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EU's Hahn Tells Kosovo To 'Unblock Regional Trade'


Kosovo's prime minister, Ramush Haradinaj (right), walks with the European Union's enlargement commissioner, Johannes Hahn, upon his arrival in Pristina on December 3.

The European Union’s enlargement commissioner has urged Kosovo's government to revoke a recent decision to impose a 100 percent tariff on imports from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Johannes Hahn met with Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj and President Hashim Thaci on December 3, nearly two weeks after Kosovo slapped the tax on imports in retaliation for what it said were Belgrade's efforts to undermine the young republic on the international stage.

The move drew angry reactions from Belgrade and calls from the European Union and the United States to revoke the measure. It also prompted the mayors of four predominantly ethnic Serb municipalities in northern Kosovo to resign.

Speaking at a news conference in Pristina, Hahn said the EU was "disappointed" about the introduction of the tariffs and considered the move "unacceptable" and against the principles of regional cooperation.

"It undermines all the good work done and has a negative impact on the whole region," said the EU official, who oversees the process for admitting new member states to the bloc.

Meanwhile, Haradinaj said his government was "obliged to take this step following continuous obstacles that Serbia has done and continues to do" to Kosovo.

Kosovo's prime minister insisted that the tax did not include humanitarian donations coming from Serbia and Bosnia.

Hahn traveled to Kosovo after morning talks with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade, where the EU official tweeted, "I will call upon my interlocutors in Kosovo to unblock regional cooperation and trade and stress the need to return to the dialogue."

"We agreed on the urgent need for de-escalation," he said in a separate tweet.

Relations between Pristina and Belgrade have been tense since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

Although more than 110 countries recognize Kosovo, Serbia -- and Bosnia -- do not.

Both Kosovo and Serbia have been told they must resolve their differences in order to make progress toward EU membership, but EU-sponsored normalization talks have been stop-and-go in recent months.

Vucic said on December 3 that he was ready to return to the negotiations as soon as Pristina lifted the tariff on Serbian imports.

"Pristina's measures led to the full destabilization of the whole region and could lead to the escalation of tensions," the Serbian president said in a statement.

Lawmakers representing Kosovo's ethnic Serb minority closed themselves inside the parliament building on November 2, asking for a meeting with Hahn to express their concerns over the import tax.

With reporting by AP