Kosovo MPs Stage New Tear Gas Protest
Kosovo's opposition released tear gas in parliament for a sixth time Monday, despite a recent reprimand from the U.S. secretary of state over the ongoing disruption.
Opposition MPs have for more than two months paralysed the work of parliament in protest against EU-brokered dialogue and deals reached with Serbia, the country from which Kosovo declared independence in 2008.
On a flying visit to Pristina early this month, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the disruption, saying that parliament "is not the place for tear gas and that is not the place for intimidation".
The opposition nevertheless renewed its protest on Monday, with MPs Glauk Konjufca and Time Kadrijaj opening canisters to release tear gas that quickly spread through the chamber and forced a suspension of proceedings.
"This is a collective action by the opposition," Konjufca said.
"Others have done this too, and we will continue to do this in the future. Our breaching of the law is nothing compared to the damage that is being done by these agreements."
They are particularly opposed to an agreement to give more autonomy to Kosovo's ethnic Serb minority, which it says will deepen Kosovo's ethnic divide and increase Serbia's influence.
Protesters also reject a border demarcation deal with neighboring Montenegro, arguing that it has led to a loss of territory.
Monday's protest went ahead despite the presence of about 100 plainclothes police officers in gas masks inside the chamber, while dozens of opposition supporters were gathered outside.
Police have detained several opposition MPs in recent weeks over the tear gas episodes.
The European Union has been brokering talks and agreements between Serbia and Kosovo in an attempt to improve relations between the two sides, which fought a 1998-99 war.
The United States has been a staunch supporter of Kosovo, one of the poorest parts of Europe, whose population of 1.8 million is predominantly ethnic Albanian and Muslim.
On his December 2 visit, Kerry said all parties "must renounce the use of violence in public life and instead commit to engaging with each other peacefully and constructively."