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Greece Keeps Heat on Albania Over Jailed Ethnic Greek Elected Mayor

November 27, 2023

ATHENS – The detention of Fredi Beleri, an ethnic Greek elected mayor of the seaside town of Himare that’s growing in tourist interest is a roadblock to Albania’s hopes of joining the European Union, Greek State Minister Savros Papastavrou said.

Beleri is being tried on charges of buying votes, which he denied and said was a ruse to keep him out of office by Prime Minister Edi Rama, with media reports the Albanian leader wants business associates to profit from developments.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who earlier visited Albania, had already said that Beleri’s detention would see Greece blocking that country’s candidacy to be an EU member as it’s already fighting reports of rampant corruption.

“The issue of Beleri is fundamentally European, not bilateral. It revolves around respect for the rule of law,” Papastavrou said in an interview with SKAI radio about the issue that’s cooling relations between the countries.

“If Mr. Beleri were not a member of the ethnic Greek minority or any minority, it’s evident that Greece might not have expressed the same level of interest. However, as far as the EU is concerned, this should be viewed as a European issue. If an executive authority in any state has the ability to refuse to swear in someone solely based on personal preference, this constitutes a problem for Europe,” he said.

He earlier visited Beleri in prison and said that while “Greece consistently and unwaveringly supports the European integration perspective of the Western Balkans,” that the issue could keep Albania out.

Papastavrou said, noting that Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis reiterated Athens’ support at the Berlin Process Summit held in the Albania capital Tirana in October, no progress since.

“We all benefit from (Albania’s) European prospects, especially the Greek national minority. However, this integration path has certain conditions and criteria,” he said of the dimming prospects.

Other media reports have indicated that Rama is holding firm with Albania rising in tourism along its sea coast because the country is far cheaper than Greece and competitors and that he believes the US will pressure Mitsotakis to give in.

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