Following Macedonia, Western pressure resolves Albanian crisis

Lulzim Basha, leader of Albanian opposition Democratic Party addresses protesters during an anti-government rally in front of the government building in Tirana, Albania, 13 May 2017. [Malton Dibra/EPA]

A three-month standoff that had blocked progress on reforms to Albania’s government ended yesterday (18 May), as the ruling parties and the opposition reached agreement on how to resolve their conflict.

Under pressure from European and US officials, the opposition finally gave up on its full demands.

The agreement could also revive Albania’s stalled effort to join the European Union. It creates bodies to vet judges and prosecutors, in a first step towards an independent judiciary, a key condition for accession talks with the EU.

Albania, home to about 2.8 million people, has been a member of NATO since 2009 and earned EU candidate status in 2014.

The development took place only two days after Western pressure solved the political crisis in Macedonia, five months after an election in the troubled Balkan country.

Macedonia president backs down, hands opposition mandate to form cabinet

Macedonia’s president today (17 May) asked the opposition Social Democratic party to form a government, five months after an election in the troubled Balkan country.

“We have reached an agreement …,” opposition Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha said, flanked by Prime Minister Edi Rama.

Rama and Basha agreed to let the opposition control seven ministries by appointing technocrats, including the interior ministry.

A general election will be postponed by one week, to 25 June. The opposition will pick the head of an election commission.

The opposition agreed to return to parliament after boycotting it for three months, in order to pass a bill that would set up the agency to vet judges and weed out corrupt magistrates.

Albania opposition blocks roads in call for PM to quit

Albania’s political opposition blocked the country’s main roads for more than an hour yesterday (24 April) to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Edi Rama, three months before a general election.

The deal came exactly three months after Basha led the Democrats in a rally demanding a technocratic government.

Opposition lawmakers pitched a tent in the main boulevard of the capital, Tirana, turning it into their own parliament of daily anti-government speeches.

Albanian opposition to boycott parliament, defying EU appeal

Albania’s opposition leader announced a boycott of parliament yesterday (22 February), defying an appeal from the European Union not to disrupt parliamentary approval of judiciary reforms vital to starting EU accession talks.

The EU and the United States, who have been pushing Albania to reform the judiciary, hailed Albanians for their patience and the two leaders for forging what appeared a durable agreement.

After three months of watching Basha and Rama threaten, taunt and bait each other with fiery speeches of revolution and “a new republic sweeping away the old”, Albanians felt relieved they talked for three hours and shook hands later.

“We urge the two main leaders to end at the same time with this detailed agreement the institutional crises created and solved in the restricted circle of the political leaders,” said the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers.

The ruling Socialists and the Democrats also agreed to start implementing constitutional and electoral reforms when parliament reconvened.

A court on Thursday delayed a judgement on whether the ruling Socialists and other parties had failed to respect the deadline to register for the election. The opposition parties had failed to register, vowing to boycott the polls.

Albanian foreign minister: New Balkan alliances oppose tribunals

In a wide-ranging interview, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Albania Ditmir Bushati explained the political situation in his country, the so-called ‘Tirana platform’ that has raised eyebrows in Macedonia, Balkan geopolitics and the need for the EU to do more for the six candidate countries.

The leaders of six Western Balkan countries are scheduled to meet with EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini on 24 May to discuss ways to overcome rising tensions and further their bids to join the EU.

Mogherini has invited the leaders of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia to discuss the region’s fast-moving political developments at a working dinner in Brussels.

The aim, her office said yesterday, was “to discuss the situation in the region” and “look together at the way forward.”

The dinner will also serve as a follow-up to Mogherini’s visit to the region in March, it said.

Mogherini to debrief EU leaders on external threats to Western Balkans

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini will report to European foreign ministers today (6 March) on a trip she took to all six Western Balkans EU hopefuls, who find themselves under mounting geopolitical pressure.