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EU prepares measures against Serbia as Belgrade’s involvement in terror attack comes under scrutiny – EURACTIV.com

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The EU is starting to lose patience with Serbia and has drawn up measures that will impact politically, economically and on its EU membership, while new evidence emerges from the September 24 terrorist attack, notably the involvement of those close to the son of Serbian President Aleksander Vucic. collaborater.

Since the terrorist attack in Banjske, northern Kosovo, just over two weeks ago, pressure has increased from regional leaders, members of the European Parliament and Pristina to impose measures on against Serbia.

During this attack, around 30 armed militiamen ambushed Kosovo police, killing one, before barricading themselves inside a monastery. The ensuing shootout with police saw three terrorists killed and Belgrade declared the time in the morning.

It was later revealed that the attack involved the since-resigned vice-president of Kosovo’s political party, the Serbian List, Milan Radojicic, Serbian intelligence chief Aleksander Vulin personal bodyguard Bojan Mijailovic and Milorad Jevtic, a close associate of Vucic’s son Danillo.

More information, following an investigation by Balkan Insight, revealed that the weapons used in the attack were manufactured in Serbia in 2022, while some mortar shells and grenades were repaired in Serbia. state maintenance centers in 2018 and 2021.

In an interview, MEP and rapporteur for Kosovo Viola von Cramon said that threats to stability in the Western Balkans “come mainly from Serbia and the lack of political will to find a solution. It is clear that this time patience with President Vucic is running out.”

Regarding the attack, she asked: “How do armored vehicles equipped with weapons and does military equipment reach the north? Who was behind this and what criminal groups are still hiding there?

She added that since Vucic controls “a lot of things” in Serbia, it is hard to believe that he was unaware of what was happening regarding the purchase of weapons or the organization of the aggressive group.

Kosovo police seized weapons, ammunition and armored vehicles, enough for several hundred people. They said the attack was an attempt to annex the north of Kosovo and produced documents showing that certain weapons had been purchased from the Serbian army.

“It is now up to him to ensure a proper investigation and transparency into what happened,” she said.

If Serbia does not act, von Cramon is clear: the EU will.

“We are talking about political and financial measures or those linked to accession negotiations. We have many tools at our disposal and we know that it is not in President Vucic’s interest, especially since he called elections in December, for things to spiral out of control,” she explained. .

The measures, and not the sanctions, since the Council must approve them, have already been prepared.

“The measures have been worked out now… We are talking about political and financial measures, limited access to IPA funds, which will undoubtedly harm the Serbian government,” von Cramon said.

Kosovo was subject to measures of the EU over the summer due to its perceived inability to defuse tensions in the north. Late last year, Kosovo Serbs resigned en masse from all state institutions, triggering local elections to replace mayors in the Serb-majority north.

Following calls from Belgrade to boycott the electionsno Serbian candidates ran, Serbs did not vote, and ethnic Albanian mayors won the mandates.

As they entered municipal buildings to take up their positions, they were met with protests from Serbs, which escalated into violence during which dozens of NATO KFOR officers, as well as journalists, police and citizens, were injured.

Kosovo was asked to withdraw its mayors, hold new elections, withdraw special police units from the north and resume dialogue, or face action. While not are underway to hold a new vote, the EU continued its crackdown amid Kurti’s challenge.

But the MEP said there can be no return to dialogue, facilitated by the EU, until the events of September 24 are clarified.

“The Commission and the institutions demand clarification of what happened and a proper investigation into the organizers of the attack. We hope to see constructive behavior and a step-by-step approach. As for Kosovo, it is in our interest to resume a constructive dialogue, but only after Serbia clarifies what happened on September 24. There is no doubt.”

Once the parties return to the dialogue table, the MEP said she hopes Vucic “will sign the Ohrid Agreement to ensure that he does not just talk, otherwise it will be difficult for us here and in Kosovo to believe that he is genuinely interested.”

Von Cramon also said that a new proposal to resolve issues between the two countries was being developed, but she “cannot provide further details on this at this time.”

“Serbia has undoubtedly destroyed everything it could, so for now everyone is waiting for Serbia to do its part. Then, after seeing how the attack will be handled, hopefully in a logical way, we can then talk about the right step towards dialogue,” she said.

His position that dialogue cannot continue as usual was echoed by
Social Democratic MEP Thijs Reuten.

“If there was an attack, probably supported by Serbia itself, in which a policeman lost his life, and a large quantity of smuggled weapons was found in Kosovo, perhaps for further destabilizing actions, then we cannot act as usual,” Reuten said. .

“For me and for many other members of the European Parliament, everything that happened, not only last week but also in the months following the Ohrid agreement, is part of the long list of provocations . The attack against KFOR soldiers, the kidnapping of police officers in Kosovo… we must create the right climate for the parties to come together at the table and work towards normalization. We cannot continue to act as if nothing had happened after all these provocations,” added the Dutch MEP.

Serbia and Vucic continued to deny any involvement or prior knowledge of the attack. Although Radojicic was arrested, he was later released and Vucic said he was only a political collaborator and not a friend.

“It is always easier to blame Belgrade. Who’s going to believe it’s any different? Almost no one,” Vucic said, adding: “It’s also easy to find weapons, not just on the black market. The Kosovo police pursuing the Serbs carried AK weapons made in Kragujevac.

As for his son’s involvement, he said he had “nothing to do” with the attack, adding: “The first characteristic of a coward is when someone attacks someone else’s family, their children, because they are always the easiest target.”

Meanwhile, the first contingent of 200 British troops arrived in Kosovo on Friday October 6 to reinforce the 4,500-strong NATO peacekeeping mission.

(Alice Taylor | Euractiv.com, Bojana Zimonjic Jelisavac | Euractiv.rs)

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