PRISTINA (Reuters) - The EU enlargement commissioner urged Kosovo’s lawmakers to allow parliament to function following protests in which opposition politicians have released teargas in the chamber to demand the cancellation of an EU-brokered agreement with Serbia.
The opposition is angry about a deal to grant ethnic Serb areas of Kosovo greater local powers and the possibility of funding from Belgrade..
A bloc of opposition parties says it will disrupt the work of parliament until the deal - and another demarcating Kosovo’s border with Montenegro - are rescinded.
Even as Commissioner Johannes Hahn was speaking to parliament, opposition lawmakers held banners reading “Unjust agreements shall not pass” and “Is ethnic segregation an EU value?”. No teargas was released during the protest.
Hahn said the blockade of the parliament could have an impact on the country’s path towards closer ties with the European Union.
“If there are no decisions, as the parliament is not able to take decisions, this might have an impact not only in the situation in Kosovo itself but also in other issues that are related to the EU because in some areas we need decisions by the parliament,” Hahn told reporters after meeting Kosovo Prime Minister Isa Mustafa.
Last month Kosovo signed a trade and political pact with the European Union known as a stabilization and association agreement which is a required step for every country that wants to join the EU.
The EU is the biggest financial supporter of the poor Balkan country. Hahn said the bloc would donate another 650 million euros until 2020.
Kosovo broke away from Serbia in 1999 when NATO bombed for 11 weeks to halt the killing and expulsion of ethnic Albanian civilians by Serbian forces trying to crush a two-year guerrilla insurgency.
After almost a decade as a ward of the United Nations, the majority-Albanian territory declared independence in 2008 and has been recognized by more than 100 countries, including Western powers, but not Serbia or its big-power ally Russia.
Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by Alison Williams