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Kosovo Serbs rally against tax imposed on goods from Serbia

November 27, 2018

MITROVICA, Kosovo (AP) — A few thousand people rallied Tuesday in the Serb-populated north of Kosovo, demanding that the government abolish a 100 percent tax it recently levied on all goods imported from Serbia.

The rally in the divided town of Mitrovica reflects wider tensions that recently soared between the former war foes. Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence.

Also on Tuesday, four mayors from the Serb-dominated northern municipalities in Kosovo said they were resigning in protest. Serbia’s Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said Serbia will take the tax issue to an arbitration court if it is not resolved within the next 90 days.

In Kosovo, the U.N. mission expressed “serious concern” over the tensions. Mission head Zahir Tanin said the tax was a violation of a regional trade agreement and “should be retracted.”

Kosovo imposed the tax last week in an apparent retaliatory move after it failed to be elected a member of Interpol, the international police organization, following intense lobbying by Serbia.

Serbia and Kosovo have been engaged in European Union-mediated talks to try and normalize relations to advance toward EU membership. Negotiations have been stalled amid the disagreements.

Kosovo Serbs in the north insist the tax has greatly affected the area, which remains closely linked to Serbia. Protesters carried banners reading “Stop violence by Pristina” and “Shame on you, we don’t have oxygen.” No incidents were reported.

More than 10,000 people died during the 1998-99 war between the Serbian security forces and Kosovo’s Albanian separatists. The conflict ended after NATO bombed Serbia.

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