On Tuesday, Greece expressed concern that the ongoing detention of an ethnic Greek politician, accused of purchasing votes during the local elections on May 14, could negatively impact Albania’s efforts to join the European Union.
Speaking to the public broadcaster ERT, Foreign Minister George Gerapetritis reiterated that Albania’s accession to the EU cannot progress “when there is such disregard for the rule of law.”
“I made this clear in my contacts with EU officials,” he remarked, adding that the tension being created was not at all beneficial, especially for Albania and its EU prospects.
Fredi Beleri, an ethnic Greek minority candidate running for mayor in Himare, an Albanian coastal city primarily populated by Greeks, was detained on May 12 by police. He was charged with trying to buy votes ahead of local elections in Albania, which took place on May 14 and resulted in Beleri’s election as mayor.
His arrest strained the relationship between Tirana and Athens.
Calling Beleri’s pre-trial detention unlawful, Gerapetritis remarked that Albania was “shooting itself in the foot” by continuing to detain him on remand.
The Greek government also lodged a formal protest with the Albanian Foreign Ministry.
Greece’s then-Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on May 15 threatened to block Albania’s EU bid over Beleri’s detention, stressing that his country respects the rights of ethnic minorities.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama responded by accusing neighboring Greece of meddling in the country’s internal affairs.
In late May, NATO foreign ministers came together in an informal meeting in Oslo, where caretaker Greek Foreign Minister Vasilis Kaskarelis met with his Albanian counterpart Olta Xhacka on the sidelines to raise the issue and discuss ties between Tirana and Athens.