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News 22 Feb 13

Germany Reminds Albania of Need for Free Elections

The German Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, has called for free and fair elections in Albania, warning against the rise of nationalist rhetoric in Tirana.

Besar Likmeta
BIRN
Tirana
Guido Westerwelle | Photo by :AP/Bullit Marquez

“It’s very important for the elections to be held successfully and in accordance with European principles,” Westerwelle said in a joint press conference with his Albanian counterpart, Edmond Panariti.

“Germany backs Albania’s EU integration process, but you need to fulfill the criteria, for which we will make no concessions but will also not put any artificial barriers,” he added.

Albania’s has long history of contested polls that do not meet international standards. The last parliamentary elections in 2009 sparked a political crisis, which reverberates to this day.   

The general elections on June 23 are seen by the EU as litmus test for Tirana’s political elite and for its hopes of advancing the country’s battered integration process.  

Westerwelle also warned against the raising nationalist rhetoric in Tirana, which began after the celebrations to mark the country’s 100th anniversary of independence on November 28.  

Some Albanian politicians, including Prime Minister Sali Berisha, have increasingly appealed to pan-Albanian sentiment ahead of the polls, calling for the unification of ethnic Albanians in the Balkans under one state.

“Nationalist emotions should be treated very carefully, especially in an electoral campaign,” he said. “There will be no border changes in the Balkans,” Westerwelle underlined.

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