May 12, 2023.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Gabriel Escobar
Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW Washington, D.C. 20520
Dear Deputy Assistant Secretary Escobar,
We are writing to express concern over the treatment of Albania’s Greek minority during the upcoming municipal elections in the country.
Less than 48 hours before the poll stations open in Albania for Sunday’s municipal elections, the Albanian government struck a huge blow to the fair and free elections principle and minority rights in the country. Last night, undercover law enforcement officers arrested the Greek national minority candidate running for mayor of the Municipality of Himara, Mr. Fredi Beleri, and members of his campaign team on dubious charges. Mr. Beleri’s political rival is none other than the candidate of Albania’s ruling party, the Socialist Party, Mr. Gjergji Goro. The latest polls indicated a tight race between the two men.
Mr. Beleri is a member of the Greek National Minority of Albania and a leading figure of the
minority’s political party KEAD/ Unity for Human Rights Party. His candidacy is being
supported by KEAD.
Such a blow to the essence of democracy, that is the electoral process itself, casts serious doubts on Albania’s commitment to fulfilling the criteria for joining the European Union. Sadly, Mr. Beleri’s arrest took place almost a year after all 27 EU Member States, including Greece, agreed to kick off the accession negotiations with Albania. It is even more regretful in the light of Russia’s relentless efforts to destabilize Europe in general, and the Western Balkans in particular, in the context of its brutal aggression against Ukraine. At a time when autocracies join forces, any deviation from democratic principles by a country aspiring to join the EU should not be tolerated.
We are asking you to demand the immediate release of Mr. Beleri and to urge the Albanian
government to hold free and fair elections on Sunday. Not only are democracy and human rights in Albania at stake, so are Albania’s relations with Greece and thus its candidacy for the European Union. The retreat of democracy in Turkey under Erdogan should have served as a wake-up call, and there should be a zero tolerance policy for any backsliding of democracy in the Western Balkans.
We appreciate your urgent attention to this matter.
International Coordinating Committee,
Justice for Cyprus
American Hellenic Educational Progressive
Coordinated Effort of Hellenes
Hellenic American National Council
President and CEO
American Hellenic Institute (AHI)
Pan Macedonian Association USA
Hellenic American Leadership Council