Opposition Party Throws Tear Gas In Kosovo Parliament, Forces Evacuation

Kosovo parliament was filled with tear gas after opposition lawyers used it to delay a vote

Tear gas was lobbed into the Kosovo parliament on Wednesday halting a vote on a border deal with Montenegro seen as key for Pristina's bid to join the EU.

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.

The session has been adjourned until the room can be ventilated.

The group has used the same trick to halt votes on multiple occasions over the past several years.

(EPA/Valdrin Xhemaj) A lawmaker of the ruling coalition and security member remove a tear gas canister released by Kosovo opposition lawmakers during a parliamentary session in Pristina, Kosovo on March 21. In order for it to be approved, two-thirds of lawmakers must support it.

The EU commissioner for enlargement, Johannes Hahn, condemned the action in a tweet, saying: "Such behaviour has no place in a democracy".

European Union officials have hailed Kosovo's approval of a long-pending border demarcation deal with Montenegro as "a real achievement". Two countries have deep and good neighborly relations.

President Hashim Thaci, who signed the deal in 2015 when he was foreign minister, denounced "the risky tactics of the opponents of the visa liberalization".

"Today's events in Kosovo's parliament show that [the] extremist wing of the party will use violence to defend their ideology". (EPA/Valdrin Xhemaj) Kosovo opposition politicians release tear gas in parliament to obstruct a session in Pristina. (EPA/Valdrin Xhemaj) Tear gas rises from a canister released by Kosovo opposition lawmakers.

The Vetevendosje party is also experiencing its own internal divisions. I encourage them to vote yes for Europe.

However, Vetevendosje fears that Kosovo will lose land with the treaty.

"The gesture is an attempt by a party in crisis to remobilize its radical base through a nationalist cause", Maliqi added.

(EPA/Valdrin Xhemaj) A lawmaker of the ruling coalition and security member remove a tear gas canister.

"It looks like the votes have been secured".

Both the USA and European Union ambassadors denounced the use of tear gas and urged the lawmakers to hold the vote in favour of the deal. "Some [members of the parlament] have been detained by police".

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