Kosovo government withdraws Montenegro border deal

AP News
Posted: Sep 01, 2016 10:15 AM

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Kosovo's Cabinet has withdrawn a much-contested draft law on the ratification of the border demarcation agreement with neighboring Montenegro, apparently bowing to opposition pressure.

Prime Minister Isa Mustafa on Thursday said the law was withdrawn because of the tense situation, and pledged renewed cooperation on a new draft. He added, however, that they wouldn't renegotiate the agreement.

The governing coalition seemed to lack the proper numbers to pass the vote in the 120-seat Parliament, with some legislators deciding not to attend the session.

Thursday's decision may have repercussions for Kosovo's efforts to gain visa-free travel to the European Union for its citizens. The government has said that passing the law was the only remaining step needed for visa-free EU travel.

For a year, the opposition Self-Determination and two other political parties have contested the deal saying it cedes territory to Montenegro, a claim the government rejects.

In protest at the deal and a separate agreement with Serbia giving more powers to ethnic Serbs in Kosovo, opposition lawmakers have disrupted parliamentary work by using tear gas canisters, blowing whistles and throwing water bottles. Street rallies by opposition supporters routinely turn into violent clashes with police.

Hundreds of jubilant opposition supporters patiently waited for the vote's failure on Thursday, without confronting police this time.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Belgrade hasn't recognized it.