September 15, 2013 / 9:30 AM / 6 years ago

Kosovo and Macedonia end trade dispute

PRISTINA/SKOPJE (Reuters) - Goods from Kosovo and Macedonia crossed their border on Sunday, ending a trade dispute that closed the frontier between the Balkan neighbors to goods and vehicles for six days.

The dispute started in July when Macedonia limited the import of wheat and flour from all members of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA), including Kosovo, in an effort to protect domestic production.

Kosovo first responded by banning imports of Macedonian food, beverages and cigarette products, and then introduced a blanket ban on Macedonian goods from midnight last Sunday after Skopje introduced a levy on Kosovo citizens entering Macedonia.

After days of talks between the two countries failed to break the deadlock, the ban ended only after the Macedonian limit on flour expired on Sunday and Kosovo lifted its restrictions.

“After a week of blockade on both sides of the border, tonight at midnight, between the 14th and 15th, the border is open,” Kosovo Trade Minister Mimoza Kusari Lila said at the border to mark the end of the blockade.

“This ends the unpleasant processes between the two countries from the last couple of days,” Macedonia’s Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Pesevski said.

Though there was no obvious political backdrop to the row, relations between Macedonia and Kosovo have been far from simple since Kosovo’s 1998-99 war helped trigger a spillover insurgency in Macedonia in 2001.

Albanians are the overwhelming majority in Kosovo, and form a large minority - more than 25 percent - in Macedonia.

Macedonia last year exported products worth $392 million to Kosovo, mainly oil, cement, medicine, steel, beverages, fruit and vegetables. Kosovo exported around $29 million worth of goods last year.

Reporting by Fatos Bytyci in Pristina and Kole Casule in Skopje; Editing by Alison Williams

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