News 09 Nov 16

Albania Opposition Criticised for Obstructing EU Progress

The Albanian opposition’s attempts to prevent a date being set for the opening of EU accession negotiations is politically-motivated and will damage the country’s chances of progress towards membership, analysts said.

Fatjona Mejdini
 The EU-Albania Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee. Photo: Facebook.

Analysts have criticised Albania’s opposition Democratic Party for seeking to block the setting of a date for the opening of EU accession negotiations.

The Democrats have insisted that the government must first implement a law that seeks to oust people with criminal pasts from politics, and must also hold free and fair elections next year.

Most Albanian opposition MPs on the EU-Albania Parliamentary Committee for Stabilisation and Association voted on Tuesday against a resolution that suggested that the EU Commission and Council should open the accession talks.

Taulant Balla, an MP from the governing Socialist Party who is also the vice chairman of EU-Albania Parliamentary Committee, said however that the resolution passed anyway.

“The opposition could not spoil the good news that Albania is expected on Wednesday to have a positive recommendation from the Commission for opening accession negotiations with the EU,” Balla wrote on Facebook.

On Monday, the opposition group asked for its two main conditions to be included in the resolution.

"These are also the EU’s conditions for Albania," the leader of the opposition, Lulzim Basha, told journalists in Tirana on Tuesday.

The EU Commission however has five conditions for Albania to implement in order for the country to open the accession talks.

These concern public administration reforms, efforts to fight corruption and crime and protecting human rights, as well as the drafting and implementation of judiciary reform.

Analysts said the opposition’s move was not surprising because Albania’s political parties have always prioritised their own interests over the future of the country.

Afrim Krasniqi, director of the Albanian Institute for Political Studies, told BIRN that for years now, the two main political parties have been supporting EU integration processes while in power but impeding them while in opposition in order to undermine the governing administration.

"This is one of the biggest mistakes, it is irresponsible and doesn't make any sense. Parties say that there is a consensus when it comes to integration, but the truth is that they want to gain electoral credit from the process," he said.

Krasniqi said that this reflects the poor state of democracy and political party culture in Albania.

Skender Minxhozi, editor-in-chief of the Java News portal and a political analyst, told BIRN that opposition is taking a big risk in trying to impede the country’s progress towards the EU.

"This is an utter political myopia and it is going to create side-effects for the opposition," he said.

Minxhozi said that the closer Albania gets to the EU, the better the chances of improving its democracy – and vice versa.

"If the country is isolated, there are more changes for corruption to increase and the government to grow authoritarian. So the opposition has just miscalculated its actions," he said.

Gjergji Vurmo, an EU integration expert at Albania’s Institute for Democracy told BIRN that the two main parties, the Socialists and Democrats, have both tried to block the integration process for political reasons.

"Is a pity that Albania has been taken hostage by irresponsible political elites," he said.

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