Greece names convicted Albanian politician from ethnic Greek minority as candidate in EU election

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — ruling conservative party included a convicted politician from ethnic Greek minority in its list slate of candidates for the forthcoming European Parliament election, further escalating existing tensions between the two countries.Fredi Beleris Freddy Beleri was elected mayor of the municipality of Himare in southern Albania last year in 2022 but was taken into custody on allegations of vote-buying and was not sworn into office. He was subsequently given a two-year prison sentence in March March 2023.The politician had denied the charges against him Beleri has denied the charges, and Greece’s government called his pre-trial detention unfair the Greek government has decried his pre-trial detention as unjust, threatening to obstruct Albania’s bid to join the . European Union.The Greece’s governing New Democracy party made the surprise announcement late Monday announced the unexpected move late on Monday, allowing Beleris to participate in the election, which will be held from June 6-9 across the 27 member states. Greeks will cast their ballots on June 9 June 9, 2023.“The battle I am fighting is not personal “This is not a personal struggle for me. It is a battle for the rule of law and democracy,”It is a struggle for the rule of law and democracy,” Beleris posted on Facebook Tuesday after a ceremony announcing the candidate list in AthensBeleri declared on Facebook Tuesday following a ceremony in Athens where the conservative party led by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis introduced the list of candidates.“It is a battle for the values espoused by the West and Europe and which must be respected by those who want to join the great European family,” wrote Beleris“It is a struggle for the ideals embraced by the West and Europe, and these ideals must be upheld by those seeking entry into the great European family.”, wrote Beleris, who remains imprisoned in Albania.Six nations in the western Balkan region – Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia – are at different stages in their applications for EU membershipat varying stages in their applications for EU membership. Croatia joined as the last EU member countrymost recent EU member state in 2013.Western concerns over regional stability triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine have added urgency to the accession processConcerns about regional stability sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have prompted a sense of urgency in the accession process.Greece and AlbaniaThe historical relationship between Greece and Albania, a former communist nation and current NATO member, have a historically tense relationshiphas been tense.AthensThe Greek government has accused Tirana of being too slowtoo slow in restoring rights to more than 100,000 of its ethnic Greek citizens following the fall of communist ruleafter the collapse of communist rule in the early 1990s. Many members of the minority have worked in Greece and have dual citizenshipMany members of the minority have worked in Greece and hold dual citizenship.