Wednesday, May 12, 2010

EU calls on Albania to end political crisis

The European Union has urged Albania's political parties to find a constructive solution to the internal political crisis that is threatening to obstruct the country's path towards the EU.

The message was underlined on Tuesday (11 May) both by Stefan Fuele, EU commissioner responsible for enlargement policy and by Spanish state secretary Diego Lopez Garrido, after a meeting of the EU-Albania Stabilisation and Association Council in Brussels.

Tirana - the opposition is still protesting about last year's elections

Parallel to the Brussels ministerial meeting, several socialist opposition parliamentarians continued their hunger strike in the Albanian capital Tirana, asking for a recount of votes from last year's general elections that prompted the ongoing crisis.

Albania's deputy prime minister Ilir Meta acknowledged in Brussels that a hunger strike was a legitimate democratic tool but added it was not the right way to resolve disagreements. He said "the government remains ready to engage with the opposition in a constructive manner in the interest of the whole country."

EU representatives stressed the EU's line that parliament is the right place to discuss disputes between the ruling majority and the opposition. At the same time, they tried to avoid being seen as interfering in "internal political fighting" in Albania.

The European Union also urged Albania to do more to fight corruption and organised crime and to present a convincing track record of investigations and convictions carried out without political interference.

"The EU expressed the view that corruption remains widespread and constitutes a particularly serious problem in many areas including in relation to party funding, in the health sector and others" the joint declaration after the EU-Albania meeting stated.

Albania applied for EU membership last year. The EU commission is due to give its opinion on whether Albania fulfils the necessary political and economic criteria to get the status of an official EU candidate.

Failure to resolve the political crisis could have a negative impact on the Commission's assessment. One of the EU's key political conditions is the proper functioning of democratic institutions, including parliament. The socialist opposition is still boycotting the work of the parliament in Tirana in protest against what they say was a rigged election.

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