PRISTINA -- Kosovo’s new prime minister says he intends to abolish punitive tariffs on Serbian goods, as the two countries struggle amid an international push for them to establish diplomatic relations.
But Albin Kurti cautioned that he would only lift the 100-percent tariffs imposed two years ago after his government introduces measures of "reciprocity" in trade, politics, and economy.
"It is not that we will remove the tariffs without introducing reciprocity, but we will introduce reciprocity and then we will lift the tariffs," Kurti said in an interview on February 7 with RFE/RL.
Kurti, whose government was approved by parliament on February 3, suggested that Kosovo may stop recognizing driving licenses for Serbian truck drivers.
“Our truck drivers were fined hundreds of euros in Serbia because their drivers’ licenses were not recognized,” he said.
Kosovo, a former Serbian province, unilaterally declared independence in 2008. The move has been recognized by more than 110 countries but not by Serbia.
Both the European Union and United States have made reconciliation between the two countries a priority, saying it was key to economic development. But dialogue is stalled in part over Pristina's imposition of the 100-percent tariffs in 2018.
Belgrade has been lobbying for countries to reverse their recognition of Kosovo and it has sought to block Kosovo from joining international organizations.
"For us, it is unacceptable not to have symmetry in our relations," Kurti said. "We consider this to be a healthy principle for constructive, bilateral, neighborly relations."
Kurti said he would lead Kosovo's team for negotiations with Serbia. But for the talks to resume, he said he wants the Kosovar and Serbian teams to first discuss the agenda with European Union representatives.
"I believe we don’t have the luxury to fail again in the dialogue," he said.
Kurti said an agreement between Kosovo and Serbia would "help the perspective of economic development" in the region. He also pledged to tackle poverty as well as crime and corruption, which is endemic in the country.