From: Alice Taylor
EC Supports Right to Assembly and ‘Legitimate Concerns’ over Price Rises in Albania

The European Commission said that citizens in Albania and beyond have legitimate concerns over the rising prices and reminded of the right to assembly and the inclusion of vulnerable groups.

The statement comes following questions sent by Exit after Prime Minister Edi Rama said, one day before EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell visited Tirana, that a Brussels official had said the protests served Russia and the Kremlin and questioned who was organising them.

Albanians have been protesting for over a week over increased fuel, energy, and food prices, calling for various fiscal reliefs. The government has introduced some measures but has continually said the protestors are shameful and are bolstering the Kremlin.

“Citizens in Albania, as well as in the rest of the Western Balkans and beyond, have legitimate concerns over the rising prices of fuel and food,” the Commission said, adding that “The EU recalls that upholding European standards on freedom of peaceful assembly, and on the protection and inclusion of vulnerable groups, are key accession requirements that are monitored closely. All actors involved need to exercise maximum calm and restraint.”

The latter comment comes as hundreds of people including women, peaceful protestors, and a disabled person were apprehended by police, including plain-clothed officers. Several journalists were also assaulted and one required emergency medical treatment.

The statement continued that the price rises are “largely exacerbated by the war of aggression launched by Russia against Ukraine,” and not by EU sanctions and Albania’s alignment with them.

“EU sanctions are carefully targeted, and aimed at those responsible for policies or actions the EU wants to influence, while reducing as much as possible any unintended consequence,” it continues.

Furthermore, the Commission noted the establishment of the special committee to tackle the impact of Russia’s was against Ukraine on Albanian economy and the national board for the administration of fuels, as well as on the ongoing monitoring of the situation by the Competition Authority of Albania.

“The EU will continue to support its Western Balkan partners in inclusive and sustainable economic development, in particular responding to the social and economic impact of the war, potential future shocks and in order to allow economic recovery,” the statement concluded.