Kosovo to tax international branded goods made in Serbia

PRISTINA, Kosovo — Kosovo's government on Friday extended a 100-percent tax on Serb imports to all international brand goods produced in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The new decision, taken Friday at a Cabinet meeting, is expected to affect goods including auto products, food, construction materials and computer devices, and affect companies including Samsung, Panasonic and Coca-Cola.

In November Kosovo set regional tensions soaring when it introduced the 100-percent tax on Serb imports, saying it won't be lifted until Belgrade recognizes its sovereignty and stops preventing it from joining international organizations.

The European Union, which facilitates a Pristina-Belgrade dialogue to normalize their ties, has called on Pristina to revoke that decision.

The Serbian government official dealing with Kosovo issues, Marko Djuric, said Kosovo's move "showed they were not sincere when saying they want to normalize relations."

Djuric accused Kosovo of seeking an "escalation" of tensions, adding: "What they are doing is pure madness."

Serbian imports to Kosovo amount to about 400 million euros ($460 million) a year. Safet Gerxhaliu, secretary-general of the region's Chamber Investment Forum, said a majority of such imports are international branded goods.

"Kosovar buyers will suffer the impact of higher prices," he said.

Serb representatives in Kosovo urged international intervention, describing Kosovo's move as an "anti-Serb" measure that threatens the Serb minority there and peace in the region.

Serbia does not recognize Kosovo's 2008 independence and will not sit down for talks until Pristina lifts the tariff.

Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj has complained about the lack of action from senior European Union officials after Serbia asked several countries to revoke their recognition of Kosovo.

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Semini reported from Tirana, Albania. Jovana Gec contributed from Belgrade, Serbia.

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Follow Llazar Semini on Twitter: https://twitter.com/lsemini

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