Albania risks becoming once again “the North Korea of Europe,” its own president warned on Thursday as he defended his role in a constitutional clash that threatens to undermine the country’s path to European Union accession.
Ilir Meta wants Albanians to topple the country’s socialist government, which he claims has “usurped every independent institution” and become a “one-party regime.”
_Watch the full interview with Meta in the media player above. _
In an interview with Euronews, he insisted he was fighting a “battle for democracy” but denied a personal power tussle with Prime Minister Edi Rama.
Albania's justice minister, who the president reportedly sued earlier this week, responded to the claims, insisting that the country was implementing justice reform. She said that there was a commission investigating all the decisions of the president.
"We are trying to instal in Albania one radical reform that wants to guarantee the main pillars of the rule of law," insisted justice minister Etilda Gjonaj. She said they wanted to move towards an independent justice system.
"I'm convinced that Albania is moving forward," she added.
Since the end of the Communist regime in 1991, the Balkan nation has had a figurehead president while the prime minister leads the government. However, Meta has committed himself to opposing Rama and his Socialist Party.
“How can I be above party politics when we have a total state capture in Albania by the ruling majority, when it controls everything?” Meta said.
"Today we are living, unfortunately, in a one-party regime. We are under threat of going back to 30 years ago when we were the North Korea of Europe."
Meta has called for a mass protest against the government in Tirana on March 2, while Rama has launched impeachment proceedings against the president — the first in post-communist Albania, stemming from Meta's attempt to cancel last year's municipal elections.
“This is not a power struggle,” Meta insisted to Euronews. “I am fighting for the rule of law in Albania. I am fighting for the rule of democracy against a one-party regime that has usurped every independent institution in this country and now wants to grab the constitutional court.”