European Western Balkans

Greece stalls Albanian EU accession talks due to Beleri case

Meeting of Prime Ministers of Albania and Greece; Photo: Government of the Hellenic Republic

ATHENS – Greece has declined to approve a joint letter from the 27 European Union member states on the opening of negotiations on the first package of EU negotiations chapters, Ekathimerini reported on Saturday.

Tensions between Albania and Greece have increased after Albania’s imprisonment of the ethnically Greek-elected mayor of Himare, which Greece considers a “violation of rights”. Albanian ethnic Greek Fredi Beleri, the opposition-winning candidate for Himare was arrested two days before the April local elections on suspicion of buying votes.

While Athens and opposition politicians in Albania say there is evidence Beleri did not engage in vote buying and was targeted, the government says the justice system must be left to do its job.

According to Ekathimerini, Athens may reconsider its stance if Tirana takes steps to suggest that there is room for discussion. Greece has requested at all possible levels that Beleri be given the opportunity to be sworn in as mayor of Himare, which has so far been rebuffed by the Albanian courts.

The next session of the corruption court where Beleri is on trial on vote-buying charges will take place on 22 November, but in the meantime, a new hearing is expected to be set for the special leave he is seeking in order to be sworn in.

Meanwhile, Greek officials have warned for months that Albania risks jeopardizing its EU accession progress if Beleri is not released.

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