How a cookie became a political football

Last week, Serbia announced it would refrain from placing an embargo on Kosovo, whose economy has already suffered under eight years of undefined status. Despite the announcement, legal trade between Kosovo and Serbia has dropped by an estimated 50 percent since Feb. 17, a noticeable loss as Serbia has otherwise remained Kosovo’s biggest source of ...

595862_080320_plazma2.jpg
595862_080320_plazma2.jpg

Last week, Serbia announced it would refrain from placing an embargo on Kosovo, whose economy has already suffered under eight years of undefined status.

Despite the announcement, legal trade between Kosovo and Serbia has dropped by an estimated 50 percent since Feb. 17, a noticeable loss as Serbia has otherwise remained Kosovo's biggest source of imports over the last 8 years.

High on the list of goods in short supply are the tasty, strangely addicting, Serbia-made treat known as the Plazma cookie. Plazma cookies and other goods have reportedly disappeared from Kosovar markets due to strict product label requirements. Since independence, Kosovo has required all products distributed in Kosovo to say "Republic of Kosovo." This is a problem under Serbian law:

Last week, Serbia announced it would refrain from placing an embargo on Kosovo, whose economy has already suffered under eight years of undefined status.

Despite the announcement, legal trade between Kosovo and Serbia has dropped by an estimated 50 percent since Feb. 17, a noticeable loss as Serbia has otherwise remained Kosovo’s biggest source of imports over the last 8 years.

High on the list of goods in short supply are the tasty, strangely addicting, Serbia-made treat known as the Plazma cookie. Plazma cookies and other goods have reportedly disappeared from Kosovar markets due to strict product label requirements. Since independence, Kosovo has required all products distributed in Kosovo to say “Republic of Kosovo.” This is a problem under Serbian law:

A company, Serbian or foreign, can face fines of up to 1.0 million dinars ($19,000) if it mentions Kosovo as a separate territory on labels used on products sold in Serbian stores. Terms allowed are ‘UNMIK/Kosovo’, referring to the United Nations mission that took over the province in 1999 after NATO expelled Serb forces, ‘Kosovo, Serbia’ and ‘Kosovo/1244’, the number of the Security Council resolution that put Kosovo under U.N. administration.”


According to Reuters reporters Ivana Sekularac and Shaban Buza, such discrepancies send a message of market uncertainty, curbing trade and regional investment. But Plazma has found a solution. The cookie company has simply opted to list the Kosovo distributor as in Albania. And it’s a good thing, too:


Plazma are one of the most wanted and best-selling Serbian products, people really like them,” said Tahir, an employee at a big supermarket in Pristina. “We tried with some similar Italian cookies, but in the end sold only two packs.”

Not too surprising — I bet the Italian cookies don’t have quite the same effect.

Lucy Moore is a researcher at Foreign Policy.

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