Tear gas halts Kosovo parliament vote on border deal

The opposition party Vetevendosje is adamantly against the agreement with Montenegro signed in 2015

The opposition party Vetevendosje is adamantly against the agreement with Montenegro signed in 2015

Kosovo's opposition have blocked the ratification of a border agreement with Montenegro, releasing tear gas during a parliamentary session called to press ahead with the deal.

This agreement is a precondition set by the EU in order to give Kosovans the ability to travel freely inside the visa-free Schengen area- a zone where 26 European countries have abolished passports and border controls at mutual borders.

The opposition party, now divided in two groups because of internal frictions, has used tear gas and similar tactics to disrupt parliament over the past three years.

The tear gas caused leaders to evacuate the building in the capital of Pristina. Kosovo is now the only country in Europe that can not travel visa-free to the EU. Some experts said the border vote has given the party a chance to reassert its relevance.

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Later, police went into parliament and forced out a small group of opposition lawmakers, who had refused to leave since the morning.

The opposition party Vetevendosje claim an agreement signed in 2015 will surrender some 8,000 hectares of Kosovo's territory to its neighbour. The previous government and global experts deny that claim.

EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Policy Johannes Hahn wrote on on Twitter that he strongly condemns the use of teargas in the Kosovo Assembly.

The collapse of votes for the border demarcation agreement and another proposal seeking to give more rights to the ethnic Serb minority toppled the previous government and took the country to an early election past year.

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"Such behaviour has no place in a democracy".

US ambassador to Kosovo, Greg Delawie, sent out tweets criticizing the Movement party's actions and urged the politicians to "finish the vote today".

Montenegro's parliament rubber-stamped the deal in December 2015 but successive Kosovan governments have failed to rally a majority behind it.

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