Explosive device thrown at Kosovo parliament as MPs prepare to vote on Montenegro border deal

Explosive device thrown at Kosovo parliament as MPs prepare to vote on Montenegro border deal
By Dimitar Koychev in Sofia August 5, 2016

An explosive device was thrown at the Kosovan parliament on the evening of August 4, hours after the government adopted a bill on ratifying a controversial border demarcation with Montenegro and sent it to the parliament.

Kosovo’s opposition parties are against the border demarcation agreement, which was signed by Kosovo and Montenegro on August 26, 2015. It has become one of the two main causes of a deep political crisis in the country. The opposition and border region residents allege that the deal deprives Kosovo of several thousand hectares of land.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the incident, which did not cause any casualties. The police did not confirm media reports that a rocket propelled grenade was fired by two motorcyclists as they drove near the building, Reuters reported.

A vote on the border demarcation bill is expected to take place during the week starting August 8. There may be further incidents as the vote approached; opposition lawmakers have disrupted previous debates on the issue by letting off tear gas within the parliament.

In order to come into force, the agreement must be supported by two thirds of the lawmakers. This means that the two parties in the ruling coalition, the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) and the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), with 35 and 33 lawmakers respectively, cannot muster enough votes in the 120-seat assembly to ratify the deal. Even within PDK and LDK, the support for ratification is not unanimous.

On August 3, government officials and the opposition failed to agree on the issue after a 12-hour debate organised by the assembly. Officials from the government commission on demarcation were confident Kosovo is not losing territory. On the other hand, a group of experts headed by a geography professor from the LDK presented evidence showing that the Balkan country would lose more than 8,000 hectares of land. A revision of the current agreement was proposed.

However, speaking on August 4, Prime Minister Isa Mustafa claimed "It is proved that Kosovo does not lose any inch with this [decision],” according to an August 4 government statement.

The debate was attended by Mustafa and President Hashim Thaci, as well as the diplomatic corps. Both Thaci and Mustafa supported proceeding with the demarcation.

US ambassador in Kosovo Greg Delawie addressed the debate and said that both parties are damaging the future of Kosovo. According to the diplomat, Kosovo is not losing territory. Although he pledged that “the US will stay beside the people of Kosovo regardless whether demarcation is passed or not”, Delawie added, “Approving demarcation is good for Kosovo and for the region.”

The EU is another source of pressure in favour of swift ratification, which the union has set as one of two conditions to be fulfilled before the European Parliament (EP) and Council adopt a proposal from the European Commission for lifting visa requirements for the people of Kosovo.

On July 5, EP rapporteur Tanja Fajon decided to postpone the vote on a visa-free regime for Kosovo from July to September, because of the country’s failure “to make sufficient progress in fulfilling the last criterion, particularly the ratification of a border regime with Montenegro." Fajon also said, “I sincerely hope that the Kosovo parliament will ratify the agreement as soon as possible, before the summer recess, to make it possible for me to continue the voting procedure in the autumn.”