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Video Shows Tear Gas Breaking Up Another Parliament Session in Kosovo

Thursday’s tear gas debacle in Pristina is just the latest in a series of spats between lawmakers over a controversial agreement struck by the European Union with Kosovo's government and neighboring Serbia.
October 15, 2015, 4:55pm
Photo de Hazir Reka/Reuters

A parliament session in Kosovo came to a chaotic and grinding halt on Thursday when opposition members set off at least three canisters of tear gas that were snuck into the building despite recently heightened security following a similar incident last week.

Video of the session shows a series of canisters going off throughout the meeting hall less than two minutes apart. Legislators can be seen trying to escape the gas, and at one point an individual appears to toss one of the canisters across the room.

An opposition MP from Kosovo's Vetevendosje or Self-Determination Movement party reportedly fessed up to using the tear gas, but claimed he had not been the one who smuggled them in the building, according to the news website Balkan Insight. The incident prematurely broke up the meeting, and the country's main political parties were asked to come together for an impromptu meeting with speaker Kadri Veseli as a result.

Thursday's tear gas debacle in Pristina is just the latest in a series of spats between Kosovo's lawmakers over a controversial agreement struck by the European Union between Kosovo's government and neighboring Serbia in an attempt to improve long-strained relations.

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Under the deal, the minority Serb population in Kosovo would receive a boost to local powers in the country's north, near the Serbian border, a region where they account for the majority of the population.

The agreement would allow these municipalities to form an association that opposition lawmakers fear would mimic the autonomy given to the Serb Republic in the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Exactly one week ago, opposition members launched a tear gas attack that broke up a parliament meeting. Two women lawmakers fainted as a result of the gas and had to be driven to a hospital.

Authorities detained opposition Vetevendosje party official Albin Kurti on Monday over allegations that he had deployed the canister during the October 8 session. Hundreds of protesters gathered at the police station following the arrest, throwing objects at the building before being tear gassed by authorities. Kurti was eventually released on Tuesday morning.

At the end of September, parliament members lobbed eggs at Prime Minister Isa Mustafa over the same issue.

Kosovo was an autonomous region of Serbia under the former Yugoslavia and even after the republic's downfall, but broke away and claimed independence in 2007. While 111 countries around the world currently recognize Kosovo as an independent nation, Serbia has refused to do so.

The bid for independence came less than a decade after Serbian forces began a violent crack down on Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority. The violence developed into the Kosovo War, forcing NATO to intervene in 1999 with airstrikes. Since the conflict came to a close, Kosovo's Serb-minority has at times been the subject of violent backlash. The population, which makes up less than 10 percent of the country's population, has sought more autonomy and representation in Kosovo's politics.

Watch VICE News' documentary After the Flood: Mines and Mass Graves in Bosnia: