The Albanian government is doing everything it can to find a way out of the country's unprecedented political crisis, which sees the opposition boycotting parliament and prevents Tirana from advancing towards EU membership, Albania's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ilir Meta told EURACTIV in an exclusive interview.
The Albanian government is fiercely committed to resolving the crisis, said Meta, who is also leader of the Socialist Movement for Integration, a small party which won five seats in the June 2009 elections and became a coalition partner of the Democratic Party led by Prime Minister Sali Berisha.
Ever since the June poll, the ruling Democratic Party and the Socialist Party of opposition leader Edi Rama have kept accusing each other of fraud (EURACTIV 30/06/09).
Albania's opposition Socialist Party, which controls nearly half the seats in parliament, boycotted the assembly for months, holding up the passage of laws including many that are needed to align the country with EU legislation.
The Socialists, who have 65 of 140 seats in parliament, returned to the legislature in late February. But they refuse to take part in parliamentary activities as their demand for a recount of the vote has been rejected by the assembly, dominated by Berisha's coalition. The government's position is that there should be a strong legal case for a recount, not just accusations.
Meta said the ruling coalition had guaranteed the opposition a majority in an investigative parliamentary committee, the chairmanship of the committee, and the possibility to investigate any issue of concern regarding the dispute over opening ballot boxes.
Nevertheless, this is an issue that concerns the independence of the courts and the judiciary, Meta stressed.
"So, we have made clear that it is very important for them to address the Constitutional Court and if the Constitutional Court gives a positive interpretation for their request, then we will respect this request."
He said the government had agreed that the opposition should be able to address the Venice Commission, a specialised Council of Europe body created to provide new democracies with constitutional assistance after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The opposition had in his words raised "concerns, but not facts" regarding fraud in the last elections, he said, adding that the government wants their claims to be investigated professionally and legally by the Prosecutor's Office.
He said the government would financially assist the Prosecutor's Office in setting up a task force of prosecutors – as many as necessary to investigate all the fraud claims.
He urged the parliamentary investigative committee not to wait for arbitration by the Constitutional Court or the Venice Commission before starting work. Depending on their rulings, the ballot boxes may or may not be reopened for a recount later, he added.