Kosovo says to maintain its tariffs on Serbia despite EU pressure

PRISTINA (Reuters) - Kosovo will keep its 100 percent tariffs on Serbian goods until Belgrade recognizes Pristina, Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj said on Monday, defying calls by the European Union and United States for the tariffs to be abolished.

Last month Haradinaj’s government raised tariffs on locally-produced Serbian and Bosnian goods to 100 percent from 10 percent because Belgrade blocked Kosovo’s membership of Interpol.

The decision effectively halted trade between the two states and was criticized by EU and US officials.

“The tariffs of 100 percent for the goods on Serbia and Bosnia are to protect national security and sovereignty,” Haradinaj wrote on his Facebook page after meeting EU’s Commissioner Johannes Hahn in Pristina.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said in a statement Pristina’s measures would lead to the destabilisation of the region. He added that there would be no counter measures.

Improved relations is key to the efforts of both Serbia and Kosovo to join the European Union. Both countries agreed to a Brussels-sponsored dialogue in 2013 but little progress has been made. On Monday Hahn met Vucic in Belgrade.

Kosovo’s mostly ethnic Albanian population declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a decade after a NATO bombing campaign to end the killing of Albanian civilians by Serb forces during a two-year insurgency.

It is now recognized by more than 110 nations but not by Serbia, Russia or five EU states. Belgrade and Moscow have blocked Kosovo from joining the United Nations.

According to official figures, Serbia’s exports to Kosovo amounted to 450 million euros, while imports amounted to 48 million euros.

Additional reporting Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg