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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas