Turkish influence in Albania has begun to raise concerns in EU institutions. During a discussion session on Albania that took place on Friday in the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, a number of MEPs criticised the close relationship between the Albanian and Turkish government.
These concerns were in the context of Turkish influence in the Balkans and the persecution of those accused of being involved in the Gulenist movement.
Three MEPs from the committee expressed doubts about Albania’s will and desire to join the EU.
French MEP Thierry Mariani said that Albania is a key part of Turkish influence in the Balkans and that Turkey has strong ties to the “radical part of Kosovo”. He also drew attention to the kidnap and extradition of five Turkish teachers in Kosovo and one in Albania.
“Albania has the right to have good relations with Turkey, but we don’t think that the policy chosen at the moment in this regard is in line with European standards,” he said.
German MEP Zimnok Berhard said that Turkey is using Albania as a base for expansion towards Europe.
“The Turks are working towards a new Ottoman Empire. They are doing this through increased armaments and through religion…I see it as a problem.”
He also said he doesn’t believe that Albania will implement the necessary reforms as “they are not a part of our European values.”
Berhard called for a stop to the “flow of money into Albania, and the accession process”. He said that “Albania in the EU will bring big and unnecessary problems.”
Hungarian MEP Katalin Cseh called the relationship between Albania and Turkey “disturbing”, particularly in the way it developed after the failed 2016 coup d’etat.
Cseh also mentioned the extradition of perceived Gulenists who risk persecution and arrest if they enter Turkey.
“I want to talk about one last case, a well-documented case. Turkish citizen Selami Simsek was arrested at Tirana airport and imprisoned for using forged documents. Although he was released on March 9, police held him for hours before sending him to a centre for illegal immigrants. Although Mr Simsek applied for asylum, the status of his application and his whereabouts are being kept secret by the Albanian authorities.”
In response to their concerns, Angelina Eichhorst, the Director for Europe and Central Asia in the European Commission said that the concerns of MEPs are somewhat exaggerated and should be seen in context, emphasising that some 90% of Albanians are in favour of EU membership. She claimed that the Commission is monitoring the relationship and would report on it if there were any real concerns.
Eichhorst did not address the extradition of Turkish citizens to Turkey without following due process.