New Democracy Party fuels tension with Albania after adding convicted Fredi Beleris to its EU Parliament candidates list

Fredi Beleri

Greece's ruling conservative party has stirred further tensions with Albania by adding Fredi Beleris, a convicted politician from Albania's ethnic Greek minority, to its roster of candidates for the upcoming European Parliament election.

Beleris, who was elected mayor of Himare in southern Albania last year but faced arrest on charges of vote-buying, received a two-year suspended sentence in March. Despite denying the accusations, his pre-trial detention drew criticism from Greece's government, which deemed it unfair and even threatened to block Albania's EU accession efforts.

In a surprising move, the ruling New Democracy party announced Beleris' candidacy late Monday, allowing him to run in the election scheduled between June 6 and 9. Greeks are slated to cast their votes on June 9.

Following the announcement, Beleris took to Facebook to express his perspective, emphasizing that his battle transcends personal interests and revolves around upholding the rule of law and democracy. He underscored the importance of adhering to Western and European values for aspiring members of the EU.

The inclusion of Beleris in the election lineup comes amid heightened regional concerns spurred by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, adding urgency to the EU accession process for countries in the western Balkan region, including Albania.

Greece and Albania have long grappled with a fraught relationship, with Athens criticizing Tirana for perceived delays in addressing the rights of its ethnic Greek citizens following the end of communist rule. This historical tension has persisted, exacerbated by issues like dual citizenship and labor migration within the ethnic Greek minority residing in Albania.

Copyright Greekcitytimes 2024