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EU warns that blocking judicial reform 'harms present and future of #Albania'

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Pressure on Albania’s Democratic Party to take part in the country’s upcoming elections has intensified with an intervention by two senior EU political figures, writes Martin Banks.

Parliamentary elections are scheduled on 18 June in Albania but the Democratic party (DP) has announced a Parliamentary boycott.

It is now refusing to register for the June election, threatening to boycott it unless a technocratic caretaker government is installed to oversee the poll.

At the centre of the row is disagreement over implementation of a vetting and judicial reform.

Lulzim Basha, the head of the DP, has said that the opposition will not vote for the existing draft even though the EU says its adoption is the only hurdle that prevent Albania to start negotiation with the EU.

On Thursday (13 April),there were two fresh, and potentially significant, developments in the long-running saga.

First, Tirana media reported that the opposition leader's brother recently resigned his court job so as to avoid the vetting process. Erlind Basha, brother to Lulzim Basha, reportedly worked as a clerk in the Albania Supreme Court until a few weeks ago. Local reports suggest that President Bujar Nishani, while aware of the resignation and the reason, agreed to keep the matter secret.

The second key new move came with  two senior EU figures making a fresh appeal for an end to the parliamentary boycott.

The EU’s High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini and enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn issued a joint statement on the latest developments in Albania.

It reads, “We regret the parliamentary boycott in Albania and that the opposition has not yet registered to participate in the elections. The political debate should not take place outside, but inside the parliament according to democratic practise. Citizens deserve responsible leadership.”

The two said they “once again urge all political leaders to act responsibly, with respect for institutions, and pave the way for democratic elections, in line with international standards.”

The statement went on, “More specifically, the much needed justice reform in Albania has once again come under attack. We call on all parties to complete the formation of the vetting institutions. Attacking the judicial reform rather than ensuring implementation of vetting, with close monitoring of the International Monitoring Operation, harms Albania's present and future.”

Mogherini and Hahn commented, “We expect that MPs will show responsibility, capacity to act within the democratic legitimate institutional framework, and that they stand by the people of Albania, who continue to demand that the vetting is launched and the judiciary eventually reformed, also as a crucial step for the country to join the EU.”

Coming from such high ranking representatives of the commission this is seen as a very strong statement.

The stubborn opposition of the DP for any compromises has prompted some frank reactions from members of the international community.

A Commission source told this website, “From the outside this (the boycott) looks like another way to justify blocking judicial reform.”

Eduard Kukan, a member of the parliament’s delegation to the EU-Albania Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee, opposes any attempt to block the “most important reform” in the history of the fragile Albanian democratic state.

The Slovakian said, “I fully support all efforts which lead to implementation of the justice reform. I have called several times on politicians in Albania to proceed with establishment of the vetting bodies and start with implementation of the reform. Time is of the essence here. I also repeatedly called on the opposition to reassume their work in the parliament in order to move on with the reform and make all necessary preparations for the upcoming elections. I will repeat myself again saying that in democratic systems political battles should take place in the framework of institutions created for this purpose."

A spokesman  for the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, said, “We strongly support the efforts of Albanian citizens and their just struggle for free and fair elections. Albanian people should know they will always have our support in their right cause of freedom and democracy, rule of law and individual liberty.”

Mogherini has previously said that implementation of vetting and judicial reform are the only hurdle that prevent Albania to start negotiation with the EU. She also stated that those who do not vote for the vetting “do not want Albania's EU integration.”

As of November 2015, the European Commission has been clear on the fact that “Albania has fulfilled all other requirements for the initiation of the membership negotiations and the only requirement yet to be fulfilled is the implementation of this reform.”

Belgium

Iranian Opposition rally in front of US embassy in Brussels to ask US and EU for a firm policy towards Iranian regime

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Following the G7 summit in London, Brussels hosts the NATO summit with US and EU leaders. It is the first trip of President Joe Biden outside the US. Meanwhile, the Iran deal negotiations have started in Vienna and despite the international efforts to return Iran and the US to compliance with the JCPOA, Iranians regime showed no interest to return to its commitments under JCPOA context. In the recent IAEA report, important concerns have been raised that the Iranian regime failed to address.

The Iranian diaspora, supporters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran in Belgium, held a rally today (14 June) in front of the US embassy in Belgium. They held posters and banners with the picture of Maryam Rajavi, the leader of the Iranian opposition movement who has declared a non-nuclear Iran in her 10-point plan for the free and democratic Iran.

In their posters and slogans, Iranians asked the US and the EU to work harder to hold the mullahs’ regime accountable for its human rights violations too. The protesters emphasized the need for a decisive policy by the US and the European countries to harness the mullahs’ quest for a nuclear bomb, stepped up repression at home, and terrorist activities abroad.

According to the new IAEA report, despite the previous agreement, the clerical regime refuses to answer IAEA questions on four disputed sites and (to kill time) has postponed further talks until after its presidential election. According to the report, the regime's enriched uranium reserves have reached 16 times the limit allowed in the nuclear deal. The production of 2.4 kg of 60% enriched uranium and about 62.8kg of 20% enriched uranium are of grave concern.

IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi said: Despite agreed terms, “After many months, Iran has not provided the necessary explanation for the presence of the nuclear material particles…We are facing a country that has an advanced and ambitious nuclear program and is enriching Uranium very close to weapons-grade level.”

Grossi’s remarks, also reported by Reuters today, reiterated: “The lack of clarification of the agency’s questions regarding the accuracy and integrity of Iran’s Safeguard Declaration will seriously affect the agency’s ability to ensure the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.”

Maryam Rajavi (pictured), the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), said that the recent report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the remarks by its Director-General once again show that to guarantee its survival, the clerical regime has not abandoned its atomic bomb project. It also shows that to buy time, the regime has continued its policy of secrecy to mislead the international community. At the same time, the regime is blackmailing its foreign interlocutors into lifting sanctions and ignoring its missile programs, export of terrorism, and criminal meddling in the region.

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Brexit

Ex-EU Brexit negotiator Barnier: UK reputation at stake in Brexit row

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Head of the Task Force for Relations with the UK, Michel Barnier attendsthe debate on EU-UK trade and cooperation agreement during the second day of a plenary session at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium April 27, 2021. Olivier Hoslet/Pool via REUTERS

Michel Barnier, the European Union's former Brexit negotiator, said on Monday (14 June) that the reputation of the United Kingdom was at stake regarding tensions over Brexit.

EU politicians have accused British Prime Minister Boris Johnson of not respecting engagements made regarding Brexit. Growing tensions between Britain and the EU threatened to overshadow the Group of Seven summit on Sunday, with London accusing France of "offensive" remarks that Northern Ireland was not part of the UK. Read more

"The United Kingdom needs to pay attention to its reputation," Barnier told France Info radio. "I want Mr Johnson to respect his signature," he added.

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coronavirus

Parliament president calls for a European Search and Rescue Mission

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European Parliament President David Sassoli (pictured) has opened a high-level interparliamentary conference on managing migration and asylum in Europe. The conference focused particularly on the external aspects of migration. The president said: “We have chosen to discuss today the external dimension of migration and asylum policies because we know that only by tackling the instability, crises, poverty, human rights violations that occur beyond our borders, will we be able to address the root causes that push millions of people to leave. We need to manage this global phenomenon in a human way, to welcome the people that knock on our doors every day with dignity and respect.
 
“The COVID-19 pandemic is having a profound impact on migration patterns locally and worldwide and has had a multiplier effect on the forced movement of people around the world, especially where access to treatment and healthcare is not guaranteed. The pandemic has disrupted migration pathways, blocked immigration, destroyed jobs and income, reduced remittances, and pushed millions of migrants and vulnerable populations into poverty.
 
“Migration and asylum are already an integral part of the external action of the European Union. But they must become part of a stronger and more cohesive foreign policy  in the future.
 
“I believe it is our duty first of all to save lives. It is no longer acceptable to leave this responsibility only to NGOs, which perform a substitute function in the Mediterranean. We must go back to thinking about joint action by the European Union in the Mediterranean that saves lives and tackles traffickers. We need a European search and rescue mechanism at sea, which uses the expertise of all actors involved, from Member States to civil society to European agencies.
 
“Second, we must ensure that people in need of protection can arrive in the European Union safely and without risking their lives. We need humanitarian channels to be defined together with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. We must work together on a European resettlement system based on common responsibility. We are talking about people who can also make an important contribution to the recovery of our societies affected by the pandemic and demographic decline, thanks to their work and their skills.
 
“We also need to put in place a European migration reception policy. Together we shoulddefine the criteria for a single entry and residence permit, assessing the needs of our labor markets at a national level. During the pandemic, entire economic sectors came to a halt due to the absence of immigrant workers. We need regulated immigration for the recovery of our societies and for the maintenance of our social protection systems.”

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