Tear gas was repeatedly lobbed into the Kosovo parliament on Wednesday but did not prevent MPs ratifying a border agreement with Montenegro that is seen as key to unlocking visa-free travel to the EU for Pristina.
Ratification of the agreement, which was negotiated with Montenegro in 2015, has been repeatedly delayed by political disagreement in Kosovo, but is crucial to the West Balkan state obtaining visa-free travel in the European Union and its plans to eventually join the bloc.
Thick smoke had filled parliament and MPs had to evacuate, an AFP correspondent said, but at the fifth time of asking the vote finally went ahead in the evening.
Eighty of the 120 MPs voted for, fulfilling the requirement for a two-thirds majority.
“The ball is now in the European Commission’s camp,” tweeted President Hashim Thaci, looking forward to an end to “decades of isolation”.
Police said seven MPs from the main opposition nationalist Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) party were arrested after searches.
The party has firmly opposed the border deal claiming it would deprive the Balkan nation of 8,000 hectares of forest and mountain pasture.
Vetevendosje MPs have used tear gas to disrupt parliament several times in the past, notably to try to stop Thaci’s election in 2015, agreements with Serbia in 2016 and earlier efforts to pass the Montenegro deal.
Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj told deputies Tuesday that the vote was “one of the most important matters for the country.”
“Voting for (the ratification) does not endanger Kosovo’s territory,” said Haradinaj, who opposed the deal before taking over as prime minister last year.
The international community had repeatedly called on Pristina to resolve the issue.
The Montenegrin parliament swiftly ratified the agreement after it was reached in 2015.
But in neighbouring Kosovo, the previous government failed to secure a majority and finally fell in mid-2017.