Kosovo parliament vote on border deal halted by tear gas

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Opposition lawmakers throw a tear gas canister disrupting a parliamentary session in Kosovo capital Pristina on Wednesday, March 21, 2018. Kosovo's Parliament, has temporarily suspended its session after tear gas disrupted the vote on a border demarcation deal with Montenegro. (AP)
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Kosovo opposition politicians release tear gas in parliament to obstruct a session in Pristina, Kosovo March 21, 2018. (REUTERS)
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Kosovo police officers wear gas masks as opposition lawmakers cover their faces after releasing a tear gas canister disrupting a parliamentary session in Kosovo capital Pristina on Wednesday, March 21, 2018. (AP)
Updated 21 March 2018
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Kosovo parliament vote on border deal halted by tear gas

PRISTINA: Lawmakers in Kosovo approved a contentious and long-pending border demarcation deal with Montenegro Wednesday despite the opposition's use of tear gas to prevent a vote.
The 120-seat parliament voted 80-11 to endorse the deal, ensuring its passage with the minimum two-thirds support required.
The European Union has set the border agreement as a precondition for Kosovo's citizens to travel without visas in Europe's the Schengen travel zone
Kosovo Assembly Speaker Kadri Veseli said he was hopeful the EU would follow through and let Kosovars enjoy visa-free, as citizens of other Balkan region countries already do.
The opposition Self-Determination party says Kosovo loses 8,200 hectares (20,000 acres) of its territory under the agreement, which was reached in August 2015. The previous government and international experts deny that.
Opposition leader Albin Kurti complained that most of the party's lawmakers were barred from the vote or taken away by police for questioning after the tear gas was set off in the Kosovo Assembly.
"Today, 80 lawmakers joined the treason of President (Hashim) Thaci, joined the violation of Kosovo's Constitution and its territorial integrity," Kurti said.
At least two lawmakers were injured. Amid the chaos, the session failed four consecutive times to call the vote, but Speaker Kadri Veseli insisted it would take place.
"Today, the trauma of the Montenegro border demarcation will end. The vote will be held today," he said.
Police entered parliament and forced out a small group of opposition lawmakers, who had refused to leave since the morning. Eight of them were barred from taking part in the session and seven were taken to a police station for questioning.
It wasn't clear if they were the same lawmakers who were barred from parliament.
Police also searched every person entering the chamber.
The opposition party, now divided into two groups because of internal frictions, has used tear gas and similar tactics to disrupt parliament over the past three years.
The collapse of votes for the border demarcation agreement and another proposal seeking to give more rights to the ethnic Serb minority toppled the previous government and took the country to an early election last year.
Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj said there were enough votes to pass the deal. But the two-thirds threshold required defections from the opposition ranks. One opposition lawmaker joined a governing majority party.
President Hashim Thaci, who signed the deal in 2015 when he was foreign minister, will decree the border agreement as the final step.
Representatives of western powers denounced the use of tear gas and urged the lawmakers to hold the vote in favor of the deal.
"This is really great news. Congratulations Kosovo. Kosovo did the right thing," U.S. Ambassador Greg Delawie said after the vote.
Montenegro, which has approved the deal, recognizes Kosovo's 2008 independence from Serbia, which Belgrade still rejects.


Britain’s opposition Labour backs new election over Brexit impasse

Updated 34 min 11 sec ago
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Britain’s opposition Labour backs new election over Brexit impasse

  • Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn has so far resisted calls to back a ‘People’s Vote,’ or new referendum on the decision to quit the EU
  • Brexit minister Dominic Raab again ruled out a new election, describing the suggestion as ‘for the birds’
LIVERPOOL: Britain’s opposition Labour Party prefers a new election to a second referendum on Brexit, its leader said on Sunday, heaping pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May whose plans for a deal with the EU have hit an impasse.
Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn has so far resisted calls to back a “People’s Vote,” or new referendum on the decision to quit the EU.
But the political landscape has changed since May was ambushed by the European Union on Thursday over her plans for Brexit — the biggest shift in British policy for more than four decades.
With talk of a new election swirling after May’s “Chequers” plan was all but shredded at an EU summit in Austria last week and chances of Britain exiting the bloc without a deal rising, Labour is under pressure to start setting the Brexit agenda.
Corbyn, a veteran euroskeptic who in 1975 voted “No” to Britain’s membership of the then-European Community, said that while he would listen to a debate about any possible second vote on Britain’s membership, he preferred a snap election if May failed to get a deal that Labour could support in parliament.
“Our preference would be for a general election and we can then negotiate our future relationship with Europe but let’s see what comes out of conference,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, saying Labour was ready to vote against any deal.
“We would vote it down if it didn’t meet our tests in order to send the government, if it is still in office, straight back to the negotiating table and if there is a general election and we are in office we would go straight to the negotiating table.”
Corbyn’s close ally, Len McCluskey, leader of Britain’s biggest trade union Unite, told the BBC any such second referendum “shouldn’t be on: ‘do we want to go back into the European Union?’” as that had been answered in the 2016 referendum.
Britain is to exit the EU in March. After weeks of both sides making positive noises about prospects of clinching a divorce deal and their future trading relationship, the mood turned sour on Thursday in Salzburg, Austria, when the bloc’s leaders, one by one, came out to criticize May’s Chequers plans.
A tacit agreement to try to offer her some support before she heads to what is going to be a difficult annual conference of her governing Conservative Party later this month was broken by some British diplomatic missteps.
May says she will hold her nerve in the talks, pressing the EU to come up with an alternative proposal to her Chequers plan, named after the prime minister’s country residence where a deal was hashed out with her top ministers in July.
But the impasse with the EU has prompted some to predict an early election, with local media reporting that May’s team has begun contingency planning for a snap vote in November to save both Brexit and her job.
Brexit minister Dominic Raab again ruled out a new election, describing the suggestion as “for the birds.” He said Britain would not “flit from plan to plan like some sort of diplomatic butterfly.”
“We are going to be resolute about this,” Raab added.
While saying she will stick to her guns, May might have little chance but to change tack after a party conference where the deep divisions over Europe that have riven her Conservatives for decades will be in plain sight.
A senior pro-EU Conservative lawmaker, Nicky Morgan, said May would have to give ground on trade and customs arrangements to overcome the biggest obstacle to a withdrawal accord — the prevention of a hard border between the British province of Northern Ireland and Ireland, a member of the EU.
“I am not sure there is life left in Chequers,” Morgan, chair of parliament’s Treasury Select Committee and a former cabinet minister under May’s predecessor, told Sky News.
“We want to see a deal. The question I think that has to be answered now by the government, by the EU leaders, is what room for movement is there, how do we move on from where we ended up last week?”