Albania PM Faces Criticism over Political Stalemate

Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha has delivered in Brussels a copy of his country’s completed European Union pre-accession questionnaire, and faced criticism over the country’s deadlocked political situation from the EU enlargement commissioner.

Berisha delivered the questionnaire, which concerns a country’s readiness to join the bloc, to EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele.

“I used the opportunity of our meeting to reiterate the concern over the lack of progress in normalizing the political situation in Albania,” Fuele said late on Wednesday.

“Parliamentary work does not comply with EU standards and democratic institutions,” he added.

Albania’s right-wing government, headed by Berisha, and the opposition have been locked in a dispute over the results of the June 28 parliamentary elections, which were narrowly won by Berisha’s party. The opposition has been boycotting parliament and has called for massive protests against the government.

The proper functioning of state institutions is among the key conditions for countries aiming to join the EU. While the present political situation will be reflected in the European Commission’s evaluation of Albania’s responses to the EU questionnaire, Fuele noted that he hoped that this element would be included “in the past tense”.

“A lot is indeed at stake, and I pointed out that there is a certain window of opportunity for all those involved who have a share of responsibility to find a solution in such a way that the opinion refers to this issue in the past tense,” Fuele said.

Albania’s responses to the EU pre-accession questionnaire are included in the several hundred page long document that the prime minister delivered to Fuele, calling it “the largest book printed in Albanian history”.

About 1,200 Albanian experts and more than 30 international experts were involved in completing the questionnaire.

According to Fuele, the date when the Commission might publish its opinion on Albania’s responses will depend on the “quality and completeness of the information”.

The enlargement commissioner promised that the opinion will be fair and objective but warned that Brussels will give particular attention to Copenhagen Criteria and obligations from the Stabilisation and Association Agreement.

More than seven months after parliamentary elections were held in Albania, the country still has not managed to solve the political crisis it faces and establish a properly functioning parliament.

The Socialist led opposition claims that the election was marred by fraud and seeks a recount, arguing that complete transparency in the electoral process is necessary in order to avoid irregularities in the future – a constant problem over the last two decades as Albania emerged from the Stalinist regime of former dictator Enver Hoxha.

Meanwhile, the majority refuses the recount, contending that the courts have already denied the Socialists such a petition and that parliament would be overstepping its position and taking on the role of the judiciary if it moved to recount ballots.

The Socialists, who have boycotted parliament for more than six months because of the disagreement and who have returned only to discuss the investigative parliamentary commission that would address the elections, have threatened to depose the government by protest if their requests are not met from the majority.

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