International and local officials said attempts to destabilise progress in northern Kosovo are unacceptable.
By Linda Karadaku and Bojana Milovanovic for Southeast European Times in Pristina and Belgrade -- 24/09/13
Analysts in Kosovo and Serbia say the shooting is likely intended to destabilise the region before Kosovo's November 3rd election. [AFP]
Officials in Kosovo and Serbia are unified in their condemnation of the fatal shooting last week of a Lithuanian employee of the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), the first such killing since the mission began in 2008.
"Such attacks on the international presence in Kosovo, in a period of preparation for the municipal elections, which aim at inclusion, are attempts to create a climate of insecurity and fear," Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga said.
Serbia Prime Minister Ivica Dacic called the September 19th shooting "extremist madness" that threatens to jeopardise peace, stability and security in the region.
"This causes great damage to the interests of Serbia, primarily of the Serbian people in Kosovo, and the government strongly condemns that act," Dacic said.
EULEX customs officer Audrius Šenavičius was killed by a gunman while traveling with five other EULEX members in a two-vehicle convoy near Zvecan, a community in the primarily Serb-populated area of northern Kosovo.
A murder investigation is ongoing and the area was sealed off, but nobody has been detained or arrested so far in relation to the shooting.
"No effort will be spared in bringing the perpetrator to justice. We appeal to the local community that anyone who has been a witness, or knows anything about this incident to come forward and contact us," EULEX spokesperson Irina Gudeljevic told SETimes.
EU High Representative Catherine Ashton urged that the perpetrators must be brought to justice.
"The European Union is determined to continue its engagement and commitment in Kosovo and will press on with its work in the context of the EU-facilitated dialogue. I appeal to all parties to redouble their efforts to implement the agreements reached, to normalise relations and to improve the lives of the people on the ground in northern Kosovo," Ashton said in a statement.
Analysts said the shooting appears to be intended to destabilise relations between Kosovo and Serbia as both work toward agreements that will allow the respective countries to integrate with the EU. A major step for both countries would be Kosovo's nationwide municipal elections scheduled for November 3rd. A successful election that includes the participation of Kosovo Serbs is being seen as a litmus test for both sides' European aspirations.
Milovan Drecun, chairman of the Serbian parliament's Committee on Kosovo and Metohija, told SETimes that the shooting was a planned and organised attack aimed at destabilising the situation in Kosovo's north ahead of the local elections in Kosovo.
"Such an attack is not in the interest of any of the Serbs, even those opposed to the vote, since they will be suspected immediately," Drecun said.
Kosovo researcher Mentor Vrajolli of the Kosovo Center for Security Studies, said that the first doubts on the attack would be oriented towards the organised crime groups in the north, taking into account that a EULEX Customs car was the target.
"But, it should be kept in mind that many times it has been talked about that the same people of the organised crime were also involved in important positions of the illegal groups with radical nationalist motives, (therefore) the possibility that this incident might have dual motives, cannot be denied," Vrajolli told SETimes.
Vrajolli added that such incidents might be a result of the positive transition taking place in the northern municipalities as a result of the beginning of the implementation of the agreements with Serbia and different radical groups there will have to abide by the law.
Avni Zogiani, executive director of Kosovo Movement "Cohu" (Stand up), noted that the November 3rd election is a divisive issue.
"As simple as that, this situation is not new, and the Serbian community has consistently had two strong positions, which in fact paradoxically helped each other. Even the most painful compromises for the state of Kosovo are being rejected in order to have a continuous pressure for further concessions from the Kosovo authorities," Zogiani told SETimes.
What impact will the shooting have on the EULEX mission and November's election? Add your comment in the space below.