Albania Crisis – US & EU call on opposition MPs to reject party line to abandon parliamentary mandates

Tirana, Albania | 19 Feb 2019 (Tirana Echo) – The United States and the European Union have called on individual opposition MPs to reject their party leadership line which has called on all their members to give up their parliamentary mandates and resign en-block in protest to Edi Rama’s socialist government.

Opposition calls to block parliamentary life in Albania and fears over a spiraling social unrest in the small Balkan country have prompted western diplomats to react swiftly in condemnation.

A statement by the US Embassy in Tirana this evening said that a healthy democracy requires an opposition that operates constructively within constitutional institutions.

Threats by the Democratic Party, the Socialist Movement for Integration, and other opposition parties to abandon their mandates in Parliament undermine the basic principles of democracy and subvert the important progress Albania has achieved on rule of law and responsible governance. The United States calls on all MPs to rise above the political fray, reject calls to abandon their mandates, and defend the ideals and principles central to any vibrant democracy. If you fail to do your job, you fail the people you are privileged to serve.” read the US statement.

In a similar call, EU Ambassador to Albania Luigi Soreca told Top Channel the European Union believes that parliament should not be boycotted as it is the foundation of any European democracy.

We heard the announcement from opposition parties that their individual members will abandon their mandates. Every individual MP has to decide for themselves what they will do with their duties in parliament. It is clear however, that quitting their mandates is counter-productive for Albania and goes against the interests of citizens for necessary reforms,” said Soreca to Top Channel.

A day earlier, EU Parliament Rapporteur on Albania Knut Fleckenstein MEP, said this is not the first time the opposition wants to relinquish the work of parliament in Albania and that nothing has changed during the past 5 years.

It is the job of the opposition in the parliament – and if they consider it necessary – also outside the parliament, to offer an alternative to the current policy. At the end of the day, it is on every member of parliament to decide whether he or she wants to relinquish their mandate given from the people.” Fleckenstein told Top Channel.

International calls for the opposition to abandon its drastic decision to quit parliament and send the country into an unprecedented spiraling political crisis, come after a thousands of supporters marched through Tirana’s main boulevard on Saturday, calling for the resignation of socialist prime minister Edi Rama whom they accuse of being corrupt and linked to criminal groups.

Following the protest both the Democratic Party (DP) and its smaller opposition ally the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI) announced plans to give up their parliamentary mandates and force the prime minister to agree to a transitory technical government which will take the small Balkan country into free and fair general elections.

Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama has refused to bow down to opposition demands for his resignation, saying his clear socialist majority in parliament grants him the mandate to carry on governing.

Albania hopes to formally start membership talks with the European Union later this year, and Rama’s socialists are keen to show some credible results in their reform of the highly corrupt justice system, which the opposition depicts as captured by the governing majority linked to criminal groups.

However, the US and EU backed justice reform has already expelled several judges and prosecutors through a long delayed vetting process and hopes the system will start to deliver its first results within this year.

Following the establishment of the crucial High Council of Justice (KLGJ) and the High Prosecutorial Council (KLP) last December, a special anti-corruption prosecutorial structure (SPAK) is expected to be erected in the following weeks which will be expected to investigate high level corruption and political links to organized crime which are highly pervasive in the small Balkan country.

European Union leaders agreed last June to start membership talks with Albania and Macedonia within 2019 if both small Balkan nations show substantial progress in their crucial rule of law reforms under way.

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