Euractiv: Greece Blocks Albania's Negotiations with the EUSoutheast Europe | November 14, 2023, Tuesday // 17:05| views
The road to Albania's EU membership negotiations faces an unexpected halt due to Greece's recent action, reported EurActiv. Greece has wielded its influence within the Council of the EU to obstruct the opening of the initial five chapters necessary for Albania's EU membership negotiations to commence.
At the core of this deadlock lies a contentious issue sparked by the arrest of Freddy Beleris, an ethnic Greek mayoral candidate in Albania. Beleris, an opposition candidate who triumphed in the local election in Himarë, Albania, found himself detained on suspicion of vote-buying merely two days before the polls. Despite his electoral victory, he remains behind bars and unable to assume his office. The Greek government has persistently urged Albania to permit Beleris to be sworn in, labeling the situation as politically and ethnically motivated. Conversely, the Albanian government asserts non-interference in judicial affairs.
In the aftermath of Beleris's arrest, Greece has made clear demands regarding this matter. They insist on Albania allowing Beleris to assume his elected position, emphasizing this as an administrative decision within Albania's purview. Alongside this, Greece has voiced concerns about the rule of law, referencing both the Beleris case and the implementation of laws affecting the Greek minority in Albania.
Additionally, questions have surfaced regarding the ongoing Albanian population census, with members of the Greek minority stating they were not asked about language and religion. While EurActiv confirms these questions exist in the census, Greece has raised issues about the accuracy and thoroughness of the census process.
The source close to the EU Council conveyed that Greece does not intend to block Albania's EU aspirations permanently but expects a resolution. This includes Albania demonstrating "creativity" in resolving the Beleris crisis. Athens maintains that the Albanian government holds the authority to permit Beleris's oath-taking, a critical step in Greece's eyes for resolution.
Critics in Athens argue potential business motivations behind the scenes, implicating a desire to maintain control over building permits in Himarë. Beleris, representing the Greek minority and the Albanian opposition, is seen as a perceived political threat in this scenario, a claim that Tirana refutes.
Approximately 0.9% of Albania's population identifies as ethnic Greek, a fact contested by some political and civil society representatives. Despite being recognized as an official minority in Albania, tensions surrounding their representation and treatment persist.
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