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EU Extends Preferential Tariffs For West Balkans

by Ulrika Lomas, Tax-News.com, Brussels

04 January 2012


The European Union on December 30, 2011, confirmed its decision to extend exceptional autonomous trade preferences for all Western Balkan countries including Kosovo, until the end of 2015.

Western Balkan economies will therefore continue as of January 1, 2011 to benefit from unlimited duty-free access to the EU market for nearly all products originating in these countries and territories. The EU noted that the extension of the initiative is as part of efforts to support economic integration, and complements existing bilateral agreements between the EU and the Western Balkan states with the exception of Kosovo, which lacks a bilateral agreement.

The European Union, announcing its decision, said the autonomous trade preferences should allow all Western Balkan countries to further benefit from the preferential trade regime, in cases where the tariffs are more beneficial than the treatment foreseen in the SAAs. It should notably allow the customs territory of Kosovo to benefit from the current duty-free, quota-free treatment for almost all its exported products, since it does not have an SAA with the EU.

The initiative dates back to the year 2000 when the European Union established for the first time exceptional unlimited duty-free access to the EU market for nearly all products originating in the Western Balkan region (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo). Only wine, sugar, certain beef products and certain fisheries products enter the EU under preferential tariff quotas, as negotiated under the SAAs. The regime was renewed in 2005, and was previously due to expire on December 31, 2010.

On February 22, 2010, the Commission proposed to extend this autonomous preferential regime until December 31, 2015. The European Parliament voted in favour of the Commission's proposal on October 31, 2011, and the Council adopted it on November 24, 2011.

The tariff reductions under the new Regulation providing for duty-free access are to be applied retroactively to allow exporters to claim compensation for the duties paid in 2011.

TAGS: tax | Bosnia and Herzegovina | fiscal policy | tariffs | Albania | Serbia | Montenegro | agreements | trade | European Union (EU) | Croatia | Macedonia | Europe

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