Albania Warned not to Slide Into Balkan ‘Ghetto’


By Besar Likmeta/BIRN

May 8, 2013

A report by the European Stability Initiative, ESI, warns that poor standards in Albania’s June 23 elections could cause a new political crisis – while sending a signal that the country is falling into a so-called Balkan ‘ghetto’ of failing states.

“These elections will not only test Albania’s democracy but also its rule of law,” the report says. “They will show whether Albanian institutions can respect the rule of law enough to ensure the prevalence of democratic principles in the country,” it adds.

Albania obtained a conditional recommendation from the European Commission for its EU candidate status bid in October last year, which required the approval of two draft laws and of parliamentary rules of procedure.

However, approval for the three bills, which requires a qualified majority in parliament, has remained hostage to a row between the Socialist-led opposition and the ruling majority dating back to the 2011 local elections.

Two decades after it emerged from most repressive Communist regime in Eastern Europe, Tirana has yet to hold elections that meet international standards.

The ESI report says Albania risks becoming part of a so-called Balkan ghetto, comprising Kosovo, Bosnia and Macedonia, countries that are all falling behind their neighbors in the EU integration process.

“This regional division risks becoming self-reinforcing: against the backdrop of a deepening social and economic crisis, the poorer parts of the Balkans are losing faith in the EU integration process just as the EU risks giving up on them,” the report says.

“The result is likely to be a new Balkan ghetto, encompassing most of the region’s Albanian population,” it concludes.

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