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HomeAlbaniaGreece Threatens to Block Albania’s EU Accession Over Arrested Mayor

Greece Threatens to Block Albania’s EU Accession Over Arrested Mayor

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Greece on Wednesday warned a meeting of the Council of Permanent Representatives of the EU, COREPER, that it is ready to block Albania’s EU accession talks if it does not respect the rights of the jailed ethnic Greek mayor-elect of Himara, Fredi Beleri.

In the written statement, which BIRN has seen, Greece said it “expects Albania to take concrete and immediate measures towards Beleri assuming office, and respect his right to a fair trial and presumption of innocence”.

“Otherwise, it will not be in a position to agree to the next stages in the accession process, including the adoption of the Outstanding Benchmarks Assessment Report,” it added.

Beleri – Beleris in Greek – was arrested by Albania’s authorities two days before the May 14 local elections on charges of vote buying. Since then he has been behind bars and denied the right to assume his mayoral duties in Himara, despite being the mayor-elect.

His supporters say that he is collateral damage in a struggle between the authorities and the country’s Greek minority over Himara’s much-coveted land. Prosecutors say property issues have nothing to do with the case against Beleri.

BIRN, in a previous investigation, reported that members of the country’s Greek minority say they are being forced to sell their land at low prices to strategic investors as part of a program to develop the area’s tourist potential.

Under Communist rule, all property in Albania was transferred to the state. Since then, both Albanians and members of ethnic minority communities have been battling to reclaim ownership of their nationalised property.

Albania says the issue is highly complex. Where Greeks see discrimination, the Albanian authorities say the law is being applied equally to all – albeit slowly.

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