By Linda Karadaku
In this interview, SETimes correspondent Linda Karadaku sits down with Kosovo Minister of Trade and Industry Mimoza Kusari-Lila to discuss Kosovo-Serbia trade relations and the prospects and challenges of reaching a free trade agreement with the EU.
SETimes: How is trade reciprocity with Serbia functioning?
Mimoza Kusari-Lila: Reciprocity with Serbia is functioning well. Our Kosovo businesses export to Serbia with the same documentation that they export to CEFTA countries.
SETimes: How effective have the talks with Serbia been regarding the trade situation on the ground?
Kusari-Lila: Talks with Serbia resulted in the acceptance of the Kosovo customs stamps. Therefore, talks have led to positive results in the trade field.
SETimes: What promises have you been given from the EU on preferential access and commercial contractual relations between the EU and Kosovo?
Kusari-Lila: The European Commission’s proposal to restore preferential trade access was adopted in October of this year and, on November 24th, the Council of Ministers decided to retroactively approve trade preferences for Kosovo with the EU countries. This means businesses that exported to the EU will have the money they paid as customs duties returned to them.
At the last meeting I had with the Commissioner for Trade, Karel De Gucht, I was promised that the preferential measures will come into force in December. The conclusion of the latest meeting of the Council of Ministers on December 6th said that Kosovo made progress in trade relations with the European Union. The possibility of a free trade agreement with the EU was assessed at this meeting. Talks to begin negotiations on this agreement are expected to begin next year
SETimes: What is required from Kosovo on this issue?
Kusari-Lila: There are a range of conditions required by the EU to sign a free trade agreement; among other things I can mention a few: Kosovo needs to liberalise its trade under the principles of the EU internal market, it should eliminate technical barriers and non-tariff barriers with the CEFTA member countries and the EU, and it should improve the quality of infrastructure and improve administrative capacity.
SETimes: When do you expect to begin the negotiations with the EU on this issue?
Kusari-Lila: We hope [for] talks to start negotiations on this agreement at the beginning of next year.
SETimes: How would Kosovo benefit from this agreement?
Kusari-Lila: Kosovo would benefit from this agreement because it would become part of a 500 million person market without customs duties. It is also an important step in the process of the European integration.