Saturday

6th Mar 2021

Kosovo releases German suspects under Berlin pressure

  • Berlin put 'massive pressure' on Pristina to release the three Germans. (Photo: Torkil Sørensen/norden.org)

The three German citizens arrested last month over an attack on the European Union's headquarters in Pristina returned home on Saturday (29 November), after a United Nations judge ordered their release due to lack of evidence on Friday.

The men had been accused of setting off an explosion on 14 November that rattled the office of EU Kosovo envoy Pieter Feith, without injuring anyone.

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"The federal government was always certain of the innocence of the three Germans," Thomas Steg, a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said in a statement.

Berlin had put "massive pressure" on Pristina to free the men, alleged to be agents of the German Federal Intelligence Agency (BND), and had threatened Kosovo with economic aid cuts, the German Welt am Sonntag weekly reports.

"Nothing has been decided, but it is accurate that a certain amount of pressure was exercised and that these [aid cuts] considerations are taking place," anonymous German sources confirmed to French news agency AFP.

After the US, Germany is the second largest donor to Kosovo. It has pledged €100 million worth of aid from 2009-2010. Additionally, Berlin has given Pristina some €280 million since 1999.

Germany was also among the first EU states to recognise Kosovo's unilaterally proclaimed independence earlier this year. But the BND affair has caused a chill in the relations between Berlin and Pristina.

Meanwhile, a previously unknown Albanian group calling itself the Army of the Republic of Kosovo last week claimed responsibility for the blast, and threatened further attacks against the Serb minority in Kosovo.

Kosovar revenge?

According to media reports, the Kosovar arrests may have been an act of revenge for a strongly critical BND report on organised crime in Kosovo and a confidential report by the German military, the Bundeswehr, on the same issue.

Both intelligence reports accuse Kosovar Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, as well as former premier Ramush Haradinaj and Xhavit Haliti, a high-ranking official in Kosovo's parliament, of involvement in organised crime.

"The key players are intimately involved in inter-linkages between politics, business, and organised crime structures in Kosovo," Die Welt quotes the BND report as saying.

It accuses Mr Thaci of leading a "criminal network operating throughout Kosovo" at the end of the 1990s - at the same time that he co-founded the Kosovo Liberation Army to fight for Kosovo's independence from the then Yugoslavia.

It also says Mr Haradinaj was involved "in the full spectrum of criminal, political and military activities."

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