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Thousands of Albanian protesters demand PM’s resignation

Edi Rama is accused of having links to organized crime

Thousands of protesters marched in the streets earlier to day demanding the resignation of Albania’s Prime Minister, Edi Rama, over alleged links to organized crime.

Albania is a NATO member and is presently looking forward to upcoming talks on its next phase of European integration. The protests come about a month before talks are set to resume on that topic.

This isn’t the first time Rama has fielded mass protests which seek his removal, last year saw multiple such events take place.

Additionally, Albania isn’t alone in facing public wrath and demands for a new government, as some of its neighbors have also experienced the same, also on corruption and links to crime organizations.

Such allegations are feared as a possible roadblock in negotiations with the EU as Albania seeks membership.

Deutsche Welle reports:

Thousands of people have taken to the streets in Tirana, demanding Prime Minister Edi Rama step down from his post. Protesters accuse the government of having ties to organized crime and trafficking groups.

Angry protesters in the Albanian capital Tirana marched along the city’s Martyrs of the Nation Boulevard on Saturday chanting “Rama go.” Some hurled stones at the premier’s office building and the interior ministry.

“Albanians are protesting against the government’s ties to organized crime and trafficking, which is undermining the future of Albania and now European integration efforts,” Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha told The Associated Press.

Basha said that “hundreds of thousands” of people participated in the anti-government march, which lasted for two hours.

There were reports of clashes between police and protesters. Ardi Veliu, the national police chief, said 11 officers were wounded while trying to keep protesters away from government offices.

The opposition also accuses Interior Minister Fatmir Xhafaj of supporting his brother who turned himself in to Italian authorities to serve a 2002 drug trafficking sentence. Xhafaj denies these allegations.

“No politicians should be guaranteed impunity,” Basha told the rally participants on Saturday.

Albania’s EU bid

The Democrats, who lost last year’s parliamentary election by a huge margin, say the incumbent government is proving to be an obstacle to Albania’s European Union bid. The Balkan nation, which has been a NATO member since 2009, is expecting to start EU membership talks next month.

Last month, the European Commission recommended that the EU launch membership talks with Albania and Macedonia. The EU believes that Albania and Macedonia, which were granted EU candidate status in 2014 and 2005, respectively, have made enough progress to warrant the start of accession talks.

Any prospective members must make sweeping reforms to secure their entry to the bloc.

EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said the recommendation “is an encouragement to these countries to continue on the path of reforms.”

Hailing the announcement, Prime Minister Rama said the commission’s backing shows that the tiny West Balkan country has “at last come out of a crossroad between the past and the future.”

Protests have been all over the media so far this year, and they show in case that they aren’t finished yet. Governments all over the world are facing the wrath of their populations on everything from corruption allegations, to criminal links, to national economic woes.

Armenia experienced massive protests spanning several weeks, which saw the resignation of its prime minister, Serzh Sargsyan, and the installation of the leader of the protests, Nikol Pashinyan, as the new PM.

Chile, Argentina, Hungary, Palestine, Malta, Slovakia, and France are but a few of the major people’s movements that are either still ongoing or have been major events of protestation and unrest so far this year.

In Albania’s case, although the protests have involved the injury of around a dozen police personnel, hasn’t been anywhere near the violence that the Jewish State has imposed upon the Palestinians, but hasn’t been as peaceful as the Armenian protests were last month.

So far, no allegations of collusion with the Kremlin have been manifested.

 

 

 

 

 

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