Kosovo Lifts Trade Embargo on Serbian Products

Kosovo ended a trade embargo on products from Serbia in an effort to ease tensions between the two Balkan nations that escalated two months ago.

“We lifted the embargo because it’s the decision of the Kosovo government which says that we need to implement the agreement reached in Brussels,” Mimoza Kusari Lila, Kosovo’s Trade and Industry Minister told Bloomberg News via text messages in the capital Pristina today. “But there are conditions, because the Jarinje border post remains completely closed for commercial goods and Brnjak is open only for goods that are not subject to excise duties such as alcohol, cigarettes and fuel.”

Kosovo in July imposed the trade ban on goods from Serbia and sent special police forces to the Serb-dominated north of the country as it sought to assert authority over its entire territory three years after declaring independence from Serbia. A Kosovo policeman died and Serbs extremists torched one of the border crossings.

Serbia and Kosovo on Sept. 2 struck an agreement on “status-neutral” documents as they continue EU-sponsored talks aimed at easing relations between the two nations that were at war over a decade ago. Serbia needs to show it’s making efforts to improve relations with its former province as it aims to win the EU candidate status by year’s end and receive billions of euros in aid.
Kosovo and the EU mission known as Eulex deployed customs officials at two border crossings with Serbia via helicopters after local Serbs again put up roadblocks, according to the Kosovo Police spokesman Baki Kelani. The border posts are also guarded by North Atlantic Treaty troops in Kosovo.

The United Nations governed the province until it declared independence in 2008. About 6,000 NATO soldiers remain stationed in Kosovo, down from 50,000 in 1999. The U.S. and 22 EU nations recognize Kosovo as an independent country, while five EU members, Russia and Serbia refuse to do so.