Tories move to cut ties with Albanian regime
Monday 24 February 1997
"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.
- 1 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 2 50 books for students to read this summer: From Ernest Hemingway to Gillian Flynn
- 3 McDonald’s removes chicken nuggets from the menu in Hong Kong amid major food scare
- 4 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
- 5 Joey Barton and Yossi Benayoun become involved in Twitter row over Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict: Israeli targeting policy under scrutiny after shellfire hits a mother and child, a school full of refugees and a doctor’s home
Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich claims Noel Gallagher helped him kick his cocaine addiction
Peaches Geldof: Her final day – and her fatal decision
Iraq crisis: Isis orders Mosul shop keepers to cover mannequins
Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...
£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...
£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...
£28000 - £33000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive (Digital Marketi...