Serbia warns of possible counter-measures against Croatia

Ministers from four regional countries have agreed their next moves in response to Croatia's new tax rates on imports of goods from third countries.

Source: B92

Croatia recently introduced non-tariff barriers, with fees that are 22 times higher than the previous ones.

The ministers representing Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Montenegro held an urgent meeting in Sarajevo on Monday, and said afterwards that Croatia violated the World Trade Organization (WTO) basic rules and principles, which the four countries had concluded individually with the EU.

As the ministers pointed out, the interests of producers from their countries have been directly endangered by Croatia's actions.

For this reason they made the following conclusions:

1. Croatia is called upon to urgently lift the discriminatory decisions on fees, which treat products imported from third countries differently

2. The price of inspection controls should correspond to real prices, and should be adjusted to the average price in the region, and in the EU

3. An urgent meeting with the Croatian government is requested, since any delay would cause unforeseeable consequences at a time when export of seasonal fruits and vegetables is under way

4. The European Commission is called upon to engage in solving this problem

5. Montenegro and Macedonia, as WTO members, will launch an analysis before that organization

6. Until a solution is found, each country will take concrete measures that it considers appropriate

7. The removal of barriers that restrict the flow of people and goods is requested

The ministers also "signed a joint letter to be sent to the European Commission," the Serbian government announced on Monday.

After the meeting, Serbian Minister of Trade, Telecommunications and Tourism Rasim Ljajic pointed out that Croatia's measures are protectionist and populist and "absolutely cannot be justified" - and that Croatia these last days provided "three completely different explanations" for its moves.

"Our goal is not to have a (trade) war, but to protect our interests. We will be forced to introduce counter-measures if we fail to reach an agreement," Ljajic concluded.

EC's reaction

The European Commission is yet to receive a letter from the ministers of four West Balkan countries, asking it to intervene in a trade dispute with Croatia, but the stance of the European Union is that "all sides should honor the obligations" in the stabilization and association agreement between EU and the countries of the region.

An EU press representative told this to Beta in Brussels on Monday, stressing that the EU supported the development of trade and economic integration.

This was his response when asked how the EC and EU looked on the demand from the ministers of trade of Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Macedonia that Croatia immediately withdraw the 22-fold increased taxes on the import of fruit and vegetables, or the countries will institute reciprocal measures.

The EC is in touch with the authorities of the countries affected by the situation, the official said at the EU seat, stressing that the situation was being assessed, as was the concordance of the new measures with the obligations.

The official in Brussels added that the EU was urging all sides to refrain from and avoid heightening tension.

The EU reiterated on Monday it was assessing the situation regarding the introduction of new Croatian fees on fruit and vegetable imports from countries in the region.

"We are currently assessing the compliance of the new measures with obligations," a European Commission spokesperson told Tanjug.


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