Kosovo President Hashim Thaci calls on opposition parties and Serbia for dialog amid protests in his inaugural speech
Protesters fired tear gas and disrupted on Friday the inaugural speech of President Hashim Thaci in parliament who is scuffling a political crisis over an EU-brokered agreement with old foe Serbia.
Nearly 1,000-audience including Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and diplomats coughed and wiped their eyes as tear gas canisters were set off just before Thaci gave his speech.
The tension have remained high in the country since Thaci took the oath of office in parliament. Even that day there was an opposition boycott and a protest outside the parliament.
According to the opposition in the majority ethnic Albanian state, Thaci is allegedly helping an EU-brokered agreement in 2015 which gives a small Serb minority more power over local government decisions.
Despite the protests, Thaci kept continue his speech in ceremony saying that he wanted to have a dialogue both with Serbia and domestic critics.
"Kosovo and Serbia should pass from the phase of normalisation of their relations to the phase of reconciliation between two countries. We will continue the dialogue with the EU and Serbia," he said, standing under Kosovo and European Union flags.
"Kosovo does not belong more to one ethnic community and less to another. Kosovo is the homeland of all," he said.
Kosovo's biggest opposition party Vetevendosje said its supporters launched the protests, vowing not to accept his presidential role.
"We will always object to him, without compromise, as we did today," the party said in a statement.
Following the last year's accord with Serbia, opposition has continued to protest for six months against the deal and set the government building on fire in January.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 after Serbian security forces killed and expelled ethnic Albanian civilians during a counterinsurgency war.
Serbia has not accepted Kosovo's independence since NATO air strikes drove out its security forces from the country. The European Union calls on both sides to regularise their relations if they want to be accepted as a member of the bloc.