US diplomat warns Albanian opposition leaders could face entry bans

By bne IntelliNews June 10, 2019

Albanian opposition leaders could face bans on entering the US after months of increasingly violent protests in Tirana, US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Europe and Eurasia Matthew Palmer said in an interview with Albania's Top Channel TV broadcast on June 8. 

MPs from the opposition Democratic Party and Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI) in February, at the same time as the Democratic Party launched a series of protests aimed at forcing Prime Minister Edi Rama to resign. Both parties also said they would boycott the June 30 local elections. 

On June 8, President Ilir Meta announced he was cancelling the elections, saying conditions do not exist for “true, democratic, representative and all-inclusive elections”. 

Diplomats from the US and west European countries have condemned the violence that erupted at several recent protests, and appealed to the opposition to return to parliament and take part in the local elections. “[U]sing a boycott to hamper the municipal elections of an entire country is not helpful to building stronger democratic institutions,” Palmer commented. 

“Obstructing an electoral process potentially constitutes grounds for ineligibility for entering the United States,” Palmer warned in the interview with Top Channel TV. 

Asked which Albanian politicians had been blacklisted from the US, Palmer said he was unable to talk about the specifics of any visa case. 

“However, I will underscore the US commitment to using all tools available to support the fight against organised crime and corruption as well as to promote accountability, transparency, and good governance. That includes the use of certain visa sanctions authorities when appropriate,” he added. 

Palmer also warned that opposition leaders Lulzim Basha of the Democratic Party and Monika Kryemadhi of the LSI were seen as responsible for the violence at the opposition protests. 

“I want to be very clear with Mr. Basha, Ms. Kryemadhi, and others in their parties. If there are acts of violence in future protests, we will consider them responsible. It has been clear in the past that when the leaders want the protests to be peaceful, they have been peaceful,” he said.

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