Can there be progress in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina while the ban on the import of Serbian goods is in force?

kurti-vucic dijalog
Source: Reporteri

The ban on the import of Serbian goods, which has been in effect for almost two months and which has caused great difficulties for the Serbs in Kosovo, according to the interlocutors of Kosovo Online, reduces the chances of progress in the continuation of the political dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. Also, as they indicate, this measure of the Kosovo authorities is neglected by the mediators in the dialogue, and the question is why Pristina tolerates such a thing at all.

Retired diplomat Milovan Bozinovic believes that the boycott and disruptions to Serbian goods are in every respect a violation of all international rules and practices that are recommended for mutual cooperation and that such circumstance only further complicate dialogue, which, as he says, otherwise does not give concrete results and does not achieve progress. He emphasizes that there can be no progress in the negotiations and that the current situation in Kosovo undermines all prospects for an agreement.

"The real question is why this is tolerated by the Kosovo authorities. It would really be cynical to tell those who are the sponsors of the Kosovo authorities, and they are well-known, that it should not be like that and that it is not a contribution to the establishment of trust and possible dialogue. Everyone knows that. That's why this has some purpose approved by the higher authorities, which is certainly a big and serious offense in creating the conditions for possible dialogue. However, it is not the only one. Look at the arrests of people when after 20 years they are allegedly found to have done something wrong, and until then they even lived in Kosovo," Bozinovic points out.

All in all, he adds, from this practice that does not stop, it can be concluded that the Western countries, which are actually asking about these things, are not satisfied with the way the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade looks like and that they clearly attribute greater responsibility for it to Serbia. He also assesses that Serbia must be dissatisfied with such a development of the situation, which, he adds, is a blow to the prospect of calming down the situation.

After the implementation of the decision of the Kosovo Government on the ban on Serbian goods, which was not officially announced before, began to be implemented on June 14, "explanations" arrived from Pristina that it was introduced for "security reasons".

Bozinovic says that such explanations from Pristina are cynical and that they are used so that the Kosovo authorities do not have to explain what it is really about - that they want to continue the dialogue only as it suits them.

"Dialogue cannot progress under these circumstances, and even then it is very difficult and gives very modest or even no results. What is happening now, two months is not a short time, everything has grown into a state that has become normal there. This state is undermining prospects for dialogue. You cannot negotiate in such circumstances, especially under such an absurdly cynical explanation - as if the security of people and structures in Kosovo is threatened. It is so general and so generally stated that it can apply to everyone and everyone can tell you that to free himself from the obligation to prove what this is all about. No one is proving anything, it is the implementation of a crude political will aimed at ensuring that the dialogue can continue, but only in the way Pristina imagines it. I think there is nothing behind it no greater political wisdom," Bozinovic says.

The Albanian side, as indicated by our interlocutor, feels powerful and is under the protection of its sponsors.

"They will not undertake anything for which they do not have the approval or at the very least tacit approval from the Western countries, which have been dominant in that dialogue from the beginning," Bozinovic assesses.

The situation for the Serbian side, he says, is unpleasant because it is about the intention to force a solution for Kosovo, not to negotiate.

"It is one way of managing the crisis according to the will of those who want to force, and not to negotiate, a solution. So this is a way to force something that suits you, and not to negotiate it with a partner whom you will consider equal. Of course, Serbia won't agree on it and it shouldn't agree, so we'll see how far it will go and what will happen in the end," Bozinovic concluded.

Milica Andric-Rakic from the non-governmental organization "New Social Initiative" from North Mitrovica points out that at the moment, there are so many circumstances that block dialogue, that the measure of banning the import of Serbian products is almost invisible, at least for intermediaries.

"From a political point of view, this measure is almost irrelevant since no one talks about it, but from a social point of view it is very harmful because it increases the feeling of isolation among the Serbs throughout Kosovo," Andric-Rakic told Kosovo Online.

Speaking about the ban on the import of Serbian goods, Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti pointed out that it was a "security measure" and not an economic one; however, Andric-Rakic reminds that shortly after the ban was introduced, Kosovo suspended the decision in the part related to the import of raw materials from Serbia.

"At that time, both the argument that the ban was introduced for security reasons and the argument that it was a way to harm Serbia failed the test. As long as Kosovo imports raw materials from Serbia, but not final products, we can only talk about psychological pressure on the Serbs, not about tangible damage to Serbia's economy or Kosovo's security," Andric-Rakic said.

She assesses that the measure banning the import of Serbian products does not harm Kosovo, precisely because an exception was made for raw materials.

Condemnations of international factors, CEFTA or EU members who are quite vocal in promoting the common regional market in the Western Balkans, in the case of Kosovo's decision, were barely heard.

When asked why this was so, Bozinovic pointed out that in the complicated geopolitical circumstances in Europe and when international relations were disrupted to such an extent, especially because of Ukraine, all these institutions hardly meant anything.

"They were not louder because they were told not to be louder. Everything was put under the domination of one power and one military structure, mostly because of the obligation to act unitedly in Ukraine, and then it spills over to all other things. In Europe, a vassal spirit of respect for the elderly has been created as never since the Second World War. Those structures won't do anything if they don't get a nod from those strong Western structures that are in charge of it," he explains.

Kosovo's Minister of Internal Affairs, Xhelal Svecla, let's remind you, the day after the ban on the entry of trucks from Serbia into Kosovo was introduced, announced that it had been introduced for security reasons because the Serbian police had arrested three Kosovo policemen, and that the decision would be in force until the new security assessments.

Meanwhile, on June 26, after the Court in Kraljevo confirmed the indictment, the Kosovo policemen were released from custody in Serbia and returned to Kosovo on the same day.

The import ban is still in force, and as a consequence of this policy of the Government in Pristina, the stock of medicines in the Clinical Hospital Center Kosovska Mitrovica is running low, as confirmed by the director of that institution, Zlatan Elek, calling the situation alarming. Also, the Serbs, both from the north and the south of Kosovo, indicate that they are missing some foods that they use every day and that those that are currently available as a substitute for Serbian products are more expensive and too high for their standard.