The European Parliament blocks accession talks with Albania

The surprising negative stance of New Democracy’s MEPs

The European Parliament seems to be toughening its stance towards Albania after the approval on the midnight of June the 18th of an amendment proposed by the European People’s Party (the largest parliamentary group of the center-right parties in European countries) during a discussion of a report on Western Balkans.

This attitude of MEPs, without any distinction of ethnicity or of the parliamentary parties to which they belong, should be connected with the indifference of the Albanian government over time to meet the conditions set by the EU to open accession negotiations. Last March, the Council of the European Union, following relevant initiatives from Greece and the Croatian Presidency, gave the “green light” to Tirana and Skopje to start the intergovernmental meetings to examine accession chapters.

But for Albania, 15 prerequisites were set.

The European Parliament, in a practice unusual for its history, as it is more keen to compromise and liberal on similar issues than the EU’s executive bodies and the governments of the states, seems to have indefinitely postponed the start of talks with Albania.

Specifically, Ms. Kinga Gal presented at the last minute an amendment – addition to the Report, to the Plenary Session of the European Parliament on the basis of a proposal of Mr. Lega, a “shadow reporter” of the European People’s Party for Albania, and with the relevant approval of the EPP Coordinator in the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Enlargement.

Following the submission of the amendment, the President of the Parliamentary Group of the ruling Socialist Party of Albania asked the European Socialist Party and its Parliamentary Group to vote against it and reject it. But his request was rejected and the European Socialist Party voted almost en bloc in favor of the proposal.

The Amendment was approved by 388 votes to 280, with 19 abstentions.

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The amendment prohibits the accession talks with EU bodies and the member states of the Albanian government to begin before the 15 prerequisite conditions of the EU Council Decision are fully implemented.

These terms, which were mainly demanded by the governments of Germany, France, the Netherlands, Denmark and Spain, relate to the consolidation of the political and public life in Albania. They largely reflect Copenhagen’s enlargement criteria, the level of which is clearly inaccessible for Albania’s current state. Reliable elections, administrative reform, restructuring of the judicial system, condemnation of politicians involved in buying and selling votes, condemnation of judges arising involved in issues of corruption, guarantee of freedom of speech and press, etc.

With Greece’s insistence the 15 prerequisite conditions include those directly related to the indigenous Ethnic Greek Minority of Albania and the improvement of its status. Thus, with the addition of the Resolution of the European Parliament, the EU also demands the legal guarantee of the right of self-determination of the members of the national minorities, a new law on the census procedures, the property rights of the members of the Ethnic Greek Minority of Northern Epirus (southern Albania) and in general the practical application of all the rights with reference to the International Law on Minorities in Albania through the issuance of applicable laws etc.

Obviously, this Resolution of the European Parliament will affect domestic political developments in Albania. This is because the Government seems reluctant or possibly weak to proceed with the implementation of EU conditions.

The surprising negative stance of New Democracy’s MEPs
Once again, the New Democracy Eurogroup appeared divided in a vote in the European Parliament, this time on the defense of the Greek minority in Albania. The resolution referred to the conditions that Albania must meet before the start of EU accession negotiations.

“SYRIZA’s Eurogroup voted in favour of it, when the ND and KINAL Eurogroups were split, expressing different and conflicting positions. On behalf of New Democracy, MEPs Asimakopoulou, Kefalogiannis, Kyrtsos, Meimarakis and Spyrakis considered that abstaining from this critical amendment is sufficient enough. On the contrary, MEPs Kimbouropoulos and Vozenberg voted in favor, while MEPs Kaili (KINAL) and Frangos (Greek Solution) voted against it. This amendment was finally voted in favor with 388 against 280 votes”, SYRIZA emphasizes.

It is worth noting here that Mr. Kefalogiannis has been the President of the Commission for the Preparation of Albania’s Accession to the European Union since September 2019.