The Government of Kosovo decided late on Friday night (20.03) to waiver a part of the 100% import duties on raw materials and goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, with both Serb ministers abstaining in disagreement.
Prime Minister Albin Kurti signed a document on March 20 for a partial waiver of import duties on Serbian goods. Against the backdrop of threats coming from his main coalition party, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) of Isa Mustafa that it may withdraw its support, late last night the government decided to remove 100% tax imposed by the Haradinaj government on raw materials and goods coming from Serbia and BiH, with the decision due to take effect from 1 April. Despite Kurti’s insistence, the document does not mention the previous condition for reciprocity of Belgrade’s measures which met opposition from Brussels and Washington.
After the cabinet meeting, Kurti said that “of tonight six border crossings with Serbia will open for import of raw materials and goods”.
In the meantime, LDK has tabled a no-confidence motion vote to Kosovo’s Parliament after gathering more than 40 MPs signatures supporting this move initiated by Former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj’s Alliance for the Future of Kosovo. The success of a no-confidence motion will require at least 61 votes out of a total of 120 parliamentary members. The eventual overthrow of the government will depend on how Hashim Thaci’s 24 Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) deputies will vote in the plenary.
Koha Ditore sources suggest that LDK leader Isa Mustafa who threatened to file a motion for a no-confidence vote into Kurti’s cabinet will “give him another chance” especially after Friday night’s government decision.
US and EU insist on complete abolition of the 100% tax on Serbian goods and did not support Kurti’s idea for a partial lifting of customs barriers and demand for reciprocal measures from Belgrade as suspension of its policy for increasing the number of countries that do not recognize Kosovo, as well as allowing Kosovo’s membership in international organizations such as Interpol, UNESCO and others, on the road to full mutual recognition between Serbia and Kosovo.
In order not to fall into domestic and international isolation, Prime Minister Albin Kurti made the only sensible decision to eliminate 100% tax on Serbian goods, thus fulfilling the insistence of Washington and Brussels. The decision to immediately implement a partial waiver of the ban and its full abolition since April 1 is aimed at partially “rescuing” Kurti’s image as Prime Minister, so as not to show that he has bent under domestic pressure, including from his coalition partners, and the international one in the face of Brussels and Washington, which would be interpreted again in Belgrade as a victory over Pristina.
In all likelihood, the rest of the political forces will agree on that the vote of no-confidence to remain few votes short on passing as to give a clear signal to Kurti that he does not have a margin for maneuver in the event of any future conflicts between the coalition partners.
It can be expected that Kurti will be forced to make further concessions to his coalition partners on their aspirations to expand their participation in the executive branch.
It remains to be seen whether and to what extent the current Kosovo political elite will allow Kurti to carry out the reforms announced in his election program, especially in the part on combating corruption and enforcing the rule of law.