milorad dodik.jpg
President of Bosnia's Serb entity, Milorad Dodik
Photograph: HINA/ Mario STRMOTIĆ/ ik

Representatives of Bosnian Serb authorities on Sunday rejected amendments to a provisional trade agreement between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the European Union, thus making a reality earlier announcements that the Serb entity would block Bosnia and Herzegovina's progress towards EU candidate status.

Amendments to the trade agreement between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the EU were drafted after months of negotiations, and Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik yesterday called a meeting with representatives of the entity authorities, parliament and associations of farmers and food producers.

The Serb authorities rejected the amendments just before a session of the collective state Presidency which was to have greenlighted the amended provisional trade agreement with the EU on Monday.

The Serb member of the state Presidency, Mladen Ivanic, said previously that he would not give his consent for the amended agreement without the consent of the entity authorities, so it is entirely clear that Bosnia and Herzegovina will not be able to move forward on its path to the EU as the amendment of the provisional trade agreement was the first and main condition that should have been met at the current stage.

Under the amendments, Bosnia and Herzegovina would open its market to customs-free imports of farm and food products from Croatia just as that market has been open to products from other EU members for a long time.

This, however, does not mean unrestricted import because exemption from customs duties is based on clearly defined quotas while all imports outside the agreed contingents would continue to be subject to full customs duties.

Bosnia and Herzegovina's chief negotiator Hamdo Tinjak said the agreement was very favourable for Bosnia and Herzegovina because it defined for EU members small import contingents subject to adjustment over a number of years, while giving producers in Bosnia and Herzegovina export quotas for the EU market that were many times higher than the current quotas.

The Bosnian Serb authorities did not consider this to be a sufficiently convincing argument and they insist that any customs-free imports from Croatia will destroy the domestic food production.

Dodik insisted on this position also after Sunday's meeting, saying that only Croatia would benefit from the amended trade agreement while Bosnia and Herzegovina and its Serb entity would only suffer damage.

He estimated the damage for the Serb entity at a minimum 100 million euros.

Dodik was supported by the leader of the entity association of livestock farmers, Vladimir Usorac, who called the amended trade agreement with the EU an act of capitulation and called for absolute protectionism, namely a ban on all imports.

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