Croatia Cuts Import Fees to Avoid Trade War with Balkan Neighbors

Croatia revoked on Thursday its decision to raise import fees on some farm products by 220 percent, avoiding a trade war with its Balkan neighbors who had threatened to hit back with counter-measures.

European Union-member Croatia last month raised its fees for phytosanitary controls — agricultural checks for pests and viruses on fruits and vegetables — at its borders to 2,000 kuna ($317.52) from 90 kuna, citing compliance with EU standards and protection of its consumers.

EU candidates Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro, as well as fellow EU aspirant Bosnia, have called on Croatia to withdraw its decision, saying otherwise each of them would take counter-measures it considered adequate to protect its economic interests.

Serbia, which is the only country in the region that operates a trade surplus with its neighbor, has already stepped up phytosanitary controls on all organic produce from Croatia and said it would increase them further.

Croatia’s agriculture ministry said in a statement on Thursday that it cut the import fee for a shipment of one brand of fruits and vegetables to 90 kuna, and that the decision will become effective on Friday.

The ministry also agreed with neighboring countries that agricultural inspections on their borders will go back to normal routine as of Friday, while all other pending issues will be analyzed and discussed, it said in the statement.

Most countries in the region import more than they export to Croatia, except for Serbia. Serbia’s exports to Croatia in 2016 reached 116 million euros ($136.04 million) versus imports worth 79 million euros.

Neighboring countries welcomed Croatia’s move.

“Bringing the prices back at the previous level will contribute to the relaxation of relations among the countries of the region,” said Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic.

($1 = 0.8527 euros)

($1 = 6.2989 kuna)

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