Mijacic: The decision to ban the import of goods from Serbia will create additional political and security problems

Dragiša Mijačić
Source: Medija centar

The Coordinator of the National Convention on the EU for Chapter 35, Dragisa Mijacic, believes that the decision of the Kosovo Government to ban imports from Serbia is non-transparent, undemocratic, and contrary to the interests of the Kosovo economy. He points out that it further creates mistrust among the Serbian community, and that it will lead to additional political and security problems, especially in the north.

Mijacic tweeted that this decision goes against the Brussels Agreement, the CEFTA Agreement, and the principles of the Common Regional Market, and he added that it doesn't contribute to the normalization process between Kosovo and Serbia.

"This decision is against the advice received from the European Union and the QUINT countries. However, this decision perfectly unveils a destructive character of Kurti's style of governance – make trouble whenever possible,'" Mijacic wrote.

He reminds that on June 14th, as a result of the arrest of Kosovo policemen in Serbia, the Government of Kosovo decided to ban the entry of Serbian trucks carrying Serbian goods.

Mijacic points out that this decision has been applied at all entry points, but there is no evidence that such a decision even exists.

He emphasizes that this decision has never been published on the Kosovo Government's website or in the media.

"The Government of Kosovo indeed held an online meeting on June 14th, but from the minutes, it is clear that they did not discuss or decide anything regarding the ban of Serbian goods. Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Minister of Internal Affairs Xhelal Svecla explained that it was an 'oral decision,' so there is no written policy document. This perfectly describes the modus operandi in the 'most democratic country in the Western Balkans'," Mijacic points out.

In diplomatic circles, he adds, the Kosovo authorities justify this unilateral and non-coordinated decision by their security concerns and incoming threats from Serbia, explaining their fears that Serbian trucks will bring weapons to Kosovo Serbs.

Mijacic notes that these concerns are not supported by any evidence, and he emphasizes that there is no public information about Serbian trucks being seized with smuggled weapons.

He points out further that weapons could be smuggled in trucks with license plates from other countries.

"One thing is clear, it is another unilateral move from the Government of Kosovo against normalization with Serbia," he says, adding that it is strange that the Kosovo Government at some point (again orally) decided to allow the passage of trucks with Serbian license plates that transport foreign goods.

He emphasizes that this clearly explains that the nature of these "oral" decisions of the Kosovo Government has nothing to do with arms smuggling yet with banning imports from Serbia.

Mijacic points out that Albin Kurti and LVV (Self-Determination Movement) have a long history of fighting against the import of Serbian goods to Kosovo. He recalls that in 2016, the Self-Determination supporters overturned several trucks carrying Serbian goods on the highway.

Besides, he adds, the first Kurti's government fell in March 2020, among other reasons, due to his refusal to drop the 100% tariffs on Serbian goods.

"The 'oral' decision to ban the import of Serbian goods is contrary to the Brussels and CEFTA Agreements and the principles of the Common Regional Market. This unilateral act certainly does not contribute to the normalization process with Serbia and further deepens misunderstandings with the West. What is more important, the 'oral' decision creates problems for the Kosovo economy and it will additionally contribute to the inflation, which is already high in Kosovo," he says.

Mijacic reminds that Kosovo mainly imports cereals, beverages, sugar, and animal feed from Serbia, which are cheaper than substitute products from other countries.

According to him, there is no reason to believe that the current oral decision of the Government of Kosovo to ban the import of goods from Serbia will not have negative effects.

"The Kosovo Agency of Statistics (ASK) estimated 10.1% inflation for the 1st quarter of 2023. The ban on Serbian goods will further increase inflation by the end of the year," he points out.

According to ASK data for June 2023, imports from Serbia amounted to only €13.255 million, which is 61% less compared to June 2022 and 52% less compared to May 2023.

Exports to Serbia have also decreased, being 21% less compared to June 2022 and 33% less compared to May 2022.

The figures will certainly continue to drop in July and August, Mijacic states, and he says that it will have further negative consequences for the Kosovo economy, including job losses.

"The irony is bigger with the fact that Albin Kurti came to power promising more jobs, but with his acts, he made it the opposite," he emphasizes.

He adds that another important aspect of the oral decision is the deepening mistrust between the Government of Kosovo and the Serbian community in Kosovo, which will negatively reflect on further political and security issues, political participation, and social and economic integration.

Kosovo Serbs primarily consume Serbian products, he adds, and he points out that they have been heavily affected by this decision.

According to him, the ban has already affected the shortage of dairy products in stores and the high inflation of all other products.

Trade bans also attract smugglers to make some extra money, which increases the probability of their conflicts with the police or corrupting the police.

"In any case, this will create further political and security problems, especially in the north," Mijacic says.

As he notes, when Kurti came to power, a foreign diplomat tried to convince him that Kurti was a fast learner and would promptly understand the importance of the dialogue process and make a significant change in the peaceful coexistence of Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo.

Mijacic's response was, as he says, that we cannot and should not be hostages to Kurti's cognitive abilities to learn how sensitive are relationships between two communities, and how important are the instruments that preserved peace in the last two decades.

"Looking back, after those three years, even the foreign diplomat I spoke with understood that Kurti didn't learn anything, and we all came to the moment that sanctions had to be applied to his Government in order to get him to sanity. So far without any results. Sad, but true," Mijacic concludes.