Albanian opposition blocks Parliament ahead of EU membership talks decision – Demands resignation of interior minister

Tirana, Albania | June 07 (Tirana Echo) – Weeks before the European Council is to decide on whether to open EU membership talks with Albania, the opposition Democratic Party and its small allies continued today blocking Thursday’s plenary session in parliament, insisting on the resignation of interior minister Fatmir Xhafaj, whose brother is serving a 7-year sentence in Italy on drug trafficking.

Accountability is a moral and political obligation. European leaders have made it clear to prime minister Rama – he should leave and his interior minister should assume his responsibilities, as he has helped organized crime in the country.” – said Democratic Party chairman Lulzim Basha.

As European Union leaders discuss on whether Albania should formally start negotiating on its membership into the block, the small Balkan country’s internal political scene continues to be marked by conflict and obstructive behavior in parliament, with several opposition MPs grabbing the microphone and refusing calls by the speaker to respect the order of procedure.

Consequently, the Parliament has not functioned properly during its plenary sessions which takes place every Thursday, adding to fears that EU member states might use the internal political conflict to postpone their decision on accession talks.

Majority representatives accuse the opposition in playing a political game in order to block membership talks with the European Union which are expected to kick off this year.

According to recent media reports, France, Netherlands and Denmark are highly skeptical on starting accession talks with Albania, citing rule of law, endemic corruption and illegal trafficking issues as reasons why the country should not be allowed to negotiate yet.

However, Germany’s  chancellor Angela Merkel, despite rebellious ranks within its own CDU party, is whispered to have decided to support the move in favor of Albania and Macedonia at the end of June.

Earlier last week, Austria’s Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) insisted on swift EU accession negotiations with Albania and Macedonia, after a recent European Commission report recommended the opening of negotiations with the two small Balkan countries.

If you want to avoid conflicts in our neighborhood in the Western Balkans and help stabilize them, you must credibly offer the countries in the region a European perspective,” said the conservative politician of the “Welt am Sonntag” newspaper.

Albania’s prime minister Edi Rama has constantly maintained that internal conflicts are and internal matter and that when it comes to European integration, all political factions in the country should come together as one body.

Rama has warned that if the EU neglects the Western Balkans by denying Albania and other countries the clear prospect of one day becoming a European Union member could fuel Muslim radicalization, illegal trafficking and organized crime, endangering regional stability and the entire continent. Rama has also added to fears that external factors such as Russia and Turkey are looming over the region seeking to grow their influence, urging EU leaders to grant Albania what it naturally deserves for its efforts.

Speaking at a special event at the European Parliament earlier in March, Rama said Albania has done its bit and it is now time for the EU to open accession talks.

We think we fully deserve the opening of the accession talks. I’m sure that for many people in this room, who have knowledge about our country’s history and about all the efforts that have been made by the country over the past years, it is not difficult to understand why it is so important to enter this new phase.” – said Rama.


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