IBNA Interview / Deputy Prime Minister of Kosovo: The increase of the tax on cement and its impact on Greek and Albanian commerce

IBNA Interview / Deputy Prime Minister of Kosovo: The increase of the tax on cement and its impact on Greek and Albanian commerce

Exclusive interview with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Commerce and Industry in the Government of the Republic of Kosovo, Mimoza Kusari – Lila.

Pristina – Interviewer: Tinka Kurti

As the minister of Trade and Industry, what is your cooperation with the Republic of Albania in this field?

Apart from several individual cases when we’ve had disagreements and different political views to take actions for the regulations of the free trade, I believe that we’ve had a good cooperation with Albania. The imports and exports with Albania are increasing continuously, when only in the first two months of this year, compared to the same period of 2012, we have seen an increase of exports by 44% and the imports marked an increase by 63%.

What are the collaboration points between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Albania?

In terms of commerce, we export ferrous scrap and residues, food products, while import fuel derivates, food products and heavy industries. In terms of tourism we’re working on a deal for holiday packages for Kosovo, Albania and Montenegro, since all these countries are near to each other for tourism.

In the recent days, the flour companies encountered delays in the border with Albania, given that the lorries had the Albania as their destination. Was this a sign of revenge from Kosovo authorities, since a short time before, the custom authorities of Albania had blocked the milk produced in Kosovo while being exported to Albania, under the suspicion of containing aphlatoxine?

I don’t want to make any comments on what has pushed the Albanian authorities to take these blocking measures, but fortunately this issue has been solved now. Nevertheless, I believe that issues like these increase the necessity for the two countries and governments to work more closely with each-other and to prevent and overcome obstacles from both directions.

Have you contacted the government of Albania about this issue? The problems date back with the potatoes of Kosovo?

In this case we have been informed by the media, so we haven’t obtained any written information and the same has happened with potatoes. I have done everything I could to solve these problems and for them never to be repeated again. I’ve met the Prime Minister of Albania, Sali Berisha in June 2011 and we’ve come to an agreement that products from Kosovo and Albania must not have a reference price. As you are aware, Kosovo and Albania are part of CEFTA agreement and as such, there shouldn’t be any specific disagreement about the reference prices. Nonetheless, Kosovar businesses have encountered this problem several times in Albania.

What can be done by both countries to have a greater economic collaboration?

I must stress again that the collaboration is not lacking, on the contrary Albania remains one of the main partners of Kosovo in trade. The policies undertaken by the Albanian authorities in the cases mentioned earlier are more sporadic than policies which affect good neighboring relations. First of all, I believe that the two countries must make sure that businesses on both sides must have an obstacle free approach in the respective markets. For several years in a row, Albania has applied reference prices for agricultural products from Kosovo. Here we can mention milk and potatoes. Through several incentives that we have taken, we are trying to make sure that such practice is not repeated again. I’m personally committed for Kosovo and Albania to have a unique market as soon as possible with similar rules in all aspects of legislation that covers the economic domain, with the scope of boosting cooperation. The improvement of the Nation’s Highway is another important factor in this direction.

What impact has your decision to increase tax on cement for Albania had on the relations between the two countries?

First of all, I’d like to point out that the decision didn’t target only Albania, but all the countries. The decision was entirely based on the law about the Protection Measures on Import and it has aimed to increase the tax for all the imported cement, as it was noticed that there was a disproportional increase of the import of cement in Kosovo, something which has seriously put to risk the domestic producers.

Have you had reactions from the Republic of Albania? Here it has been considered as favoring Greece, after the establishment of the monopole by the Greek company Titan.

The reactions have come from those merchants who have made big profits within a short period of time. We have also been in contact with the Albanian Ministry of Economy, which I have informed about the duration of measures.

Albania is ahead of an electoral campaign. Which party do you support in these elections?

In these elections we support the will of the Albanian people and whatever will the free vote expresses, we will support it like we’ve always done.