VIDEO: Opposition fires tear gas in Kosovo Parliament
PRISTINA: Opposition lawmakers released tear gas canisters in Kosovo’s Parliament chamber on Wednesday in an attempt to prevent the ratification of a border agreement with neighboring Montenegro, but in vain.
The bizarre opposition move could not stop MPs ratifying a border agreement with Montenegro seen as key for Pristina’s bid to join the EU.
Video posted to social media showed lawmakers wiping their eyes and noses as they left the chamber in Kosovo’s capital, Pristina.
The tear gas was released by opposition party Levizja Vetvendosje, according to Avni Bytyçi, deputy chief of staff to Speaker Kadri Veseli. It was a tactic the party had used previously to prevent voting, Bytyçi said.
Thick smoke had filled parliament and MPs had to evacuate. Eighty of the 120 MPs voted for, fulfilling the requirement for a two-thirds majority.
Police said seven MPs from the main opposition nationalist leftist Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) party were arrested after searches.
The party has firmly opposed the border deal claiming it would deprive the Balkan nation of 8,000 hectares of forest and mountain pasture.
Vetevendosje MPs have used tear gas to disrupt parliament several times in the past, notably to try to stop Thaci’s election in 2015, agreements with Serbia in 2016 and earlier efforts to pass the Montenegro deal.
Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj told deputies Tuesday that the vote was “one of the most important matters for the country.”
“Voting for (the ratification) does not endanger Kosovo’s territory,” said Haradinaj, who opposed the deal before taking over as prime minister last year.
The international community had repeatedly called on Pristina to resolve the issue.
“Violence as a political tool has no place in Kosovo,” said US ambassador to Kosovo Greg Delawie in a tweet Wednesday.
EU representative Nataliya Apostolova also tweeted saying she was “shocked that in Europe members of parliament could resort to such dangerous tactics.”
The Montenegrin parliament swiftly ratified the agreement after it was reached in 2015.
But in neighbouring Kosovo, the previous government failed to secure a majority and finally fell in mid-2017.
Kosovo, home to some 1.8 million people mostly ethnic Albanians, unilaterally proclaimed independence from Serbia in 2008 after a bitter war in 1998-1999.