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Analysis: Albania standoff could affect its ambitions for EU accession

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Albania's president Ilir Meta is locked in a battle with the country's government
Albania's president Ilir Meta is locked in a battle with the country's government   -   Copyright  (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)
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President Ilir Meta didn’t pull any punches in his interview with Good Morning Europe, saying that changes to the constitution could put Albania back 30 years to the end of its Communist regime.

He said Albania could return to its Cold War status as “the North Korea of Europe.”

Meta believes he is fighting a “battle for democracy” and insists it isn’t a power tussle with Prime Minister, Edi Rama.

What we are seeing play out in Albania is a constitutional battle in which the president, who is meant to be above party politics, clearly feels frustrated at the dominance of the socialist left-wing party and feels that there is a substantial grab on power. He wants to challenge that, but feels that the political means to do so are not going anywhere and hence he is calling for a rally on the streets next week.

The government sees this as an overreach. It thinks the president is extending way beyond his powers. He is meant to by a unifying figure who is above politics; that is clearly no longer the case, which is why Rama is suggesting there will be a move to impeach the president next month.

Add to this a personality clash between two of Albania’s leading politicians that has been going on for decades and it is easy to see why the country has ended up in a mess that has profound ramifications.

There was quite a bit of upset at the end of 2019 when France and the Netherlands essentially vetoed Albania and North Macedonia’s attempts to join the EU.

There will be a concerted attempt to try to restart that process at a special summit in the Balkans in May. Given that this crisis in Albania involves the judiciary, you can bet Brussels will be looking closely and that this standoff will have consequences for Albania’s European aspirations.

Darren McCaffrey is Political Editor at Euronews.