The aim of the paper is to identify the trade barriers imposed by the Western Balkan countries. All barriers, whether tariff or non-tariff, undoubtedly impede the normal development of trade between countries. Therefore, the paper examines merchandise trade patterns in the Western Balkan region and tries to identify the main drivers of and obstacles to intra-regional trade. Intra-regional trade comes second in importance, after trade with the European Union (EU); it underperformed and was in decline in the last few years. In the region with political challenges as the Western Balkans, non-tariff barriers significantly reduce trade exchanges between the countries in this region. Currently, the trade and political disputes (tax rate 100%) between Kosovo and Serbia showed that the imposed tariffs in trade created a political reaction between the countries, interrupting the dialogue between these countries. The originality and value of the paper are reflected in its dealing with such topics as trade barriers, genesis in ethnic and political disputes that are prominent in the Balkan region.
The role of the European Union (EU) trade liberalisation with the four Western Balkan countres — namely Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania, and Macedonia — is overestimated, as major benefits could be expected mainly from institutional reforms rather than trade creation and economic perspective due to low economic development and a lack of comparative advantages in these countries1. The core issue to be addressed in this article is whether these firms can exploit the opportunities arising from the EU integration process. The aim of this article is to confirm the hypothesis that the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) and trade agreements in the Western Balkans are not sufficient pre-conditions for successful performance and increase of exports by local firms; the main focus should be on the internal performance of firms. The paper analyses and compares the data collected by surveys conducted with local firms in Kosovo in order to measure the impact of the SAA. Finally, the article suggests that in the short and medium run the SAA could support and improve the quality of products, technical standards, and firm competitiveness as a pre-condition for better access to the EU market in the long run.