Die Morina, Pristina, BIRN, January 31, 2019
A reportedly tense meeting of the Kosovo leadership on Thursday between the Prime Minister, President, the Speaker and the US ambassador ended without agreement on the controversial tax on Serbian imports.
After meeting Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, Parliament Speaker Kadri Vejseli, and the US ambassador to Pristina, Philip Kosnett, Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj on Thursday defended the high tax imposed on Serbian imports as a “sovereign decision of the government”.
Haradinaj said his interlocutors had told him that revoking the tax would aid continuation of the stalled EU-led dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia.
But the embattled government head said he did not understand how the tax decision related to the dialogue.
“I am also for continuation of the dialogue, but I don’t want to link these topics. The tax decision is a sovereign decision of the government of Kosovo,” Haradinaj told the media.
Kosovo’s public broadcaster, RTK, previously reported citing unnamed sources that ambassador Kosnett had abruptly left the meeting, annoyed by Haradinaj’s refusal to suspend the tax.
RTK claimed Kosnett “demonstratively left the meeting and slammed the door”.
Haradinaj’s office has denied the allegation.
“I don’t want to comment on the meeting, but I can confirm that such thing did not happen,” Avni Arifi, Haradinaj’s chef-de-cabinet, told BIRN. The US embassy has also stayed silent on the alleged row.
Haradinaj has insisted that the 100-per-cent tax on Serbian and Bosnian goods will only be scrapped when Serbia recognises Kosovo as an independent state.
But divisions in the government are widening. Speaker Veseli, also head of the ruling coalition partner party, the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, has proposed suspending it for 120 days. He has warned that the government could collapse over the issue.
Veseli told a TV station this week that the government would fall if relations with the country’s main ally, the United States, broke down over the issue of the import tax.
The US has repeatedly urged Kosovo to consider an “immediate suspension” of the tax.
Haradinaj has admitted that the government, which has only a narrow majority, is in trouble.
“Everything is possible in the weeks and days to come; first there is some important stuff to be finished like the budget. If disagreements [within the ruling alliance] continue, they can result in other decisions,” Haradinaj said on Thursday.
Media report say the outcome of tense talks within the ruling coalition is expected to become clear after parliament votes on the budget on Saturday.
Kosovo imposed the tax last year in response to Serbia’s attempts to stop its former province from joining international bodies.
Serbia on Thursday said it would not resume the dialogue until the tax was scrapped.