Greece Warns Continued Detention of Ethnic Greek Politician Could Jeopardize Albania's EU Bid

Fredi Beleri Varvitsiotis

Fredi Beleri, an ethnic Greek minority candidate, was detained on May 12 by Albanian police on charges of trying to buy votes ahead of the local elections on May 14. Despite his detention, he was elected as the mayor of Himare, a city primarily populated by Greeks. Greece has protested against Beleri's detention, viewing it as unlawful and a violation of the rights of ethnic minorities.

The ongoing detention of Beleri has escalated tensions between Greece and Albania. Greece's Prime Minister at the time, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, warned that Greece would block Albania's EU membership bid due to Beleri's arrest, highlighting Greece's commitment to protecting the rights of ethnic minorities. In response, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama accused Greece of meddling in internal affairs and criticized their stance on the situation.

Foreign Minister George Gerapetritis has been outspoken about the negative implications of Beleri's continued detention on Albania's EU aspirations. He emphasized that Albania must uphold the rule of law for its EU accession to progress and voiced his concerns to EU officials. Greece's government lodged a formal protest with Albania's Foreign Ministry over the matter.

The issue was also raised during a meeting between Greece's caretaker Foreign Minister Vasilis Kaskarelis and his Albanian counterpart Olta Xhacka, which took place on the sidelines of an informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Oslo in late May. The meeting provided an opportunity for the two ministers to discuss the strained bilateral relations between their countries and explore potential solutions.

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