Croatia backs down, regional "customs war" is over

The "customs war" between Croatia and regional countries is over, Serbian Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications Rasim Ljajic said on Monday.

Source: B92, Tanjug

The row was sparked when Croatia increased 22 times the cost of its import inspection fees for fruit and vegetables - facing accusations that it had introduced non-tariff barriers.

Ljajic said that these fees will in the future cost "90 kunas (Croatian currency) - according to the old rules."

Tanjug is reporting that the cost of a certificate of compliance will be reduced to EUR 12.6 from EUR 270.

"I spoke with (Croatian Agriculture) Minister Tomislav Tolusic, who informed me that Croatia would return the rulebook to the old solution," Ljajic told reporters.

"This is a satisfactory solution to us, but there is no place for triumphalism, nor for someone to proclaim victory and defeat," said the minister, and emphasized that "the only important thing is to ensure the free flow of goods and to remove barriers."

"That is in the interests of our economies, as well as of good neighborly relations in the whole region," he said.

When asked what will happen to those farmers who have already paid the new fees, and whether the state will ask for the money to be returned to them, Ljajic said that "they themselves are the only ones who can do it."

"We, as a state, cannot ask for that, but they can seek regular court proceedings if they think they've been damaged," Ljajic said, adding that the state "has already done what it could and considers it to be sufficient."

"The most important thing is that the problem is resolved, that people can trade, travel and sell their goods in both directions and I hope that this will be the last non-tariff barrier," concluded Ljajic.

Earlier this week, ministers from four regional countries affected by Zagreb's move met in Sarajevo and adopted seven conclusions.

At the time Serbia warned that unless Croatia resolved the problem, it would introduce counter-measures.

"Only right decision"

The government of the Republic of Serbia has welcomed the decision of the Croatian government to return inspection fees for fruit and vegetables from EUR 270 to EUR 12 per plant species, the government announced on its website.

Prime Minister Ana Brnabic has been quoted as saying that the decision was "in the economic sense, the only correct one - since all countries in the region suffered from price increases and unilateral decisions."

Returning prices to the previous level will contribute to the relaxation of relations between the countries in the region, Brnabic said noting that cooperation in all areas is important for stability, and especially for the promotion of economic growth.

She urged all parties to refrain from unilateral moves in the future, without consultations and agreements with neighbors.

Over the past days, we have confirmed that all problems and outstanding issues can be solved by dialogue, on which Serbia always insists, and especially when it comes to cooperation with neighbors, Brnabic pointed out.


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