10th Dec 2019

Albanian elections seen as key test before joining EU

  • Albanian capital Tirana. The EU has said elections must be free and fair (Photo: lassi.kurkijarvi)

Counting is underway in Albania following local elections, seen as a key test in the Balkan country's efforts to achieve EU candidate status later this year.

Brussels has made it clear that the vote must be free and fair after a series of political crises have struck the country following a national ballot in June 2009.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Sunday's (8 May) vote was marked by minor skirmishes, with the main parties disagreeing over whether EU standards had been met. A 525-strong international election observation team is expected to give its verdict on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Sali Berisha, head of the ruling centre-right coalition, insisted on the integrity of the ballot. "The elections were free and fair and everything was calm," he told a press conference after polling stations closed, newswires report.

Berisha said his centre-right coalition would respect the election result, whatever the outcome.

But Socialist opposition leader and mayor of Tirana Edi Rama, whose party claims the June 2009 election was stolen, denounced what he called "intimidation and pressure" suffered by voters leading up to and during Sunday's vote.

Officials were largely optimistic however, with all eyes now on the coming days. "I hope the counting process will go well, just like the election day," said Central Election Commission chairmen Arben Ristani.

Albania's 20-year old democracy has suffered a series of major challenges over the past two years, with four people killed and several others injured at an anti-government protest in Tirana this January.

Seven members of the elite Republican Guards were subsequently detained in connection with the deaths, caused after they opened fire inside a building, but only one is still in custody as the investigation continues.

Socialists denounced the event as murder, while prime minister Berisha said the protestors had been trying to launch a coup d'etat with guns disguised as umbrellas and pens.

In November the EU rejected Albania's application for EU candidate status, calling on the country's politicians to put past troubles behind them.

"Albania cannot miss the opportunity to demonstrate that it is conducting elections in line with European and international standards," EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele recently said.


The protracted death of democratic Albania

How have Albania been allowed to deteriorate so far? The answer lies primarily with the country’s politicians, in particular Prime Minister Sali Berisha and opposition leader Edi Rama, who together have done more to destroy their country’s progress than any other post-Communist leaders in Europe, argues Dimitar Bechev.


France unveils new model EU enlargement

Western Balkan countries should become EU members via a new, step-by-step process, France has said in a detailed proposal seen by EUobserver.

News in Brief

  1. MEPs: Finnish budget proposal 'impossible to implement'
  2. EP committee supports 'Future of EU Conference'
  3. EU survey: climate change must be parliament's priority
  4. Zahradil resigns as rapporteur on EU-Vietnam trade deal
  5. Russia plans 'Arctic Air Defence" with S-400 missiles
  6. Belgium: King does another round of consultations
  7. Thousands protest Orban's theatre clampdown
  8. Russia and Ukraine agree ceasefire by new year


EU report recognises Albania's achievements

Albania currently faces a serious crisis, which it would be foolish for all actors in the international community to ignore. Yet we must ask that our partners in Europe read Federica Mogherini's report carefully and recognise accomplishments.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us