New Kosovo Prime Minister Pledges to Remove 100% Serbian Import Tariffs

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti pledges to abolish the 100% tariffs on Serbian imports, an impediment in normalization efforts between the two countries since 2018.Kurti, who was confirmed as prime minister by the Kosovo Assembly on Monday, said in an interview with Voice of America that the objective of the ruling coalition composed of his party, Vetvendosje (Self-Determination), and the Democratic League of Kosovo, is to introduce “measures of full reciprocity in trade, politics and economy” with Serbia.  This is not about revenge but justice, stated Kurti, adding, “Reciprocity is fairness.  It is a fair approach. It is on the justice record, and I know that in one of his statements. U.S. President Donald Trump has mentioned reciprocity as a value and a concept that is close to his heart. So, international relations in the world today are built on this principle.”Lamenting what he called “numerous unacceptable actions that Serbia has taken towards us,” he described Kosovo’s reactions as defensive measures. “Serbia’s campaign is offensive. Reciprocity is protection, it is defensive, and it is the minimum for some kind of dignity and integrity of our being an independent state.”U.S. ambassador to Germany Richard Grenel speaks after he met with the leader of Vetevendosje, newly nominated prime minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti, in Kosovo’s capital Pristina on Jan. 23, 2020.Kosovo authorities have been under relentless pressure from Western allies to remove the tariffs. Trump’s special envoy for Kosovo and Serbia, Richard Grenell, urged the new Kosovo government to drop tariffs.“We expect the tariffs to be dropped immediately,” said Grenell, who is also U.S. ambassador to Germany. “We made clear to all the [Kosovo] party leaders that dropping the tariffs was in the best interest of Kosovo and its economy, and the desire to attract new businesses. And the party leaders agreed,” he said in an emailed statement to The Associated Press.European Union-mediated talks between Serbia and Kosovo over normalizing relations stalled after the previous Kosovo government imposed 100% tariffs on Serbian goods to protest efforts by Belgrade to block Kosovo’s accession into international organizations.On Thursday, former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, who introduced tariffs in 2018, urged Kurti in an open letter “not to drop the tariffs.”  Haradinaj said that “the 100% tax is imposed as a defensive measure against Serbia’s aggressive policy toward Kosovo and can be revoked with recognition.”Negotiations with Serbia remain one of the main challenges facing the new prime minister and his government.Kurti does not rule out the possibility of reaching an agreement with Serbia this year.“It’s possible, but I cannot foresee such a thing now. Now, I can express my will for dialogue, for open and principled dialogue,” he said.Serbia and its ally Russia do not recognize Kosovo’s independence.Since its declaration of independence, more than 100 countries have recognized Kosovo, including the United States and most EU nations.

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