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EU urges Kosovo to pass border deal with Montenegro

Associated Press Associated Press 11/11/2016
EU's Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn, gestures during a press conference while on his one day official visit to Kosovo Friday, Nov. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu) © The Associated Press EU's Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn, gestures during a press conference while on his one day official visit to Kosovo Friday, Nov. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

PRISTINA, Kosovo — A senior European Union official said Friday that unless Kosovo approves a border demarcation deal with neighboring Montenegro, it can't enjoy EU visa liberalization.

Opposition lawmakers, who are against the deal, 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.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn visited Kosovo on Friday, saying that its political polarization is negatively affecting its integration path into the 28-nation bloc.

"I urge all the players to understand that the political debate should be held at the parliament, naturally without tear gas or other such tools, but with competition for the best argument," Hahn told a news conference.

In May, the European Commission recommended a visa-free regime for Kosovo, but first Pristina has to ratify the border agreement with Montenegro.

"We should be clear that is a condition without flexibility," Hahn said. "We are at the last kilometer, which is a very long kilometer, crawling like a snake."

Last year, Kosovo signed a stabilization and association agreement with the EU, the first step toward membership.

Hahn said that Brussels would continuously assist Kosovo in its reforms.

"The implementation of the European agenda asks for much work ... and for political will to carry out tough reforms," he said.

Prime Minister Isa Mustafa said that strengthening the rule of law, competition and improving education and employment were the main priorities for the next 18 months.

In 2008, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia. That is recognized by 112 countries, but not by Belgrade. Five EU members that don't recognize Kosovo haven't blocked its integration steps.

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