ISSN 2330-717X

Puzzling Developments In Trade Dispute Between Serbia, Kosovo

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By Linda Karadaku

The Kosovo Assembly adopted a motion Wednesday (December 7th) on ensuring reciprocity with Serbia. Introduced by the opposition Vetevendosje Movement, it requires the government “to strengthen all state mechanisms to ensure precise implementation of reciprocity measures towards Serbia”.

Prime Minister Hashim Thaci’s administration has been engaged in internationally mediated efforts to solve the ongoing border crisis with Serbia. But according to deputy parliament speaker Glauk Konjufca, a Vetevendosje member, Wednesday’s vote amounts to parliament giving the thumbs down to the agreements reached with Serbia so far.

If Serbia does not recognise Kosovo, Kosovo should not recognise Serbia, Konjufca told SETimes. The same would go for travel documents, license plates, documentation of goods and more – a variety of political and economic issues, on which there has been “a unilateral position between Kosovo and Serbia until now”.

By passing the motion, lawmakers in effect obliged the government “to implement the measures of political, economic and trade reciprocity with Serbia,” he said.

The Thaci administration has deemed the parliamentary motion redundant, saying that it is already applying reciprocity measures.

Addressing lawmakers, Trade and Industry Minister Mimoza Kusari-Lila said the government would take such measures against any country that violates the CEFTA agreemen. But a decision to block trade with these countries should be avoided, as isolation leads to poverty, the daily Koha Ditore quoted her as saying.

In the end, the vote was 42 to 33, with two abstentions. But in a twist late Thursday, deputies from the government coalition who voted in favour of the motion delivered statements asking that their votes — in effect — be withdrawn.

The Kosovo news agency Indeksonline quoted the head of the PDK parliamentary group, Adem Grabovci, as saying lawmakers “have noticed … that they have voted by mistake and … are asking for them (their votes) to be withdrawn,” Grabovci said.

Opposition parties, including the Democratic League of Kosovo and the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, say the request is not logical.

Agreements on a series of measures were struck in early July, during EU-mediated talks in Brussels between Kosovo and Serbia. The on-again off again talks have produced a number of deals, including the latest on Integrated Border Management. The issue of Kosovo representation in regional forums is also being discussed. Meanwhile, Kosovo has continued to express concerns about the implementation of agreements reached so far.

After Wednesday’s vote, Konjufca told SETimes that in any democratic European state, when the government fails in the face of parliamentary motions on important issues, “it usually presents a motion of non-confidence,” adding, “It is considered that there is no full accordance between the voice of the representatives of the people and the government plans.”

Kosovo political analyst Belul Beqaj says that this vote might signal the beginning of the end of Thaci’s influence. “In my opinion, this motion is more against the authoritarian concept of his governance, than a real solution to relations with Serbia. Vetevendosje probably wants [a real solution to relations with Serbia], but the majority of the rest of the deputies, not only from the opposition, are indicating (to Thaci) what would be the end if he continues with this way of governing,” Beqaj told SETimes.

But fellow Kosovo analyst Avni Zogiani disagrees, given parliament’s current composition. “Except for Vetevendosje, which has some integrity, any other vote in parliament can be easily traded…I don’t think there is any chance, for the moment, to have any political move in parliament that can reflect democracy,” Zogiani told SETimes.

In northern Kosovo, the situation on the ground remains unsettled. Kosovo Serbs had started removing barricades in place since the end of summer, after a striking an agreement with KFOR. But the situation changed again late Thursday afternoon, when local Serbs re-established barricades at both crossing gates in the north, in response to Kosovo Police officers and Custom officers being deployed there.

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SETimes

The Southeast European Times Web site is a central source of news and information about Southeastern Europe in ten languages: Albanian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, English, Greek, Macedonian, Romanian, Serbian and Turkish. The Southeast European Times is sponsored by the US European Command, the joint military command responsible for US operations in 52 countries. EUCOM is committed to promoting stability, co-operation and prosperity in the region.

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