Albania is one of the EU’s candidate countries that has been experiencing internal turmoil due to conflict between Berisha (former) and Basha (current) leaders of the Centre-Right Democratic Party of Albania (PD). This very public war that has been raging on, reached its peak when the current PD Leader ousted Berisha.
The US and EU brought forward their concern about Berisha who was interfering in “independent investigations, anti-corruption efforts, and accountability measures”, with the US State Department, labelling Berish as persona non grata due to his involvement in “significant corruption”, “misappropriation of public funds” and interfering in “public processes”.
Berisha, retaliated by embarking on a crusade to drum up support and gather signatures for this cause.
These two warring factions have left the country in political unrest. Euronews Albania has shown that 71% of respondents were dissatisfied with the expulsion of Berisha.
A few weeks ago, Police in Albania used teargas and water cannon trucks to disperse the hundreds of protesters that stormed the ground floor of the PD’s headquarters due to internal squabble over the party’s leadership. The Police detained 8 party staff members and 25 trespassers during the clash. The force led by Berisha was equipped with iron bars and hammers to break open the main doors, as such, the employees fired teargas in an attempt to halt or scatter the raiding party before police assistance arrived on the scene.
After 3 hours, Berisha closed the demonstration, stating that this is part of an “unstoppable revolution” that he and his supporters will start a nationwide campaign “to dismantle the narco-government.” US Ambassador Yuri Kim expressed concerns due to the political tension and called on protesters “to reject violence and exercise calm”.
The Democratic party went on to state: “Today’s acts of violence against the Democratic party mark Sali Berisha’s final isolation and a shameful move out of the political scene.”
Corruption has long plagued Albania for most of its post-communist history. It has affected its democracy, economy, and social development. Berisha “corrupt acts undermined democracy in Albania”, leaving the state vulnerable. Albania has made significant progress since 1992, however, it is still facing economic challenges. The 2008 financial crisis undermined Albania`s economic and political sphere even more. The USAID stated that “Albania needs many years of significant, sustained economic growth to approach EU income levels”, as such, the corruption going on in the state, along with notoriously corrupt leaders, are hindering Albania from stabilising. This is impacting its foreign relations and candidacy for EU membership.
The US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Gabriel Escobar, stated that there should be “consequences” if the Democratic party chose a leader whom Washington had designated as persona non grata.