On September 24 of this year, in the village of Banjské in the Republic of Kosovo, there was a terrorist attack by Serbian paramilitary groups, where as a result of the attacks, while on duty and enforcing the law, the sergeant of the Kosovo Police, Afrim Bunjaku, was killed, as and two other Kosovo policemen were injured. The forces of the Special Unit and additional forces of the Kosovo Police came to the scene, bringing the situation under control, where during the exchange of fire, three Serbian terrorists were killed and eight others were arrested.
Interviewed by: Gëzim Olluri
After the raids inside the area in the North of Kosovo by the police forces of Kosovo, a large amount of ammunition and sophisticated weaponry were discovered. The Kosovo institutions, after gathering evidence, documented that weapons, military clothing, Serbian documents, cars and other tools used for organizing terrorist attacks were found at the scene.
According to the testimonies from the authorities of the Republic of Kosovo, it was proven that all of them originate from Serbia. The whole organized event sends to the address of the president of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić. A few days later, the former head of the Serbian List, Milan Radojčić, admitted through a public letter that he had participated in the terrorist attack against the Kosovo Police. We remind you that Radojčići is on the “black list” of the United States of America due to his ties to organized crime.
The European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning the terrorist attack in Banjska in Zveçan and demanding responsibility from Serbia. Regarding these developments as well as the October 26 meeting of European leaders regarding Kosovo, “Fol Drejt” conducted an interview with the assistant of the European Parliament, Federica Woelk.
FolDrejt: Mrs. Woelk, on September 24 there was a terrorist attack in the village of Banjské in the Republic of Kosovo by Serbian gangs, as a result of which a Kosovo policeman lost his life and other policemen were injured. In your opinion, what was Serbia preparing, annexation of the north or something more serious in the background?
Woelk: The terrorist attack should have changed a lot the international stance towards Kosovo, fort the good. Unluckily, this has not been the case. But it has been a very dangerous move and, from what I could understand, the danger is not over. The North of Kosovo is prey of this constant destabilization by Serbia.
From the evidence we have, it seems clear that it was not just about one attack or one moment of destablization, but rather a prepared event to get further. Annexation? Probably. The point is Serbia does not want Kosovar Serbs to integrate in Kosovar society. And this is the problem.
FolDrejt: According to the facts documented by the institutions of Kosovo, behind them is Serbia in the lead with Aleksandar Vučić and Milan Radojčić. On the other hand, the European Parliament approved the resolution that Serbia should be held responsible. What effect does this international step have?
Woelk: The Resolution is a very good first step. It means European politicians have seen and heard Kosovo’s concerns, and take distance from the unbalanced approach mediators have had until now. The problem is that the resolution is non legislative, and therefore not enough. The Commission should impose measures on Serbia, evidence is there and it is high time to take a more courageous approach.
FolDrejt: How do you evaluate the reaction of the Kosovo Police and the Special Unit in the face of the terrorist attack in Banjska?
Woelk: The Kosovo Police has reacted quickly and perfectly. Without it, this attack could have led to very dangerous situations. But the Police was able to stop it and to try to limit the damages – even though a police man has been killed by it. I have deep respect for those police men who everyday look out for their country. It is something we Europeans cannot really understand, the fight for the sovereignty of the own country – we are too used to it. But the Western Balkans know this fight too well.
FolDrejt: Serbia continues not to be sanctioned despite the fact that all the paths of the terrorist attack lead to the address of Aleksandar Vučić. The ammunition and all confiscated evidence originated in Serbia. Are further sanctions or punitive measures expected for Serbia?
Woelk: At the moment, I don’t think so. But certainly I believe sanctions or measures should be applied on Serbia as soon as possible, and those on Kosovo removed immediately. The approach the EU had in the last week only intensified tensions and gave Kosovar citizens the impression the EU does not care about them, which is not true. Personally, as committed European, I care deeply about Kosovar citizens. And Serbia should be sanctioned ASAP. As you correctly stated, the responsibility is clear, evidence is there, the Commission should finally take action and reflect this responsibility in Serbia’s accession process.
FolDrejt: The Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, has said that there is no point in dialogue if Serbia is not punished for the organized attack inside the North of Kosovo. What is expected from the EU if Kurti stays on the right side?
Woelk: The EU needs to realize that PM Albin Kurti is doing the right thing both for Kosovo and the EU at the same time. He is trying to preserve Kosovo’s sovereignty, but also the EU’s integrity. Something that EU officials cannot see right now, but will see when they get to know the true face of Vucic. PM Kurti is totally right in asking for sanctions for Serbia; without those, any dialogue is pointless. It becomes a monologue with Serbia’s requests; instead, it should be a dialogue where Kosovo is also heard and where the rights of Albanians in Serbia are also addressed.
FolDrejt: Some time ago, Kosovo sent the Police to the north, it was sanctioned by the international community. Time proved that the Government of Kosovo was right. Please comment on the EU’s decision in relation to Kosovo regarding sanctions. When can Kosovo be freed from those punitive measures?
Woelk: It was totally an overraction. Yes, Kosovo could have avoided sending the police to the North in that exact moment. But the EU could have simply talked to Kosovo’s government, as it does with Serbia now. Imposing sanctions on Kosovo has been a failed strategy in order to appease Serbia and obtain something from Serbia. The only problem is, Serbia gave nothing.
Those punitive measures for Kosovo should be removed NOW. And it’s also late. The EP’s resolution mentions clearly that punitive measures should be revoked immediately.
FolDrejt: Serbia wants association at any cost in order to continue its attacks inside Kosovo. In 2015, the Constitutional Court in its decision gave the verdict that the association of 2013 is contrary to 23 points. What consequences does such an association bring in the future and what would be the ideal choice according to you about this agreement.
Woelk: Now the talk is about a „modern“ association, whatever that means. In my opinion there is no need for such an association. If the EU is convinced there is this need, Kosovo Serbs should be asked if they want it or not. Citizens need to have a say on such a big decision.
The consequences are clear, there is a risk of enlarging Serbia’s influence in Kosovo and of creating a new Republika Srpska.
Bosnia and Herzegovina suffers also because of this entity. There is no need to repeat this experience in Kosovo.
Also again, then we should also advocate for an ASM for Albanians in Serbia. If it is a true dialogue, it should take place on both sides.
I don’t think there is an ideal choice, but I certainly think it should be in line with Kosovo’s Constitution and it should avoid any kind of interference from Serbia; there is need for a concrete assurance that Serbia would stay out of it. Until this assurance does not exist, it is very difficult.
FolDrejt: How do you comment on the October 26 meeting of EU leaders?
Woelk: I think it’s good that doors are open and everybody talks to everybody (or almost). But I believe pressure should be given to Serbia to really commit to this process and to stop avoiding taking any steps towards Kosovo. There is need for normalization, which means that Serbia needs to accept the reality of Kosovo’s independence and sovereignty first, even before Kosovo accepts an ASM. /FolDrejt/