Tear gas released during Kosovo Parliament vote

By Daniel Uria  |  March 21, 2018 at 7:30 PM
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March 21 (UPI) -- Opposition lawmakers released tear gas in Kosovo's Parliament on Wednesday in an attempt to prevent a vote on a border demarcation agreement with Montenegro.

The Self-Determination Movement Party set off three tear gas canisters in the assembly building, forcing all of the lawmakers to exit the room as the vote was prepared to start.

The Movement Party said the agreement would cause Kosovo to lose 30 square miles of its territory to Montenegro.

Despite the tear gas attack, the 120-seat legislature voted 80-11 to endorse the deal.

The deal was set as a precondition by the European Union for Kosovo's citizens to freely travel within its visa-free travel zone known as Schengen.

Levizja Vetvendosje of the Movement Party set off the canisters, deputy chief of staff to Speaker Kadri Veseli Avni Bytyci said, according to CNN.

Bytyci said the party had used the tactic to prevent voting in previous Parliament meetings.

"The Border Demarcation Agreement will be approved by the parliament today, in spite of the attempts of a small opposition party to prevent the vote with violent means," Veseli said. "We will not give up to violence and populism. This approval will serve to reinforce the sovereignty of our country and will unblock our path towards European Integration."

U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo Greg Delawie condemned the release of the tear gas and encouraged lawmakers to carry on with voting.

"Violence as a political tool has no place in Kosovo," he wrote on Twitter. "I urge MPs to reconvene and finish the vote today."

Nataliya Apostolova, the European Union's ambassador, also called on the lawmakers to continue with the vote.

"Appalled by tear gas release in Kosovo Assembly! Shocked that members of a parliament in Europe are resorting to dangerous tactics pulling Kosovo backwards," Apstolova said.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and is one of six Western Balkans nations vying for membership in the European Union.

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