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Western Balkans NGOs Urge EU Not to Delay Skopje-Tirana Negotiations

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Over 80 non-government organizations from the Western Balkans have signed petitions addressed to the president of the European Council Donald Tusk, demanding the EU not to delay the start of the process for negotiations for EU membership of the Republic of North Macedonia and the Republic of Albania.

The petition is signed in order to express concern that any delays of the negotiations may negatively affect the pro-European orientation of the region, as well as the credibility of the European Union, and to discourage the political elite in the region when making decisions about other important bilateral issues.

“The Western Balkans NGOs are hopeful that the European Council will fulfill the expectations to start the negotiation processes with North Macedonia and Albania in June,” the petition stated.

The NGOs believe that the good-neighborly relations are key factors for consolidation of the Western Balkans and its fast integration in the EU.

“We highly appreciate the bravery and the persistence of the leaders of both North Macedonia and Greece and the example set for solving the bilateral issues. We believe that this will contribute to solving other issues and bring stability in the region, as well as a future in the EU for us,” the petition read.

The petition is signed by 85 NGOs, amongst which is the European Movement in Serbia, Montenegro and North Macedonia, the Foundation for Open Society from Serbia and Albania, the Initiative Youth for Human Rights from Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, the Belgrade Center for Human Rights, the Belgrade Center for Security Policy, and the Center for European Policy.

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Clinton: Kosovo sets example of democracy, it deserves EU, NATO membership

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Former US president Bill Clinton said on Tuesday in Pristina that Kosovo deserves integration in the European Union and NATO, expressing his conviction that the US will continue to fully support Kosovo in its journey ahead.

Former president Clinton said that the whole world must take Kosovo as an example of democracy and commitment to moving forward and living in peace with all neighbouring countries.

“I think Kosovo deserves to be part of the European Union, NATO and every other organization that an independent state can be part of. I was very happy that my successor, president Bush, recognized Kosovo and its independence. I wish you all the best and I believe my country will continue to support you in your way ahead”, Clinton said after a meeting with Kosovo’s president Hashim Thaci, who awarded him Kosovo’s Order of Freedom.

 Former President Clinton and former US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright are in Kosovo to attend the activities taking place to mark the 20th anniversary of NATO troops entering Kosovo. The two arrived in Pristina ahead of anniversary commemorations on Wednesday.

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Albania’s president calls off local elections, citing political tension

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Albanian President Ilir Meta has called off local elections set for June 30, while the government, led by Prime Minister Edi Rama, has accused him of breaking the law and urged  his removal from office.

The prime minister was quoted by Reuters as saying nothing could stop his ruling Socialist party from going ahead with the elections. He announced plans to impeach the president later this week.

Opposition parties plan to boycott the elections, claiming that Rama’s government won an election in 2017 by buying votes with the help of criminal gangs. Opposition parties walked out of the country’s parliament in mid-February and have yet to retake their seats.

The opposition parties held a series of anti-government protests in recent months, calling for a new general election. The latest protest in Tirana, June 8, was broken up by police using water cannons and tear gas.

Meta said that he cancelled the election because holding a vote without the opposition parties would cause further social conflict and could damage Albania’s ambitions to join the EU. 

At the EU June summit, the Council is to decide whether to open accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia.

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Albania’s ruling Socialists begin impeachment proceedings against head of state

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Albania’s ruling Socialist Party will launch proceedings in the parliament to dismiss President Ilir Meta after the president signed a decree cancelling the June 30 local elections, a party statement said on Monday.

Meta said on June 8 he would cancel the local elections as conditions do not exist for “true, democratic, representative and all-inclusive elections”. His decision follows months of increasingly violent protests in Tirana and an opposition boycott of the parliament. The country’s two main opposition parties, the Democratic Party and Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI), say they will not take part in the local elections. 

Calling Meta’s move a “brutal act”, Socialist Party spokesperson Elisa Spiropali told journalists: “Ilir Meta has lost the right to remain in office as the president of the republic and the Albanian parliament will begin the procedure for his dismissal.” 

The ruling party plans to hold parliamentary debate at plenary session Thursday to put forward the arguments for Meta’s dismissal. “It is our political duty to protect the constitution, the constitutional order and the parliamentary republic,” Spiropali said after a meeting of party leadership. 

The Socialists have 75 seats in the 140-seat parliament, having won an outright majority in the June 2017 general election, but 95 votes are required to impeach the president. 

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