EUReporter: “Fears of fresh violence ahead of MEP delegation visit to Albania”

22/04/2017 00:00

EUreporter speaks about fear for new episodes of Violence before the
visit of the European Parliament delegation in Albania. The article
reminds that the EU High Representative, Federica Mogherini, had asked
the Democratic Party to end the Parliamentary Boycott and engage with
the legislative process.

In this article, Martin Banks writes that Mogherini’s request comes amid rising tensions in Albania and on the eve of a high level EU delegation to Tirana on Monday (24 April) which is designed to help resolve the impasse.

The article on Eureporter‘s website continues:

“It is claimed that opposition legislators are boycotting the country’s parliament to block justice reforms required to kick-start EU membership negotiations with Brussels.

Opposition lawmakers are refusing to participate in the 18 June elections unless Prime Minister Edi Rama steps down and a caretaker government is formed to guide the country to election day. The opposition alleges the sitting Cabinet will manipulate the vote and also wants to change the election date from 18 June.

But Mogherini is among those who have voiced concern about the boycott with the Italian official describing this and the opposition’s  refusal to register to participate in the elections as “regrettable.”

Political debate should take place inside parliament said Mogherini, who urged the opposition to “act responsibly” and “pave the way for democratic elections in line with international standards”.

Her intervention comes amid a backdrop of rising tension in the country.

On Monday, Albania’s opposition says it will block the country’s roads as part of its two-month campaign to have a caretaker cabinet put in place to govern until the parliamentary election in June. DP leader Lulzim Basha has called on supporters to block the national roads countrywide at noon on 24  April, the day European Parliament negotiators are expected to arrive in Tirana to mediate between the governing left-wing coalition and the centre-right opposition.

There are growing fears that the parliament delegation will coincide with a fresh outbreak of violence on the streets of Tirana.

Such fears have been further fuelled by recent comments posed to his supporters by Basha, including one which read: “Do you want war? War it will be! Prick their car tyres,violate windows, bring them out of the offices, those who violate your rights. Anger is coming and when popular wrath rise you will not find a rat hole to hide.React, hit with the fist.”

The  threat of violence has cast a shadow over June’s election just as it did in the last national poll in June 2013 when an activist was killed. In January 2011, three people were killed in Tirana during clashes.between police and thousands of opposition supporters.

Parliament’s delegation on Monday will attempt to defuse tensions and will be led by centre right MEP David McAllister, chair of the influential Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament. He is accompanied by the Parliament’s rapporteur for Albania, German Socialist MEP Knut Fleckenstein.

Slovakian EPP deputy Eduard Kukan, a member of the EU-Albania delegation was expected to take part but will not now do so.

His spokesman said: “He is not going to travel to Tirana next week, due to his other arrangements. He is however following the situation very closely and will try engage if necessary.”German chancellor Angela Merkel will also send a
senior representative.

Moritz Dutemeyer, a spokesman for McAllister said on Friday that the German MEP was unable to comment until after the delegation visit.

But a well-placed Parliament insider said, “It seems clear that Europe is bracing itself for the possibility that DP will not participate in the election. I think we would find that difficult but manageable.”

A source at the European External Action Service said: “The delegation is an opportunity to resolve the current political situation and reach an agreement which would allow  the opposition to return to parliament and then take part in the parliamentary elections.”

Mogerhini’s call was endorsed by Croatian MEP Ivan Jakovcic , who is deputy chairman of the European Parliament’s delegation to Albania, who also appealed to  the Albanian opposition to  take part in the election.

Jakovcic, a member of the Group of Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe, said: “Only elections are the way to establish a democratic system and a peaceful society.”

Further comment came from Willy Fautre, of Human Rights Without Frontiers, a leading and respected Brussels-based rights NGO, who said: “Democracy is in crisis not only in EU member states but also on the doorsteps of the EU.”

He added: “Albania faces a severe political crisis with the boycott by the opposition parties of the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections. Albania’s application for EU membership may be at stake as the reform of the judiciary might be torpedoed by new legislative and executive branches which would not reflect the real state of public opinion.

“The course of the Albanian elections thus far sheds light onto the challenges that politicians and decision-makers face regarding their responsibly to create change via democratic processes. While the concerns of those boycotting could be considered honourable by some, their methods employed to reach these end goals puts the democratic progress of Albania, and their bid to the EU at risk.”

Elsewhere, Germany’s foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel also called on Albania’s opposition take part in the June parliamentary election.

Gabriel said that Germany and EU “could not understand” the opposition’s request for a caretaker government only weeks before the vote.

A parliamentary boycott, he added, was “not an acceptable way to express the will of the people”.

On Friday (21 April), Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders also called on the opposition to end the boycott.

Since mid-February, Democratic Party-led opposition supporters have blocked the main boulevard in Tirana and staged angry demos in front of Prime Minister Edi Rama’s office.

Judicial reforms unanimously approved last year, and prepared with assistance from EU and U.S. experts, have been hampered by the opposition boycott.”

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