Kosovan MPs defy tear gas attack to ratify border demarcation deal with Montenegro

Kosovan MPs defy tear gas attack to ratify border demarcation deal with Montenegro
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje March 22, 2018

The Kosovan parliament finally ratified the border demarcation deal with Montenegro on March 21, with MPs returning to the chamber to cast their votes after a tear gas attack by the opposition.

The ratification was a key precondition for Kosovo to obtain visa free travel to the EU for its citizens. However, it is fiercely opposed by opposition parties — in particular Vetevendosje (Self-Determination), whose MPs were responsible for the tear gas attack — who say it will result in Kosovo losing territory. 

While session was interrupted, the majority of MPs were determined to proceed with the vote. 80 MPs voted for the ratification and 11 were against, the parliament said in a statement. The ratification needed a two-thirds majority in the 120-member parliament.

“Several times, the deputies failed to vote because of the impossibility of staying in the hall after the tear gas was thrown by some members of the Vetevendosje,” the statement added.

Vetevendosje MPs voted against the deal, as did a group of independent MPs, who previously were part of Vetevendosje. The Serb List boycotted the vote.

Passing the legislation has been a lengthy struggle. The border deal was signed by Kosovo and Montenegro on August 26, 2015, but has been a source of political friction in the country since then. Tear gas incidents were common in the past when the parliament tried to vote on the same deal. The session devoted to the ratification of the deal was also postponed several times because lack of quorum.

In February, Haradinaj announced that a correction to the controversial deal had been agreed with Montenegro, which paved the way for it to finally be ratified.

Ahead of the vote, the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK), the Social Democratic Initiative (NISMA), the New Kosovo Alliance and the opposition Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) had reached a consensus on the demarcation deal.

The session on ratification of the deal started on March 20, when Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj urged MPs to vote, saying that a vote for the demarcation deal “is a vote for the state of Kosovo, for the country's Euro-Atlantic perspective and for freedom of movement.”

He also pointed out that Montenegro was one of the first states that recognised Kosovo, after it unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

US Ambassador to Kosovo Greg Delawie stated on March 20 that the demarcation session would show which party is serious about governing Kosovo for the benefit of its citizens, and which are only interested in scoring political points.

At end February, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that Kosovo’s parliament should ratify the border demarcation deal with Montenegro as soon as possible so that Kosovans would be able to travel to the EU without needing visas.