Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The silent boycott: more than just medicine

Reports about medicine imports from Serbia being blocked at the border appear to be just the tip of the Iceberg. Balkan Insight reports that exports from Serbia to Kosovo have almost ahlted since the 17 februari independece declaration.

The article mentions the following causes:
- import forms in Serbia are required to treat Kosovo as a Serb province; but then they aren't accepted in Kosovo.
- Kosovo license plates are not allowed in Serbia
- intolerance in Serbia against Albanians after February 17: making Albanians from Kosovo more reluctant to visit
- even many smugglers have halted their business

I find the article incomplete: the license plates have not hindered previous trade and hostility increased before (july 1999, march 2004) without stopping trade. That leaves "paper work" as the only really new obstacle. As the Serb position hasn't changed that would suggest that since 17 februari UNMIK has allowed Kosovo's government to implement a silent boycott of Serb goods.

There are two reasons to suppose that this is a deliberate policy. Albin Kurti previously called for a boycot of Serb goods. It is my impression that he is the informal voice of Kosovo's clan leaders who comes out to say what might be considered politically uncorrect by Kosovo's Western minders. In the case of his call for a boycott there wasn't Western protest so now Kosovo's government seems to feel free to implement it. A second reason is that the smuggling has come to a halt too. Obviously this is not because of paperwork. In this context I also remember that shortly before 17 februari a smuggler was found murdered some 6 kilometers form the Banja (Zubin Potok) border crossing. At that time it was discarded by the Kosovo authorities as just another feud between criminals, but in retrospect it may have been the "warning" that stopped the smuggling. If anyone can find a link about this murder it would be welcome.

Not all smuggling has stopped: for gasoline North Kosovo is nowadays a smugglers paradise.

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