Knut Fleckenstein, MEP for the European Parliament center-left S&D faction and Special Rapporteur for Albania has not been able to renew his mandate in the 2019 European Elections.
Fleckenstein was listed at no. 18 on the candidate list of the German SPD, part of the European Parliament’s S&D fraction. The SPD dropped from 27% in 2014 to 16% in 2019, being now as big as the Green Party, which grew from 11% to 16%.
According to the provisional results, the ruling coalition of center-right EPP and S&D has lost its majority in Parliament, which means they will need the support of the liberal ALDE or Green fraction to form a stable majority. ALDE supports EU enlargement.
With the departure of Fleckenstein, the Rama government loses one its strongest supporters in the European Parliament. Fleckenstein’s reports to the EP regarding Albania’s progress toward fulfilling the criteria for opening accession negotiations were systematically more positive than the final version accepted by the EP, as events from 2017 and 2018 showed. In recent months, Fleckenstein openly supported the Rama government, claiming to “lose his patience” with the opposition.
Fleckenstein played a key role in the negotiations that broke the political deadlock preceding the national elections in 2017, resulting in the McAllister+ agreement, which provided the blueprint for the current political crisis.
Although it appears that MEP David McAllister, being the leading candidate for the CDU (EPP) in the German state of Niedersachsen, will return to European Parliament, Fleckenstein’s position as “preferred” negotiator of Rama’s Socialist Party has now considerably weakened.
Other important actors in the 2017 negotiations, including US Ambassador Donald Lu and Assistant Secretary of State Hoyt Brian Yee, have left their posts, which remain vacant to this day. Yee’s successor Wess Mitchell resigned in February 2019 and has not been replaced. No successor of Lu has been passed by the US Senate.
Fleckenstein’s defeat will therefore certainly have knock-on effects in Albania. The opposition remains determined to boycott the local elections, while it seems unlikely that the internationals will be able to assemble the negotiating team and exercise the pressure necessary to resolve the current deadlock.