Albania was hoping to be asked to start European Union membership talks this month but that now seems unlikely to happen.
EU leaders want to see a country with stable democratic institutions, but in the past week, President Ilir Meta has cancelled local elections that were scheduled for the end of the month because the opposition Democratic Party refuses to take part in them.
Making matters worse, the ruling Socialist Party has questioned Meta’s constitutional authority to change the date. There is no constitutional court to rule on the matter, because its judges’ finances are being investigated and they are suspended.
There is no article in the constitution of the Republic of Albania that has been violated by the president ... What the president has done is exactly showing his commitment to protect political pluralism in the country and also to guarantee free and fair elections for all citizens of Albania.
So Albania presents a picture of anything but a stable democratic state, which is a precondition of EU membership.
Meta says it will harm the chances of joining the EU if left unchanged.
“If the crisis is going to last, the chances will be undermined for years, not for months. This is clear,” he told Al Jazeera, saying that the country’s ability to demonstrate that it can hold free and fair elections will be the determining factor.
“If we do not show normality and progress now related to the future of general local elections, it will be a disaster.”
He defends his decision to cancel elections scheduled for June 30, and says it can help bring all parties to the table.
“I am sure I have done the best to avoid this fuller escalation of the conflict between the government and the opposition and to give to both sides the possibility to calm down, to reflect, and to enter soon in the local [elections] for the best interests of all Albanians.”