Belgrade: Great powers to do their own thing regarding the taxes; Pristina: Macron to return Serbia to the dialogue without the abolition of the taxes

Aleksandar Vučić, Emanuel Makron, Ramuš Haradinaj

French President, Emmanuel Macron visited Serbia on Monday and Tuesday, where he announced that in an effort to support the continuation of the dialogue and to find a solution for Kosovo and Serbia relations, a special meeting between the Serbian and Kosovo leaders and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be organized. This announcement was met with completely opposite expectations in Belgrade and Pristina when it comes to its effect on the decision of the Kosovo government to impose taxes on imports of goods from Serbia – which suspended the legal import of these goods to Kosovo. Belgrade will „wait for the great powers to do their thing“ until September, while Pristina believes that „Macron’s engagement can return Serbia to the negotiating table without abolishing the taxes.“

The public discovered yesterday the possibility of a new meeting between the Belgrade and Pristina delegations. President Vucic announced this morning that the meeting could take place in September. Only a few hours after this announcement, however, Belgrade and Pristina express completely opposite expectations from that meeting.

The last meeting within the Brussels Dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina delegations took place at the beginning of November last year, immediately after Kosovo first imposed a 10% tax on imports of goods from Serbia. This decision, which was later changed to a 100% tax, led to a complete suspension of the dialogue by Belgrade, which is calling for the abolition of this decision before the continuation of the negotiations.

In the meantime, another multilateral meeting took place in Berlin in April this year, in which, in addition to the Belgrade and Pristina delegations, other delegations from the Western Balkans also participated. This meeting did not note any results and it was agreed that the dialogue should resume with the meeting in Paris, which was supposed to take place in early July. The meeting, however, was canceled without an official explanation. Unofficially, Kosovo refused to abolish the taxes.

Although Belgrade did not explicitly repeat that it expects the abolition of the taxes – before the announced meeting under the auspices of Macron in September – Vucic declared this morning that “we should wait for the great powers to do their thing.”

„I believe that some sort of continuation of Berlin, or Paris, will take place in September. I think it takes time to talk about some things again. You know that I hate to lay blame on the other side and to mention the taxes or whatever. Let’s wait for the great powers to do their thing and then we will present our thing,“ the president emphasized.

On the other hand, Kosovo Prime Minister, Ramush Haradinaj admitted that Berlin and Paris are sending demands for Pristina to abolish 100% taxes on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. He shared his view that this is an attempt to discipline Kosovo – in order for it to accept the solution with a series of compromises in the final agreement with Belgrade, Pristina-based Koha Ditore wrote, FoNet reported.

Nevertheless, at the same time, Haradinaj expressed a belief that it is possible that Macron’s engagement will bring Serbia back to the negotiating table without the abolishment of the taxes.

„I am grateful to Macron for his sincerity when he said that Kosovo and Serbia have the support of Europeans. His desire to bring together two people and restore good relations between these two nations is noticeable,“ Haradinaj claimed, Koha reported.
Haradinaj added that he understands the language of compromise spoken by Macron and explained that the abolition of the taxes is a compromise, but only after the framework for negotiations on mutual recognition is established.

„This framework is the agreement we are negotiating about. However, the problem is that Serbia or one part of the international community does not accept it anymore under that name – as a mutual agreement within the existing borders,“ he said.

On the other hand, Vucic reiterated that „you cannot solve things by no one standing back on anything,“ adding that there will be no agreement if Belgrade and Pristina continue to disrespect the demands and wishes of the other side.

„Compromise is not a weakness. Compromise is power. I will, as long as I am alive, advocate for compromise, but for compromise – not for giving up and surrendering,“ Vucic concluded.

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