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EU enlargement chief warns Kosovo opposition over obstruction

The EU enlargement commissioner has warned the opposition that obstruction could endanger Kosovo's European integration. Opposition members have blocked parliament from functioning in protest over a deal with Serbia.

Commissioner Johannes Hahn told Kosovo's legislature on Friday that the opposition should allow free debate after some of its lawmakers

used teargas in parliament to block an EU-brokered deal with Serbia.

Kosovo's parliament last week passed a

Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU,

a first step in the long road towards greater political and economic integration with the bloc.

The opposition, which boycotted the association vote, has been protesting

a deal to grant ethnic Serb areas considerable local power,

as well as border delineation agreement with Montenegro.

Watch video 00:46

EU warns Kosovo's opposition.

For the two months they have obstructed parliament by releasing teargas in the chamber, throwing eggs and blowing whistles to block the EU-brokered deal.

Hahn told lawmakers that those who obstruct parliament and the free exchange of ideas have "lost the argument before the debate has even started." He warned that blocking the work of parliament could negatively impact EU integration.

Kosovo's EU path tied to relations with Serbia

Under the association agreement, Kosovo has committed itself to improve relations with Serbia, Hahn told lawmakers.

"The continuation and positive and productive contribution of the EU-facilitated dialogue with Serbia is therefore a legal obligation," the enlargement chief said. "Kosovo will need to implement the agreements it has reached with Serbia, and continue to work towards further agreements."

Hahn also said the EU would provide assistance of 650 million euros ($706 million) until 2020 for rule of law, governance, and economic development.

Kosovo separated from Serbia in 1999 after NATO intervened to stop the expulsion of ethnic Albanians by Serbian forces fighting a rebel insurgency. The country declared independence in 2008 and has been recognized by more than 100 states, but not Serbia and Russia.

Small Serb minorities with ties to Belgrade remain in pockets throughout the country, while Serbs constitute a majority in a northern section of the country. An agreement between Serbia and Kosovo over Serb minority rights and status is viewed as a key step in normalizing relations between the Balkan neighbors.

cw/rc (AP, Reuters)

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