The four states that lie in the Western Balkans are on the verge of a trade war. Kosovo, Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia, have set barriers to each other for business and goods. The most recent case for the trade war is Macedonia which decided to block fish imported from Kosovo on June 1. Macedonia’s action has sparked numerous reactions in Kosovo. The Kosovo Manufacturers Club (KMC) has reacted to the decision taken by North Macedonia to ban the import of fish from Kosovo.
The KMC has said that no part of the regulation shows the reasons for this prohibition. In response it is noted that Macedonia is now added to the list of CEFTA members that do not respect the free trade agreements with Kosovo after Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania. The KMC wrote that this decision directly damages local businesses that deal with fish farming, as North Macedonia has been one of the most important markets for selling live fish from Kosovo’s producers.
Kosovo exported 26 tons of live fish worth 95 thousands euro to North Macedonia during 2018. The export value was 23 thousand euros only in May 2019, which is several times higher than the previous months. The KMC has asked the Kosovo authorities to react and request the revision of this decision from Macedonia and to show the real reasons for the ban.
The Kosovo Chamber of Commerce also expressed its concern over the decision taken by the Republic of North Macedonia to ban the sale of fish from Kosovo. According to them, the concern arose by the member business “Trofta Istog,” as they were notified on this decision without prior notice. A tax of about 700 euros has been set for every entry of Kosovo live fish in Macedonia.
Kosovo’s 100 percent tax on Serbian goods on the other hand, is continuing to bring stiff debates between the two states, making their relations even more acute. Officials from the two countries have announced massive measures. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has stated that his country will take countermeasures on a meeting with Serbian representatives in Kosovo, immediately after Vidovdan’s holiday held on the 28th. Vucic said he hopes no countermeasures are needed, but according to him Serbs will be forced to do so if no progress is made.
Whereas Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, told the media that “we want once and for all to clarify our report as a state with the state of Serbia, which can only be achieved through a dialogue that will have clear deadlines, precise objectives, guarantees and international support, from the United States and the EU in the first place.” He stressed that unfortunately the situation and recent developments are not promising at all and things are not moving at all due to a lack of dialogue.
In the shops of northern Mitrovica there is a lack of many Serbian products, such as milk and its by-products, up to various types of detergents in Serbia. A document is circulating in the northern municipalities demanding citizens to not buy goods from the south and Albanians. The document is written in Cyrillic and carry the signature of the so-called “Association of Kosovo and Metohija Businessmen.” Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj stated earlier that Belgrade is planning to withdraw goods in order to cause a humanitarian catastrophe.
“It’s all propaganda and there is no lack of food in the north. This is a plan of Serbia that aims to abolish the tax, otherwise every citizen of Kosovo has equal access to food and other things necessary for life,” said Endrit Shala who is Kosovo’s Minister of Trade and Industry (MTI).
Shala has also warned that Kosovo could levy taxes on Albania and Northern Macedonia as well, after a debate on the 100 percent tax effects on Serbia and Bosnia. He has mentioned that Kosovo producers have complaints about some taxes levied against them from Albania and North Macedonia.
“In two meetings with the Government of Albania we have asked for the removal of two taxes on Kosovo and not doing business in Kosovo. Even for Macedonia, we have concerns by Kosovar producers because recently the export of raw fish production was forbidden. MTI is ready to take certain measures against certain states depending on the demands of Kosovar producers,” Shala said.