Obstacles that affect businesses are the biggest ones that currently exist in relations between Albania and Kosovo. “This is the sort of obstacle which is making it hard for these relations to be effective.”, says in an exclusive interview for Albanian Free Press the head of the Center for Albanian Exports, Alban Zusi, who explains that this has to do with customs practices in border crossing points between Albania and Kosovo…
Interviewed for Albanian Free Press by Eglantina Nasi
Mr. Zusi, how would you consider trade relations between Albania and Kosovo? Have they improved over the years and are there barriers which need to be removed?
Obstacles that affect businesses are the biggest ones that currently exist in relations between Albania and Kosovo. This is the sort of obstacle which is making it hard for these relations to be effective. This has to do with customs practices in border crossing points between Albania and Kosovo. We find ourselves in a situation whereby businesses have to pay up to 250 euros to export or import goods from Kosovo. If we add to this 5 or 6 hours of queues in border crossing points, then we can easily say that this is a barrier which makes it hard for our two countries to do business.
Despite the decision to roll out a single window at Morina border crossing point?
That decision made no difference whatsoever, because businesses still have to pay 250 euros worth of charges when crossing the border. These charges include customs declarations, certificates, tests, scanner costs and parking costs.
Let’s not forget the toll charge which was introduced at the end of last year in the highway linking Albania to Kosovo.
Yes, the toll charge also adds up to the costs. Imagine exporting 500 euros worth of goods to Kosovo and pay 250 euros on the border. This means that the cost of your goods has increased by 50%.
In your opinion, how can this gridlock be broken? What sorts of measures are needed?
What we need is only a software which has a cost of 50 thousand euros.
Does your center have a list of goods that Albania exports to Kosovo and vice-versa? Which of these goods does trade between our two countries rely on?
Due to the lack of this free trade between the two countries, we have restricted micro businesses, because the amount of goods that they trade is small. Secondly, we have also restricted large businesses and medium sized businesses which trade fresh goods. This is why trade between micro-businesses, medium sized businesses and those businesses that trade fresh goods, is almost inexistent. So, once in a while, we send construction materials, mainly cement, bricks and sometimes iron and their quantity must be larger than 25 tons.
What sort of products and goods do Kosovan businesses export here?
They don’t export a great deal here. Because of the recent tax hike introduced by the government of Kosovo on Serbian imports, businesses in Kosovo are no longer exporting flour here. On the contrary, we’re the ones who are exporting flour and grains to this country now.
So, you’re saying that we have benefited from the latest taxation of Serbian imports by Kosovo?
Certainly. Export of Albanian goods to Kosovo has increased. However, trade between the two countries is still far from being optimal. But if we look at the statistics, we will see that most of the trade is being done by large companies which are able to bring large quantities of products to Albania. Meanwhile, the amount of goods that micro-businesses manage to export is almost inexistent.Governments can talk all they want, but unless they enable free trade without barriers between the two countries, nothing is solved.