The office of Kosovo Foreign Minister Behgjet Pacolli has said it will not approve any further requests from Serbian officials to visit Kosovo.
This comes after Serbia’s “propaganda and fake news about the country and its citizens, and the latest attempt to fabricate a so-called humanitarian crisis in the North of Kosovo”, ministry spokesperson Jetlir Zymbera Zymberaj wrote on Facebook. He warned that Kosovo would refuse all requests until Serbia changed its attitude.
The head of Serbia’s Office for Kosovo, Marko Djuric, condemned the decision as “a slap to the international community and Europe”, and added that it would only motivate more intense diplomatic activity by Belgrade.
“Pristina’s decision is the last wedge in the coffin of the idea of dialogue, a terrible slap to the international community, a blow to the foundation of freedom of movement and all European principles,” Djuric said, the Serbian public broadcaster RTS reported.
Djuric took a swipe at Europe, saying the decision by Kosovo followed “several months of the silence by the EU on the tariffs”. Kosovo has imposed a 100-per-cent tax on Serbian and Bosnian goods.
“What craziness needs to happen – should the Balkans begin to burn in flames in order to stop people who violate EU-signed agreements?” Djuric asked.
The escalation in tension follows a strike against the tariffs in the Serb-run far north of Kosovo. From Monday to Wednesday, all shops and local businesses were closed in the northern Serb-led municipalities, protesting against the 100-per-cent tariff imposed on imports from Serbia.
Local businesses stopped the strike on Wednesday and re-opened shops after the Kosovo Government sent trucks with food supplies to the north. Most local Serbian citizens refused to buy them, possibly also because of intimidation.
Many local businesses at first ignored the new tax, arranging their supplies from Serbian producers through alternative channels – until end of May, when police arrested more than 20 local Serbian policemen and accused them of assisting smuggling and organised crime.
Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj and Foreign Minister Behxhet Pacolli last week accused some in the north of the country of trying to foment an artificial “humanitarian crisis”.
The government first imposed a lower import tariff and then hiked it in November last year to 100 per cent in retaliation for Serbia’s lobbying against Kosovo’s accession to Interpol and other international organisations.
It has also been applied to products from Bosnia and Herzegovina, which, like Serbia, does not recognise Kosovo as an independent state.