Tories move to cut ties with Albanian regime

After years of enthusiastic support, centre-right parties in Western Europe, including the British Conservatives, are rapidly distancing themselves from Albania's ruling Democratic Party because of growing concerns about corruption, police brutality and violations of basic political freedoms.

"In the light of the DP's actions over the last year, we now have to review whether the party is one we would want to do business with," one source inside the Conservative Party said.

Punitive action is expected to come early next month in Paris at a meeting of the European Democratic Union, a club grouping centre-right parties from across the Continent, including the DP and the Conservatives. At the very least, the party is expected to be put "on probation". Most likely, it will have its EDU membership suspended, although outright expulsion is also possible.

Ostensibly, the main cause for concern is the heavy-handed use of uniformed and plainclothes police in quelling recent anti-government riots sparked by the collapse of Albania's get-rich-quick pyramid investment schemes. But given the EDU's reluctance to confront mounting evidence of human- rights abuses over the past three years, the real issue seems to be a desire to disown the party before association turns into scandal.

Close links with the DP were once considered an ideological imperative for EDU member- parties, but have become ever more embarrassing as the Albanian government has come under fire for everything from election-rigging to involvement in arms, drugs and petrol trafficking. In Britain, the Albanian connection has risked turning into an electoral liability for the Tories following reports in The Independent about Albanian government collusion in organised crime and questions asked in the House of Commons by the Labour MP Denis MacShane.

Until last May's rigged general elections, media reports about corruption and political repression in Albania were rare, and European conservatives threw themselves enthusiastically into the pro-Berisha camp.

In Britain, President Berisha's greatest champion has been Sir Geoffrey Pattie, former vice-chairman of the Conservative Party.

Some other Conservatives appear to be equally unwilling to criticise the Democratic Party. The secretary of the Westminster Conservative Associ- ation, Donald Stewart, said he had found the Democratic Party "entirely bona fide" on three visits to Albania in the past 18 months. Conservative officials said that Mr Stewart and others would be asked to modify their views or at least stop espousing them on behalf of the party.

Similar sea-changes in attitude appear to be taking place in the rest of Europe, starting with Leni Fischer, president of the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly.

Ms Fischer is regarded in Albania as a Berisha apologist, but at the end of last month her assembly issued the Tirana govern-ment with a list of demands on democratisation, the independence of the judiciary, press freedom and cross-party dialogue. Challenged about her statements apparently supporting Mr Berisha in the past, her office said she had been misquoted and there was evidence of statements being fabricated in Albania to discredit her.

News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
Boris Johnson may be manoeuvring to succeed David Cameron
i100
News
His band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
Loan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
tv
Extras
indybest 9 best steam generator irons
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Officer (HMP Brixton Mentoring Project)

£24,000 per annum pro rata (21 hours per week): Belong: Work as part of a cutt...

Construction Solicitor / Partner

Highly Competitive Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - Senior Construction Solici...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

DT teachers required for supply roles in Cambridge

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: DT teachers required ...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering