All shops, pharmacies and other service-related facilities in the four municipalities in the north of Kosovo were closed at the beginning of last week – as traders claimed, due to the shortage of goods from Serbia which arrived as a result of the tax on the import of products from Serbia and Bosnia and the rigorous control of alternative passages by the Kosovo police. According to the traders, the goods from Serbia, however, were „distributed“ to the north on Wednesday morning and the stores have been well-stocked since then. On the other hand, the Kosovo authorities claim that goods did not come from Serbia.
Kosovo Customs spokesperson Adriatik Stavileci told Klan Kosova that no major influx of goods from Serbia to Kosovo was recorded.
Stavileci’s statement comes after the Serbian President, Aleksandar Vucic announced at a conference yesterday that Serbia has recently succeeded in “supplying the north with consumer goods.” Vucic also stated that the situation in the north of Kosovo – when it comes to goods – is „better today than it was four days ago.“
„These are Vucic’s political statements,“ Stavelici briefly commented, denying Vucic’s allegations.
The Klan Kosova recalled that the shops in the north of Kosovo „were closed last week for two days in an attempt to start a humanitarian crisis.“
Pristina-based Gazeta Express reported on Wednesday that it also requested information from the Kosovo Customs on whether goods from Serbia had entered Kosovo and received a negative answer. The same portal then reported, referring to unnamed sources, that goods from Serbia „were concealed in warehouses and private houses.“
On the other hand, entrepreneurs from the north claim that the closing of the shops was a form of warning protest.
“We showed strength, unity. We showed that they cannot break us and that we will not allow that those supplying basic products are shot at and attacked. Every next attempt by Pristina will be met with an even stronger answer,” they wrote in a joint statement after a Tuesday meeting.
The entrepreneurs also announced that the shops would be closed for much longer the next time and sent an appeal to the international community:
“We appeal to the international community to finally understand the dramatic situation here in the north and to react in order to pacify Pristina, before an incident occurs that could bring things to a point of no return.“
While the President of Serbia was talking about Serbia’s efforts to supply the north with goods and promised that the racks would be full in the coming period, the President of the Association of Entrepreneurs from Kosovo, Rados Petrovic told RTK2 yesterday that the situation with the supply of food products is still very difficult. He added that there is still a shortage of milk and dairy products, flour, sugar and salt, as well as that pharmacies do not have essential medicine.
“Citizens are forced to go to Raska and Novi Pazar for medicine, as well as some basic food products,” Petrovic said, adding that gas stations have enough fuel.
Kosovo first imposed a 10% tax on imports of goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in November of last year, and then raised the tax to 100%. Thus, the legal import of goods from Serbia was de facto suspended, and the media started reporting on the frequent confiscation of smuggled goods from Serbia. While goods from Serbia soon disappeared from the south of the Ibar municipalities, the north of Kosovo faced its first product shortages after the action of the special units of the Kosovo Police against smuggling in which dozens of citizens and members of border police from the north were arrested.
As several prominent Kosovo officials claim, Kosovo imposed taxes on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina because they do not recognize Kosovo and because Serbia is campaigning against the recognition of Kosovo by using the money made from trade with Kosovo. Kosovo, however, did not impose the same measure against other states that do not recognize Kosovo.
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