July 20, 2011 / 3:59 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 2-Kosovo bans Serbian imports, taxes Bosnian goods

* Kosovo bans all goods coming from Serbia

* EU says unilateral actions will not solve problems

* Serbia says there can be consequences after the decision

(Adds reactions from Serbia and EU)

By Fatos Bytyci

PRISTINA, July 20 (Reuters) - Kosovo has banned all imports from Serbia and introduced a 10 percent tax for imports from Bosnia as both countries continue to block exports from Kosovo, the trade minister told Reuters on Wednesday.

Serbia, Kosovo’s former ruler, and Bosnia have blocked all goods bearing Kosovo stamps and turned back travellers since February 2008 when Kosovo declared independence.

Serbia lost Kosovo, a landlocked state of 1.7 million people which Serbia regards as the cradle of its nation, in 1999 when NATO waged a bombing campaign to halt killings of ethnic Albanians in a counter-insurgency war.

“We will not recognise customs stamps from Serbia and all imports from Serbia will be turned back at the border,” Trade Minister Mimoza Kusari Lila said. “This will take effect starting from today”.

The customs office said the decision would be enforced from 8 p.m. local time (1800 GMT).

Kosovo’s independence is recognised by 76 countries including the United States and most EU states but not by Russia, China, Serbia and Bosnia where ethnic Serbs oppose Kosovo’s secession from Serbia.

Under the aegis of the European Union, Kosovo and Serbia launched talks this year to address issues including trade.

The two countries had planned to meet in Brussels this week but talks were put off until September. Kosovo blamed Serbia for “not being ready to accept Kosovo customs stamps”.

The European Union says it is studying Kosovo’s decision.

“The EU continues to believe that unilateral actions do not solve problems. It would be better to give the Serbia-Kosovo dialogue a chance in early September before implementing a ban,” said Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Oliver Ivanovic, Serbia’s State Secretary for Kosovo, said Kosovo’s actions would not pressure Serbia to change its position and recognise Kosovo’s independence.

“This can have unforeseen consequences and can go far as it opens similar opportunities to Serbia. This is an irresponsible act whose authors have failed to take into account that Serbia could act similarly,” Ivanovic said.

“This is in violation of the foundation of our talks with the authorities in Pristina. One unilateral move can jeopardise the validity of agreements which have been reached so far.”

Serbia exports goods to Kosovo worth 270 million euros ($383.3 million) while Bosnia exports goods worth 80 million euros a year. Kosovo’s total imports in 2010 were around 2 billion euros and its exports were 10 percent of that. (Additional Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic in Belgrade and Justyna Pawlak in Brussels; Editing by Maja Zuvela)

$1=.7043 Euro

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