Neighbouring Countries Issue Ultimatum to Croatia

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The trade war continues.

Four Western Balkan states sent an ultimatum to Croatia on Monday to change its decision to increase fees on phytosanitary control of fruits and vegetable from these countries by the end of this week, or they will introduce similar measures, reports Večernji List on 7 August 2017.

The Croatian Ministry of Agriculture issued new regulations in July introducing controls for fruits and vegetables imported from non-EU member states and increasing fees for inspection from 90 to 2,000 kunas.

Responsible ministers from Bosnia and Herzegovina Mirko Šarović, Serbia Rasim Ljaljić, Montenegro Dragica Sekulić and Macedonia Ljupče Nikolovski, agreed in Sarajevo on a joint response to the Croatia’s decision. The four countries are fully in agreement that raising fees for control of imported fruit and vegetables is a discriminatory measure by Croatia that must be immediately withdrawn, the ministers told reporters after the meeting. They invited Croatian Agriculture Minister Tomislav Tolušić to meet with them in Podgorica before the end of this week.

The countries affected by the Croatian measures believe that they represent unlawful non-tariff fees that will lead to automatic price increases of imported fruit and vegetables and hence make them uncompetitive in the Croatian market. “We urge Croatia to lift the discriminatory regulations immediately,” said Šarović.

The ministers believe that the price of inspection should correspond to the actual cost and be consistent with the average price which applies in the countries in the region and the European Union.

Serbian Minister Ljajić pointed out that this was not the case with the new Croatian regulations and confirmed that his government in Belgrade would persist in countermeasures. They will not hit only exporters of fruits and vegetables from Croatia, but also producers of milk, meat, dairy and meat products, said Ljajić.

Šarović was somewhat more restrained, saying that Bosnia and Herzegovina retained the right to introduce counter-measures against Croatia, but adding that he hoped there would be no need for it and that a solution would be found.

“Damage will be felt by all producers,” Ljajić said, pointing out that his government did not want a trade war, but adding that it would not abandon its demands which are in line with the Stabilization and Association Agreement and the World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.

Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Macedonia have requested in writing from the European Commission to get involved in resolving the dispute with Croatia, while Montenegro and Macedonia, as WTO members, will also initiate proceedings before that organisation.

Montenegrin Minister Sekulić said that possible WTO measures would not be introduced fast because they require a previous analysis, but she hopes that the solution would be found. “We believe that we will have a meeting with our colleague from Croatia before the end of the week,” said Sekulić.

Macedonia’s Minister Nikolovski pointed out that his country has already sent a diplomatic note to Croatia because of the dispute. “This is a violation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement and the WTO rules, so Macedonia and Montenegro will send a letter to this organisation and launch appropriate mechanisms,” said Nikolovski, expressing his hope that the regulations would be withdrawn as soon as possible.

Croatian Agriculture Minister Tomislav Tolušić said on Sunday that the changes applied to imports from 168 countries, with the aim of ensuring compliance with the appropriate food quality standards and not of harming anyone, especially neighbouring countries. “I expect that we will meet with ministers from neighbouring countries in a week or two, and we will see what the problem is,” said Tolušić.

Translated from Večernji list.

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