25. May. 2021. | 11:48


Can economic Cooperation Support the Normalization of Relations between Kosovo and Serbia



Current economic cooperation between Kosovo and Serbia is reduced a trade of goods - exports and imports which are also heavy influenced by political obstacles. Currently Serbia returned in Kosovo market with its imports. It counts now about half of their value before the 100% tariff introduction. On the other side Kosovo exports in Serbia remain modest. Currently lower than in Macedonia for 60% and lower than in Albania for about 300%. The 100% tariffs and reciprocity contra-measures to the imports for Serbia and Bosna and Hercegovina were removed by Kosovo, in a spring last year, in account of restarting dialogue in Brussels. On the other side obstacles for Kosovo exporters in Serbia remain the same. Serbia has not responded equally yet to remove several non-tariff barriers e.g. documents related to food exports, additional requirements for standards, labeling of products, obstacles to Kosovo exports and imports for transit through Serbia and similar.  

During  last year, especially on the eve of Washington Summit and its preparations , the issue of economic cooperation/normalization and meaningful economic transformation through key infrastructural projects and investment in job-creation to open perspective especially for the young generation, were seen as an gate way from unproductive talks in Brussels or as an key complementary component for overall normalization. This was an approach favored by White House. Lately PM of Kosovo has revisited idea of “Mini Marshal Plan“ for the region. During the summit at the White House (September 4, 2021) were signed commitments by three parties about potential agreement regarding investments worthy billions of US$ related to Infrastructure – (highways, railway, energy, deep port in Adriatic Sea, job creation and SME development).

Before the summit was launched idea around creating Special Economic Zones (SEZ). Despite some pessimistic voices which considers that political issues comes first, arguing this with the primary features and nature of Kosovo-Serbia disputes and their historical background, it could be advised that this approach is used as a complementary component to ameliorate current obstacles. This can especially work better if it is combined or complemented with more readiness and constructively of the EU to speed up the integration of both Kosovo and Serbia within its structures and institutions. This could be the key to relativize the importance of ‘borders’ and mythological traps. Both potential areas for Special Economic Zones are close to good infrastructural links – railways and highways and could have incorporated regional impact. In case of North Kosovo zone (including municipalities of: Leposavić/Leposaviq, Zubin Potok, Zvečan/Zveçan, Mitrovica/Mitrovicë, Severna Mitrovica/Mitrovicë Veriore and potentially Vučitrn/Vushtrri, Istok/Istog and Srbica/Skenderaj). In case of Preshevo Valley zone (including municipalities of: Bujanovac/Bujanoc, Medveđa/Medvegjë and Perševo/Preçevë, plus the passive areas of Vranje and Trgoviste municipalities) it can be linked with cross border effects in North Macedonia. The territorial coverage of these SEZ ensures effects for better inter-ethnic relationships and inter-communication; and can also ameliorate inter-ethnic tensions, relativize borders as they are currently seen as technical and psychological barrier and obstacle. Projects related to economic transformation his could potentially be financed through IPA funds; funds for the connectivity agenda of the Berlin Process and other sources, especially with the support of the USA.

Muhamet Mustafa, Senior Fellow at Riinvest Institute for Development Research 

TV Show ”SporaZoom” is a project which was created with the aim to inform people and open debates on important political questions and challenges facing Kosovo. This project is funded by Kosovo Foundation for Open Society (KFOS) and implemented by NGO Aktiv, NGO Forum for Development and Multiethnic Cooperation (FDMC) and the production company TV Mreža. Aiming to professionally, analytically and responsibly percive the current socio-political situation in Kosovo and related to Kosovo, as a part of this project will be realized a series of analyses written by relevant experts on socio-political trends in the region, who were also guests of the TV show “SporaZoom”.

Opinions, conclusions or recommendations belong to the author and do not necessarily express the views of donors or partner organizations.