Brussels meeting doesn’t budge Albania crisis

Members of the European Parliament meeting in Brussels with their Albanian counterparts did not succeed in attempts to help find a compromise between representatives of the Albanian ruling and opposition parties.

The two sides notably failed to produce a final declaration, which is generally issued at such meetings.

The EU-Albania Parliamentary Committee convened in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday. The format of meeting is envisaged under the Stabilisation and Association Agreement and it was the first time that representatives from Tirana met their European counterparts in this kind of setting.

During the meeting, MEPs and their Albanian colleagues discussed the political crisis in the country following the June 2009 elections, as well as the visa liberalisation process. But the discussion did not result in any clear movement on the political crisis gripping the country.

“After two days of intensive talks, we failed to adopt a final declaration with necessary recommendations,” Eduard Kukan, the chair of the EP delegation for the Western Balkans, said.

“I am not hiding the fact that we are disappointed because it is the first meeting of this kind and we ended up in such a situation,” he added.

Meanwhile, in Tirana, nearly two dozen MPs from the opposition Socialist Party along with 180 of their supporters, continued their hunger strike for the fourth day in the Albanian capital Tirana on Tuesday, pushing authorities to hold a recount of the country’s parliamentary election ballots.

The strikers set up a tent on Saturday in front of the office of Prime Minister Sali Berisha in Tirana’s Deshmoret e Kombit Blvd., the city’s main throughway, and have barricaded themselves inside.

The Socialist Party has boycotted parliament since the new session began in September, claiming that the government’s alleged fraud was to blame for their electoral loss. Socialists have conditioned their full participation in parliament on a recount of the electoral ballots of the parliamentary poll.

Although declaring his openness to a parliamentary investigation of the election, Berisha has stubbornly rejected the possibility of a recount. He argues that the opposition has exhausted all legal options and that he cannot override the judicial process.

Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele, who also participated in the two-day parliamentary meeting in Brussels, placed responsibility for the unresolved crisis on both parties.

Fuele confirmed that he had made phone calls to the two leaders of the main political parties in Albania- Sali Berisha from the ruling Democratic Party and Edi Rama from the Socialist Party – to stress the responsibility that they bear for the situation in Albania.

“Political parties share the responsibility and that concerns both those who are in power as well as the opposition,” Fuele said.

“But Mr. Rama (socialist leader) has a bigger burden of responsibility because of the well-being of those who are on hunger strike,” he warned.

Albania has been a NATO member state since April 2009. The country has also submitted its application for EU membership, subsequently submitted its pre-acccession questionnaire, and is currently waiting for the European Commission to issue its opinion on when Albania should be granted EU candidate status.

However, this next step could be jeopardized if the parties don’t find a solution soon, as the parliament, one of the main state institutions, has not functioned properly for months.

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