From: Alice Taylor
Rama Macron Meeting: Citizens Open Letter Calls on EU to Not “Whitewash Autocracy”

Prior to Prime Minister Edi Rama’s visit to French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron yesterday, a group of concerned Albania and European citizens sent an open letter, condemning the decision.

Addressed to the heads of governments of EU Member States, the President of the European Council, and the President of the European Commission, they voice their “grave concerns” about the meeting scheduled between the two Prime Ministers.

“We write to you with grave concern about the official meeting scheduled on very short notice with the premier of Albania in Paris on March 22, 2021. The lack of an agenda increases our skepticism.”

They said that while they recognize the importance of dialogue with Albania, they are afraid the meeting could “whitewash” the Government of Albania in the eyes of the international community. This they said, risks “cementing autocracy and leaving the Albanian people even more disenfranchised and hopeless.”

They said that Rama’s power is not democratic or legitimate and referred to recent issues regarding media freedom, the anti-defamation package, and criticisms from international journalists organizations. They also mentioned the latest Freedom House report, which gave the country a “partly-free” status with just 47% democracy.

“When interviewed by Voice of America the co-author of this report, explained that the violent repression of the protests for the protection of the National Theater and the protests for the murder of a young man by the police for breaking curfew, contributed to the decline in the category of freedom of assembly,” they added.

They called on those addressed to send the government a “clear message that for the EU democracy is essential and that you are committed to “push back” against autocratic leadership and corruption in Western Balkans.”

While no agenda for the meeting was made public prior to it taking place, Rama gave an interview shortly afterward. He said they discussed a number of important projects such as an investment in the Durres water supply infrastructure so the city can have water 24 hours a day.

He said they also discussed investments in energy including the Voltalia solar park, and projects focussing on women and girls.

Rama didn’t clarify whether the topic of EU integration was on the table. In 2019, France was against the opening of negotiations between Albania and the EU.