European Western Balkans

European Parliament discusses Banjska attack, some MEPs propose freezing EU funds for Serbia

European flags in front of EP Building in Strasbourg; Photo: European Union

STRASBOURG – European Parliament discussed the situation in the north of Kosovo following the attack in Banjska at today’s plenary sitting. MEPs asked that the perpetrators be brought to justice and called for Serbia and Kosovo to de-escalate the tensions and return to dialogue. Some of them also called for sanctioning Serbia by freezing the funding it receives from the EU.

European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič addressed the plenary, stressing that the scale of the operation on 24 September was unprecedented.

“This is a strong alarm bell that the situation in the north of Kosovo is extremely serious. The EU is closely following the ongoing investigations and expects that the perpetrators be brought to justice and Serbia needs to fully cooperate, including in preventing arms smuggling”, he said.

Lenarčič added that it is important that both Kosovo and Serbia refrain from any action that could further escalate the situation. In this context, he described the rhetoric from Belgrade, as well as the manner in which the day of mourning was held, as concerning.

According to the Commissioner, the attack should not serve as an excuse to divert attention from the EU-facilitated dialogue. The obligations from this year’s agreement reached by President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić and Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti remain binding, he said.

Rapporteur for Serbia Vladimir Bilčik (EPP) condemned the attack, saying that a genuine investigation of all events and shootings is needed. He added that, with the arrival of Albin Kurti to power, the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue has been stalling, stressing that he is saying this as somebody who was often critical of Belgrade in the Dialogue.

Tonino Picula (S&D) reminded that Kosovo was put under several sanctioning measures earlier this year.

“At least the same, or more extensive ones need to be applied to Serbia after recent events. We can stop funding infrastructure projects if there is no improvement in fundamentals and dialogue provisions”, he said.

Rapporteur for Kosovo Viola von Cramon said that the ties of Milan Radoičić, Kosovo Serb politician who led the attack, with official Belgrade, were more than obvious.

“Serbia must unconditionally cooperate with the investigation and hold all responsible to account. The EU, along with NATO, must come up with containment in the north of Kosovo. I call Germany and other EU member states to send additional forces to KFOR”, von Cramon said.

Andreas Schieder (S&D) accused Vučić of pouring more and more oil to the flames and called for a strong reaction from the EU.

“Politicians need to understand that there will be consequences, and the consequences will be freezing of the financial assistance”, Schieder said.

Several other MEPs, including Tineke Strik (Greens/EFA), Thomas Waitz (Greens/EFA) and Thijs Reuten (S&D) also called for freezing of financial assistance for Serbia.

European Parliament will adopt a resolution on the Banjska attack at its second plenary session this month, which is scheduled to take place from 16 to 19 October.

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