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EU lawmakers: Albania opposition fight damages path to bloc

February 28, 2019

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — A group of European Parliament lawmakers on Thursday strongly denounced the resignation of Albania’s opposition from parliament and violence in recent protests.

The European Parliament delegation, which was visiting Albania, also called on the governing majority to open talks with the opposition to solve the political crisis.

“Boycotting the peoples’ representation in parliament is a very bad signal. This will undermine the credibility of the state and the nation as a whole,” said Tunne Kelam from Estonia, head of the delegation.

Albania, a NATO member since 2009, was granted EU candidate status in 2014 and hopes to launch membership negotiations in June.

The center-right Democratic Party-led opposition claims the leftist government of Prime Minister Edi Rama is corrupt and has links to organized crime. They want a caretaker administration to hold early elections.

“Even if the opposition is totally right with accusations, by boycotting the parliament they will not solve their problems,” said Knut Fleckenstein, a German member of the delegation.

Touring a northern city, Democrats’ leader Lulzim Basha did not sound ready to heed the delegation’s calls.

He said the opposition will “intertwine protests, civil disobedience and all the other acts of civil revolt and anger.”

Opposition protests in the past two weeks turned violent, with supporters attacking police and officers responding with tear gas. Dozens of protesters and police were injured.

The EU delegation will next travel to neighboring North Macedonia, which is also looking to launch membership negotiations this year.

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