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Serbia-Kosovo Media Wage War Over Tax Hike

Serbian and Kosovo media are trading accusations over Kosovo’s decision to hugely increase import tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia.
The front pages of Serbian Informer and Kosovo’s Zeri newspapers. Photo: Screenhot

Serbian media on Thursday accused Kosovo of resorting to “war” and economic “cleansing” following its decision to hike import taxes to 100 per cent – while Kosovo media supported the measure, adopted in retaliation for Belgrade’s role in Kosovo’s failed Interpol membership bid.

The pro-government Serbian tabloid Informer, (pictured above with the Pristina-based daily Zeri), told readers that “Shiptars Want War”, using a highly derogatory term for Albanians.

The front page of Zeri, on the other hand, featured a headline “From ‘So-called’ Kosovo With Love” and a stop sign – referring to the practice of Serbian officials and media of calling Kosovo a “so-called state”.

“Due to irresponsible actions done to the detriment of the Kosovo state, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina risk losing a 500-million-euro market,” Zeri wrote on its front page.

Headlines of Serbian newspapers from November 22. Photo: BIRN

Almost all Serbian tabloids close to the ruling Progressive Party warned of possible armed conflict, with the daily Kurir calling Pristina’s decision an “Introduction to War”.

Alo newspaper claimed that “[Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush] Haradinaj Declared War On Us!”

The dailies Politika and Vecernje Novosti were not close behind. Politika’s headline from Thursday accused Kosovo of “Economic Ethnic Cleansing”, while Vecernje Novosti said Kosovo leaders “Want to Clease Kosovo of Serbs”.

Meanwhile, Kosovo Albanian newspapers hailed the government’s decision, some calling it a deserved act of retaliation for Serbian lobbying against Kosovo’s membership of Interpol.

Kosovo’s bid to join the global police organisation failed on Tuesday when it did not secure enough votes at Interpol’s general assembly in Dubai.

Kosovo newspapers’ headlines on the tax hike. Photo: BIRN

Under the headline “Kosovo increases sanctions against Serbia, EU and Belgrade react angrily”, the daily Koha Ditore on its front page reported that Kosovo had imposed economic sanctions against Serbia “as a response to its latest campaign to block Kosovo’s membership of Interpol and dim its international subjectivity”.

The daily Epoka e Re ran an interview with a former head of the Kosovo delegation to the EU-led dialogue with Serbia, Edita Tahiri, who said that Kosovo should “temporarily stop the dialogue with Serbia”.

“Kosovo Brings Serbia to its Knees” ran the headline of another Prishtina-based newspaper, Bota Sot.

Kosovo on Wednesday increased taxes on Serbian and Bosnian imports from 10 per cent, as imposed on November 6, to 100 per cent.

Serbia’s Chamber of Commerce told BIRN that Serbian companies sold 349.6 million euros worth of goods to Kosovo from January to September 2018; Serbia’s trade surplus was 329.9 million.

Bosnia also has a large trade surplus with Kosovo, exporting products to Kosovo worth about 80 million euros against imports of only 8 million euros in 2017.

Kosovo’s measure has been condemned by the European Union whose foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said Kosovo must “immediately revoke these decisions”, as they violate its membership of the regional free trade area, CEFTA.

Read more:

Kosovo Tax Hike Halves Imports From Serbia, Bosnia

Kosovo Imposes Customs Tariffs on Serbia, Bosnia