On Monday, Greece threatened to block the accession of Albania into the EU following the arrest and imprisonment of ethnic Greek politician Fredi Beleri.
Beleri, who won by nineteen votes, is accused of buying eight of them, and courts claim he could attempt to tamper with prosecution witnesses. He has pleaded innocent to the charges.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said upon his arrival at the Berlin Process Summit in Tirana that “unfortunately, our friend Albania has recently made significant concessions with respect to the rule of law,” which, as he said, is a principle that is non-negotiable for the EU.
Greece calls on Albania to respect the rule of law
“I want to emphasize my respect for the independence of the Albanian Judiciary and I have no desire to interfere in the way it operates,” Mitsotakis noted. “However, I want to stress that Fredi Beleri has the right to be sworn in as Mayor of Himare even if he is in custody.”
“It is an inalienable right, which derives from the Albanian constitutional order, a right, moreover, which is fully compatible with the European rules of the rule of law,” he added.
“And it is very important that Mr. Beleri is sworn in as Mayor of Himare, so that this important shadow, which at this moment is undoubtedly affecting Greek-Albanian relations, goes away,” he claimed.
The Prime Minister noted that the resolution of the Beleri issue is a condition for Greece to agree to the start of Albania’s negotiations with the EU.
“I will repeat that the resolution of this issue is a necessary condition for Greece to take the next step and agree to start the process of Albania’s negotiations with the European Union,” Mitsotakis said. “I hope and wish that this problem can be resolved in a spirit of cooperation and good mood without further overshadowing our relations between the two states.”
Beleris’ son, Petros, said his father’s arrest had a political purpose.
“It terrorized people, especially in the ethnically Albanian villages that are quite a way away from the town of Himare,” Petros Beleri told Al Jazeera recently.
“People were afraid and voted for Rama’s man. More than 1,000 votes were lost that way,” Petros Beleri said. “The prime minister knew he was headed for a big loss in Himare…the message people got was, ‘I am in charge in Himare, and whoever disagrees will get this treatment.'”