Tuesday, July 16 2024

Greece sets up first barrier to Albania

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Greece’s decision not to agree to a joint letter of the 27 European Union member-states to Albania on the opening of negotiations of the first package of accession chapters constitutes a substantial escalation of the hard stance toward Tirana due to the ongoing violation of the rights of Fredi Beleri, an ethnic Greek who was jailed just before he was elected mayor of Himare in the neighboring country’s local elections.

 

While a way forward for the negotiations on this chapter with North Macedonia was found, because Bulgaria agreed to the compromise offered by the Spanish presidency, this did not apply to Albania. 

In addition to the impact that Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama’s government’s stance in the Beleri case has had on Greek-Albanian ties, this development effectively decouples the two campaigns of North Macedonia and Albania, which until now hand been connected.

The first set of fundamental issues that each candidate country must resolve are included in five chapters concerning: the judicial authority and fundamental rights; the judiciary, freedom and security; public procurement; statistics; and financial control. 

 
 Just a few days ago the progress report of the European Union candidate countries was made public, with an implicit but clear reference to the complications in Greek-Albanian relations caused by the Beleri case.

Athens may reconsider its stance if Tirana takes steps to suggest that there is room for discussion. Athens has requested at all possible levels that Beleri be given the opportunity to be sworn in as mayor of Himare, which has so far been rebuffed by the Albanian courts. The next session of the corruption court where Beleri is on trial on vote-buying charges will take place on November 22, but in the meantime a new hearing is expected to be set for the special leave he is seeking in order to be sworn in.