post on Twitter on Sunday. The Slovak diplomat said he was “disappointed about new reciprocity measures introduced by the care-taker government of Kosovo”, describing them as “unilateral actions” that “undermine the dialogue-resumption”.

[The EU is in charge of a stalled dialogue between Serbia and its former province whose independence it does not recognise.]

Some top politicians in Kosovo were of the same view. President Hashim Thaci on Facebook on Sunday accused Kurti of continuing a policy of “patriotic fraud” and added that the new measures were alienating more allies and “risking all that we have achieved and built for more than two decades”.

The leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, Kadri Veseli, also accused Kurti of political fraud. Avdullah Hoti, deputy leader of the LDK and a potential Prime Minister – after the Constitutional Court ruled that the President had not violated the constitution by decreeing him as the next PM – said reciprocity measures were not a good thing for the country.

But the Minister of Finance and Transfers, Besnik Bislimi, deputy leader of Kurti’s Vetevendosje party, on Facebook on Sunday accused Thaci of being frightened of a truly independent Kosovo.

He suggested that his opposition to reciprocity arose from “willingly building a subjugated state that you see moving towards equal treatment, which is the essence of reciprocity, endangering a statehood built on the principle of subjugation”.

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic told Serbia’s public broadcaster RTS that the reciprocity measures were “unacceptable”, adding that although the now abolished 100 per cent import tax introduced by Ramush Haradinaj’s government on November 2018 “had doubled prices”, goods had at least continued to circulate.

As BIRN reported, the 100-per-cent tariff that Kurti’s predecessor Haradinaj imposed, which his government then lifted on April 1, did not provide much economic benefit to Kosovo’s domestic economy.

Dacic also warned that Serbia did “not intend to continue the [EU-led] dialogue until the [import] tariffs and reciprocity are removed”, insisting that all reciprocity measures undermined and went against existing trade agreements.