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GreekReporter.comGreek NewsGreece Objects to EU-Albania Defense Pact Over Jailed Politician

Greece Objects to EU-Albania Defense Pact Over Jailed Politician

Fredi Beleri
Fredi Beleri among ethnic Greeks of Himare before his arrest in May 2023. Greece is objecting to the Albania-EU defense agreement. Credit: Facebook/Fredi Beleri

Greece is blocking an EU-Albania defense cooperation pact, citing Tirana’s lack of respect for the rule of law after imprisoning Fredi Beleri, an ethnic Greek politician.

In a bid to strengthen defense ties between itself and several European and non-European countries, the EU recently held a meeting in Brussels to conclude a series of defense and security agreements.

Countries involved included Canada, Japan, Ghana, Moldova, Norway, and South Korea. However, it is Albania that Greece objected to, arguing that if the country wants to join the EU, it has to comply with the organization’s common rights and obligations, which includes respect for the rule of law.

Greece Rejects Albania-EU Agreement and Offers Alternative

In light of what it believes is unfair detainment of ethnically Greek Mayor Beleri by Tirana, Greece proposed that North Macedonia is the most suitable country to reach a defense and security pact with the EU.

The proposal from Greece was not accepted, however. The Albanian cause also did not progress, despite strong support from Italy.

Greece has previously threatened to block EU accession talks with Albania over the case with Beleri. He remains in prison after being detained in May 2023 for alleged vote buying. This was after being elected mayor of the predominantly ethnic Greek city of Himare in Albania.

Beleri won by nineteen votes and was accused of buying eight of them. Courts at the time claimed he could have attempted to tamper with prosecution witnesses. He pleaded innocent to the charges.

At the Berlin Process Summit that took place in Tirana in October last year, Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis was very clear. “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,” he said.

“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,” Mitsotakis added.

In December 2023, Beleri’s request for special permission to be sworn in as mayor was rejected by the Albanian Court of Appeal. Greece has—and continues to—react strongly to the ethnic Greek’s arrest and imprisonment. The Greek government has accused Albania, a candidate for EU membership, of violating the rule of law and Greek minority rights.

Athens has previously claimed that Beleri’s detention is politically motivated and has said it “expects Albania to take concrete and immediate measures to allow Beleri to take the mayoral oath and to respect his right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence.”

At the end of December last year, Beleri was granted six hours of leave from prison to attend his grandmother’s funeral in Himare. The court recently accepted his request to present additional witnesses to shed light on the case.

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