Photo: Banjske village, Zveçan
The building suspected of hosting illegal activities in the north has been confiscated by Kosovo authorities, a decision that sparked a reaction from Serbian officials.
On December 19th, 2023, the Kosovo Privatization Agency (KPA) took control of the “Rajska Banja” complex in Banjska, Zvečan, citing that the property belongs to a social enterprise in Kosovo and has been leased to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. This was confirmed by the managing director of the agency, Arben Limani. “The Board of Directors [of the KPA], upon the request of the Ministry of Internal Affairs [of Kosovo], for the needs and public interest of the Ministry, has decided to lease these facilities for services to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. So, for their public services for which we have no information,” Limani said. He added that they have received information from the Kosovo Police that there have been illegal activities in that complex.
In the village where the complex is located, on September 24th, a paramilitary group from Serbia entered, and as a result of the exchange of fire, a Kosovo Police officer, Afrim Bunjaku, was killed.
According to media reports, precisely in the now-confiscated complex, two individuals suspected to be part of the terrorist group had been arrested but were later released.
On the other hand, the action of the Kosovo Privatization Agency (KPA) was interpreted by some Serbian media as an incitement and a tendency to occupy the north, linking it to the September 24th incident. The Serbian media outlet Novosti described it as an invasion of the complex, stating: “The Serbian List strongly condemns the confiscation of the Rajska Banja complex in Banjska, led by the anti-Serb regime of Albin Kurti, which, before the eyes of the international community, seizes this extraordinarily valuable and important complex of baths from the Serbian people.” Meanwhile, the Russian branch in Serbia, Sputnik, wrote: “Banjska under attack again by Kurti’s special forces: they entered ‘Rajska Banja’ hotel, workers were evicted.” Pravda.rs published an article with the title “ANOTHER SCANDAL FROM THE PRISTINA AUTHORITIES! The complex in Banjska has been leased to the Pristina Police.”
Officials in Serbia also responded, returning to accusations that the goal of the Kosovo government is the expulsion of Serbs. The director of the so-called Office for Kosovo in the Serbian Government, Petar Petković, stated that the action to take over the complex is part of a plan for ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Kosovo. “Once again, Serbs have been told by Pristina that they have no right to their local development, no right to work, and no social security,” he said. Meanwhile, the Serbian List claims that the government has no right over this property since, according to them, the investment was made by the government of Serbia through its relevant office in Kosovo.
“This complex was opened in 2019, and the institutions of Kosovo have not invested a single dinar in it, and they have no legal basis to be there or claim ownership of this complex,” stated the Serbian List.
Meanwhile, the Coordinator of the National Convention of the EU for Chapter 35, Dragiša Mijačić, stated that the police raid on the hotel and spa complex “Rajska Banja” is a controversial action by the Kosovo Privatization Agency, “which will lead to further hostilities among the citizens in the north towards the authorities of Kosovo.”
The text was accompanied by a photograph of members of the Special Unit who were stationed at the entrance of the Banjska Monastery after the September 24th attack.
The Kosovo Police clarified that they merely provided assistance to the Kosovo Privatization Agency (KPA), a procedure that is followed in other cases when police support is needed.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Internal Affairs, Xhelal Sveçla, stated in a press conference held on December 20th, 2023, that the Kosovo Privatization Agency is the owner of the Rajska Banja complex in Banjska, Zvečan. According to him, the investments in this complex were made unlawfully.
“Why someone has invested unlawfully, I believe it’s a lesson for all those who wish to invest unlawfully, that they cannot do so. As for the management of that complex, the Ministry of Internal Affairs is the result of the merger of two ministries, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Public Administration. The former Ministry of Public Administration had the department for managing such properties, owned by the state,” said Sveçla.
The reconstruction of this facility was initiated by the government of Serbia in 2015, where it is estimated that around 7 million euros have been invested. The then-director of the so-called Office for Kosovo in the Serbian Government, Marko Đurić, had signed agreements with the Diocese of Raška-Prizren of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo and the chairman of the Temporary Municipal Authority, Ivan Todosijević, for the restoration of the spa known for its hot and sulfuric water sources.