Can Fleckenstein Be a Credible Negotiator? MEP Knut Fleckenstein.

Today the negotiators sent by the European Parliament (EP) will arrive in Albania, David McAllister and Knut Fleckenstein. Responding to a call of the Albanian government for the European People’s Party, to which the Democratic Party (PD) is affiliated, to intervene, both negotiators will try to break the stalemate between the government and the opposition regarding the parliamentary elections and the boycott of Parliament.

Whereas McAllister indeed belongs to the EPP, his companion Fleckenstein belongs to the PASD, the major left-wing party in the European Parliament, which is affiliated with Prime Minister Rama’s Socialist Party.

Different from McAllister, Fleckenstein has strong links with Albania, having figured as the rapporteur for the European Commission on Albania and drafter of the 2016 Progress Report. As Exit has explained before, Fleckenstein’s draft report was much more positive about the Rama government’s progress than the EP, and the final report that was adopted by the EP considerably more critical of its accomplishments.

Whereas the initial report of Fleckenstein only included the condition of the implementation of the judicial reform in order to open accession negotiations, the final report called for “full and timely implementation of reforms on all five key priorities,” which explicitly included free and fair elections. The final report, contrary to Fleckenstein’s initial draft, also explicitly mentioned progress in the “fight against organised crime and corruption” together with the implementation of the judicial reform. The “Fleckenstein view” has been consistently echoed by the European Commission and EU Ambassador Romana Vlahutin, whereas the more critical final report resounded with the German Bundestag and Chancellor Merkel’s position.

Both “free and fair elections” and “fight against organised crime and corruption” are the main points of contention for the opposition, headed by PD leader Lulzim Basha. Fleckenstein’s position on both is expressed in his progress report. For him, neither are as important as the judicial reform, and Prime Minister Rama already affirmed that he would be willing to implement the reform even if the opposition continue its boycott of the elections.

Moreover, two months ago Fleckenstein publicly stated:

Dialogue needs to happen in Parliament. I am not negotiating about the protest.

And now Fleckenstein will arrive today, precisely to “negotiate about the protest.” It appears that anything less than a full surrender of the opposition would conflict with his own ideas about the direction of the country, which leads to the question: Can Fleckenstein actually be a credible negotiator?