While everyone politicizes the boycott of Serbian entrepreneurs and gives it an ethnic connotation, no one is actually talking about the economic causes of this protest. Was this protest initiated politically or does this act of entrepreneurs have an economic justification?
Things are not black and white and the 100% tariff on Serbian products has negative consequences for the local economy in northern Kosovo. In this regard, the protest of the entrepreneurs is an act of desperation with the aim of protecting the personal interests and the interests of the local community – and this protest is not ethnic, but above all economic.
An unjust law is itself a kind of violence. Arrest for its violation is even more so. However, the law of non-violence says that violence must not be fought by counter-violence but by non-violence. (Mahatma Gandhi)
Northern Serbian entrepreneurs and traders have always mainly (but not exclusively) supplied their stores with Serbian products. The economic decision regarding the purchase of these products is made by the entrepreneurs on the basis of market demand, taking into account their personal interests in the sale of their products – and not on ethnic grounds. The relationship between price and quality and consumer confidence in Plazma, Serbian milk or proven meat, on the one hand, dictates consumer demand and, on the other hand, it also affects the supply of these products.
The introduction of 100% tariffs in November last year resulted in the suspension of freedom of choice for citizens of Kosovo and prompted entrepreneurs in the north to start sourcing products that do not have sufficient demand and consumer confidence.
Initially, after the introduction of tariffs, the supply of Serbian products continued through alternative channels and in the community this is considered âjustified smugglingâ. Like the smuggling of Serbian language books or the smuggling of medicines since 2015. So until recently shops in the north were not faced with a shortage of Serbian goods, until the Kosovo police became more rigorous in its control of alternative channels.
Cooperation with the south or shopping in RaÅ¡ka?
The new circumstances definitely force entrepreneurs to turn to the imposed market, where they first face the difficulty of establishing trust with new suppliers from southern Kosovo, who logically demand commercial certainties, and northern Kosovo. represents a politically unstable area.
Three weeks ago, a friend from the north was unable to purchase goods from a major supplier in Pristina, even when he offered to pay in advance and send his own truck to collect the goods. In Kosovo, we often hear: âWe don’t deliver to the north. Last week my wife landed at Pristina airport and her luggage was two days late. The airport courier demanded that we come and collect the luggage from the south side of town because – âWe don’t deliver north. “
Moreover, even if cooperation with entrepreneurs exclusively from the South is in some way established, the question of the competitiveness of trade in the North arises: either with the ETC supermarket located near the bridge, 500 meters from the center of Mitrovica Nord or with the markets of RaÅ¡ka which offer the desired products and which are located only less than an hour’s drive from any point in the north. In addition, the citizens of Leposavic are closer to RaÅ¡ka than to the south of Mitrovica.
Besides the fact that tariffs have caused prices to increase throughout Kosovo, according to the IMF report, the majority of the northern population would suffer further losses if they were to trade exclusively in the south, as the majority of the population receives its salary in dinars, which means that it would suffer losses due to the exchange rate.
On the other hand, knowing that each of us has a personal interest in buying the products we want at a lower price, a decision to make larger purchases in RaÅ¡ka would be a logical solution.
Long-term effects on the local economy
As a result, in addition to wasting additional time and money for citizens, the decision to buy outside the territory of northern Kosovo indicates serious consequences for the local economy. It is estimated that around 50,000 people live in the four northern municipalities and if each of us, due to the 100% tariff, spent only EUR 20 on food outside this territory on a monthly basis, that would mean that ‘there would be a million euros less money circulating in the north – on a monthly basis!
Such a drop in monetary circulation in an area where the economy depends almost exclusively on the service sector would lead to a drop in the productivity of all economic entities, such as beauty salons, restaurants, cafes, shops, pharmacies, gas pumpsâ¦ there would be a drop in purchasing power and prices for services, job losses and a drop in the current economic level.
It is in the economic interest of the citizens of the north that more money is spent in the north, and I am certainly an advocate of the free market and of my neighbors – traders, tavernkeepers and hairdressers in competition with the south – but only when it does. ‘is just. market conditions are assured.
Who boycots who?
It is important to be honest and say that besides economic reasons there is resistance in the local community to buy in the south. And this resistance is being provoked again and comes in reaction to the Kosovo government’s efforts to suspend freedom of choice. Personally, I often trade in the south and it’s legitimate as long as it’s my choice on what I’m going to do with my money. The very moment someone starts limiting me with some sort of policy and ordering me where and what to spend my money on – someone is interfering with my freedom.
The policy of controlling who is allowed to buy something and who is not was initiated by the government of Kosovo. Therefore, cursing Serbian entrepreneurs for protesting by closing their stores and calling for a boycott is hypocritical. Only those who have mechanisms to “legalize” and institutionalize this ban can ban such things, in this case, it is the government of Kosovo, and a protest is a legitimate form of resistance and reaction to policies that are fatal to death. a certain group of people.
In the end, it is important to say that the politicization of the situation by the governing structures in Belgrade and the lack of discussion on the aforementioned economic effects do not contribute to the appreciation of this challenge by the international community.
None of the Serbian officials even tried to explain how these 100% tariffs have a different economic effect on the north and the rest of Kosovo. But their arguments are based on economic nationalism and the fact that the Serbs do not want anything from the south, while using heavy terms like “humanitarian catastrophe”. “that” Belgrade is re-educating threatened Serbs “etc., as it has not been fully explained how the effect of the 100% tariffs on northern Kosovo is economically detrimental and that the exclusive trade with the south means that the north will lose its share in the market game against the south and RaÅ¡ka.
To conclude, whoever started this game of suspending economic freedom should be the one who finished it. And the other citizens of Kosovo always have the choice to boycott Serbian products.
Respect for mutual freedom is a prerequisite for open communication and the establishment of better inter-ethnic relations.
This article was originally published on KoSSev and can be found here.