Why is Greece Blocking Albania from Joining the EU
Despite being under pressure from member countries, Greece continues to raise objections about Albania joining the European Union. Recently, Athens didn’t sign a joint letter from 27 EU member states on the opening of negotiations on the first package of EU accession chapters.
Greece warned the Council of Permanent Representatives of the EU, on Wednesday, that it will block Albania’s EU accession talks if it does not respect the rights of the jailed ethnic Greek mayor-elect of Himara – Fredi Beleri.
It wants Albania to take concrete and immediate measures for Beleri to assume office and respect the minority leader’s right to a fair trial and presumption of innocence. “Otherwise, it will not be in a position to agree to the next stages in the accession process, including the adoption of the Outstanding Benchmarks Assessment Report.”
Greece-Albania Strained Relations
Greece and Albania have enjoyed good relations because of their historic and cultural links, and shared membership of NATO and other international institutions. But there have been ups and downs – their relationship is complicated. Diplomatic and political relations remain testing and in a near permanent state of volatility.
The current tensions are over the detention of Fredi Beleri over alleged vote buying for the May 14 local elections. Greece Foreign Minister George Gerapetritis said Albania’s accession to the EU cannot progress when there is such disregard for the rule of law. He highlighted that Albania was shooting itself in the foot by continuing to detain Beleri on remand.
However, Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama accused Greece of meddling in the country’s internal affairs.
Albania Wants EU Membership
Albania was granted EU candidate status in 2014 after it applied for the bloc’s membership in April 2009. The European Union opened accession talks with Albania in March 2020. The European Parliament urged the Albanian authorities to intensify their efforts to strengthen the political dialogue and the functioning of the country’s democratic institutions.
Rama, the Albanian Prime Minister, has criticized the EU process as lengthy and time consuming. He believes something in the process had to change, a tiered system to enter the bloc could be possible. “We should be realistic and we should not look at the finger while the finger shows the moon and believe that this Europe of 27, that is having a lot of trouble to have compact decision-making, to have strategic thinking and planning, can be enlarged with 33 or 35, or 37 soon.”