Tuesday 25 October 2016

Kosovo parliament suspended after opposition MPs launch tear gas

Published 19/02/2016 | 14:16

MPs clear the hall after a tear gas canister was released during a parliamentary session (AP)
MPs clear the hall after a tear gas canister was released during a parliamentary session (AP)

Opposition policymakers in Kosovo have repeatedly used tear gas to block work in parliament as they pressure the government to renounce deals with Serbia and Montenegro.

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The session was initially suspended for about 50 minutes after a tear gas canister was launched from opposition seats. The session resumed, but was suspended again an hour later for the same reason.

After the use of the tear gas for a third time, speaker Kadri Veseli, wearing a gas mask, could not keep his governing MPs from leaving the hall due to the gas.

Then police forcefully removed all opposition members. One of them, Albulena Haxhiu, fainted while trying to re-enter and clashed with police guarding the main entrance.

Mr Veseli said the session will resume after the problems, which occurred d espite security checks at the entrance at the beginning of the day.

Outside parliament a few hundred opposition supporters gathered shouting anti-government slogans.

Opposition MPs are determined not to allow normal operations at parliament, demanding the government's resignation and fresh elections.

Since September, the opposition has disrupted parliament with tear gas, pepper spray, whistles and water bottles. They reject a deal between Kosovo and Serbia, reached last year, which gives more powers to ethnic Serbs in Kosovo. They are also against a border demarcation deal with Montenegro.

In December, the Constitutional Court decided that part of the deal with Serbia was not in line with the constitution.

Deputy prime minister and foreign minister Hashim Thaci, of the governing Democratic Party of Kosovo, said the government is determined to continue its daily agenda, and condemned the use of tear gas as "ugly".

"Opposition reaction may continue but they should get used to the idea that they cannot come to power by violence," Mr Thaci said.

Kosovo's Western backers have denounced the violence, calling on the opposition to resolve the political crisis in parliament.

Kosovo's 2008 independence has been recognised by 111 countries, including the US and major European Union nations, but it is rejected by Serbia, with support from Russia, which has blocked Kosovo from becoming a UN member.

Kosovo and Serbia are holding EU-mediated talks to try to overcome their differences.

Police said they detained three opposition MPs and three other people for illegal possession of tear gas canisters.

The session resumed successfully at the fourth attempt, but without the opposition members who denounced the decision to expel them as illegal.

Press Association

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