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News 28 Mar 17

Albanian Opposition Leader Claims to be Soros Target

The Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha told far-right American outlet Breitbart he was being targeted by US philanthropist George Soros, as a wave of anti-Soros campaigns sweeps the region.

Fatjona Mejdini
BIRN
Tirana
 
 Opposition leader, Lulzim Basha. Photo: Basha's Facebook page

Albanian opposition leader Lulzim Basha, from the centre-right Democratic Party (PD) gave an interview to controversial American media outlet Breitbart during a visit to the United States to raise awareness about the political situation in the country.

In the interview published Monday night, Basha claimed to have been “viciously attacked” attacked by businessman and philanthropist George Soros, his organizations and his supporters, because he is an overt Trump supporter.

“I have been viciously attacked by him and his people and also the international media because I am a Trump supporter,” the leader of Albanian opposition stated in the interview.

Breitbart is a far-right American news, opinion and commentary website founded in 2007 by Andrew Breitbart, later being run by White House chief strategist Steve Bannon. The outlet is considered close to US President Donald Trump.

Simultaneously, he labelled left-wing  Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama “George Soros’ primary investment in Albania and the Balkans.”

As BIRN previously reported, an anti-Soros campaign is growing across the Balkans, as organisations financed or perceived to be linked to the US billionaire are increasingly coming under attack.

The name Soros crops up frequently in Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania and Serbia in campaigns against independent NGOs, journalists and government critics, and in connection with alleged plans to bring down governments and destabilise countries.

Soros’s Open Society Foundation has come under pressure in Albania over its support for judicial reforms that are currently underway.

In parliament, some MPs have called it "a Soros-sponsored reform”.

In February, the General Prosecutor Adriatik Llalla accused US ambassador Donald Lu for allegedly putting "typical sorosian pressure" on him, after Lu said Llalla is 'an enemy of justice reform'.

The PD erected a large tent outside Rama’s office from February 18, asking the PM to step down and open the way for a technical government that would conduct free and fair elections on June 18.

In the interview, Basha said that the situation in the country is presently very difficult. “Albania is in a unique and difficult situation, in a political crisis, the results of a full onslaught of organized crime on all state structures, on the rule of law, and democracy,” Basha told Breitbart.

His interview was translated and granted great significance in local media, in terms of illustrating support among the new US administration for PD. However,Basha's protest has not garnered international support.

On March 4 the High Representative of the EU Federica Mogherini visited Tirana and said that the boycott of parliament and judicial reform is presently not what country needs.

“I was also clear that boycott of parliament means blocking the establishment of the vetting commission and de facto stops Albania’s progress toward the European Union,” she said.

The same stance was also articulated by the US embassy in Tirana when it was asked by Top Channel television on March 26 about US support for the opposition.

“The United States government supports free and fair elections, decriminalization and the fight against illegal narcotics, but these issues should not be used as excuses to boycott parliament, block elections, or delay judicial reform implementation,” the US embassy’s statement said.

Almost every foreign official that has criticized Democratic Party boycott of the parliament had been labeled as "Soroist or Sorosian" by several websites in Albania.

Disclosure: Open Society Foundation is one of the donors of BIRN's Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence programme.

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