European Parliament condemns Kosovo Banjska raid, wants de-escalation, full investigation, threatens fund cut-off

European Parliament has spoken, and it is not impressed, stating that the Serbian government is pursuing “dangerous” policies  while also condemning the Sept. 24 raid on Banjska and calling for de-escalation from both sides.

On Oct. 19, MEPs “adopted” a resolution to put their dissatisfaction in writing, with various MEPs from Germany and Holland also calling for sanctions against Serbia for supporting the raid.

“The text, adopted by show of hands, condemns in the strongest possible terms ‘the hideous and cowardly terrorist attack on Kosovan police officers by well-organised Serbian paramilitaries’ in Banjska/Banjskë on 24 September 2023, and urges all sides to de-escalate the situation in northern Kosovo,” says a press release published the same day.

The Banjska raid resulted in the death of one Kosovo police officer and three Serbian paramilitaries. The ambush, which took place the night of Sept. 23, bled into an all day gunfight on Sunday Sept. 24. Most of the alleged 30 paramilitaries escaped—reportedly to Serbia. This included the reported leader of the raid, Milan B., who is now under investigation in Serbia.

Worryingly, the raiders were well armed, with a wide variety of weapons and some 24 SUVs seized after the raid.

The release noted that “MEPs are following closely the ongoing investigation into the attack on Banjska/Banjskë;” that MEPS now “all on Serbia to withdraw all the military forward bases located near the Kosovo border; that Serbia and Kosovo must actively work towards dialogue-led peaceful dispute resolution,” and that they jointly called “to denounce all forms of violence and acts of provocation” between the countries.

“MEPs say the Serbian Government is pursuing a very dangerous policy with regard to Kosovo and its Western partners,” the release adds, pointing out that “MEPs are closely following the ongoing investigations by the Kosovan authorities and urge Serbia to fully cooperate and to bring those responsible for the attack who are currently residing in Serbia to justice, including facilitating their extradition to Kosovo.”

Moreover, the statement warned that “f the investigation finds direct Serbian state involvement in the 24 September attacks, the Commission should freeze the funding provided to Serbia under the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance III.

It also appeared that European Parliament is willing to go further, calling for the adoption of “targeted restrictive measures, including but not limited to asset freezes and travel bans, against destabilising actors in the north of Kosovo and the leaders of major organised crime networks.”

Kosovo police photo by SUHEJLO, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

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