EU to impose customs duty on Serbian fruits and vegetables

The European Commission plans to start implementing special customs duty on certain products from Serbia, namely fruits and vegetables, as a countermeasure following our country refusing to issue licenses for export of metal waste since last year.

The European Commission argues that, by doing so, Serbia is “causing damages, running into millions of euros, to companies from that sector, and violating the principles of free trade, and with that, the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA)”.

Several member states have complained to the highest EU instances in late 2017 and early 2018 over Serbia not issuing permits and violating the SAA. Instead of Serbia moving towards a complete abolition of the metal waste export permit, as it promised to the EU, the country passed a new law last year stipulating that companies had to obtain the relevant permit which take months to be issued and which, in turn, negatively effects businesses that export metal waste.

Early this year, the European Commission sent a memo to Serbia, i.e. the country’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, seeking an urgent meeting to discuss this topic. However, the meeting has not yet taken place.

“We insist that the discretion you are applying in regard to the licensing procedure is exaggarated and that it de facto leads to a total ban on metal waste export,” the Director for the Western Balkans at the EC, Genoveva Ruiz Calavera, said in her letter to the Ministry of Environmental Protection of Serbia/

The EC also notes that Serbia has a discretionary right when it comes to licensing of products covered by the Basel Convention, adding that export of waste that does not fall under the Convention, that is, it comes under export of non-hazardous waste. The EC underlines that the current procedures create unjustified barriers in trading between the EU and Serbia and can therefore be considered a violation of Article 36 of the SAA, according to which, there are no quantitative restrictions on imports or exports.

Therefore, the Commission has decided, as seen from the memo shown to the Danas daily, to initiate the procedure of suspension of autonomous trade measures, which entails imposing customs duties on certain products. As these products are not part of the SAA, the customs duty might be applicable within a month, as no special procedures are required for it.

In the negotiations with the EU, Serbia has pledged to abolish licenses for waste export by the end of 2018, however, the export companies still have to wait for at least six months to be issued with his licence.

(Danas, 27.03.2018)

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