Serbia lost 298 million euros from Kosovo tariffs, minister says
BELGRADE, Aug 22 (Reuters) - Serbia has suffered damages
amounting to around 0.7 percent of its gross domestic product
since Kosovo, its former southern province, introduced 100%
import tariffs last November, the country's trade minister said
Majority-Albanian Kosovo, whose independence Belgrade
refuses to recognise, imposed the tax to retaliate after Serbia
blocked it from joining the international police agency Interpol
as a separate nation
Since last November, Serbia has lost 298 million euros
($329.89 million) as its exports to Kosovo fell sharply, the
Tanjug news agency reported, quoting Rasim Ljajic, Serbia's
"That is the direct damage, while the indirect damage will
be bigger and it will stem from by the loss of that market for
our entrepreneurs," the state-run Tanjug news agency quoted
Ljajic as saying.
In 2018, total exports from Serbia to Kosovo amounted to
around 500 million euros. The International Monetary Fund and
Serbia's central bank expect Serbia's economy will grow 3.5%
this year and 4% in 2020.
The introduction of the tax led to an impasse in talks
brokered by the European Union in normalising mutual ties -- a
crucial condition for both countries to ultimately join the EU.
It has also caused hardship for the four ethnic Serb
municipalities in northern Kosovo who pledge allegiance to
Serbia and openly defy the Pristina authorities.
Last month, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said Belgrade
would send supplies to Serb municipalities in Kosovo via
"alternative" mountain roads, often used by smugglers, until the
tax was scrapped.
Ljajic was also quoted as saying he expects the tax would be
abolished after snap elections in Kosovo.
The EU and the United States have both urged Pristina to
reverse the taxes and Belgrade to stop blocking Kosovo's bid to
join international organisations.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, almost a
decade after a NATO bombing campaign ended a crackdown by the
Serb security forces against ethnic Albanians.
Kosovo is now recognised by over 110 nations, but not by
others, including Serbia, Russia, China and five EU states.
Belgrade and Moscow have blocked Kosovo from joining the United
($1 = 0.9033 euros)
(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; editing by Larry King)
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