New Democracy Member of Parliament, Yannis Oikonomou, from Strasbourg and the Council of Europe emphasized that the Beleri case reflects the circumvention of the rule of law and European values ​​in Albania.

His speech in detail:

We are discussing a report on Albania and at the core of this issue is an extremely critical issue both for the Rule of Law in Albania and for European political values. It is the issue of Mr. Fredis Beleris, who is a prominent member of the Greek National Minority in Albania, elected Mayor of Heimarra, in the municipal elections on May 14, 2023 and, since yesterday, a candidate for parliament in the next European elections with the New Democracy and the European People’s Party .

Mr. Beleris, just two days before the local elections, was arrested by the Albanian authorities accused of bribery and has been in prison ever since. Despite his arrest, he was elected mayor and all this time he was deprived, by the Albanian state, of his inalienable political right, as an elected Mayor, to take the oath and assume his duties.

I emphasize that this decision was clearly a political choice of the Albanian government, as Albanian legislation does not exclude from the electoral process candidates who are accused for such reasons. Also, European legislation provides that all states must guarantee the exercise of the civil rights of those in custody. It is unacceptable for a country aiming to integrate into Europe to disregard this legislation.

Finally, on March 5, 2024, an Albanian special court found the elected mayor Heimarras guilty. The court sentenced Mr. Beleris to two years of detention. A series of events lead to the conclusion that the decision was premeditated, with the sole aim of preventing Mr. Beleris from being sworn in as mayor. There are serious concerns regarding the objectivity of the process with an emphasis on the independence of the judges, the violation of the presumption of innocence, the conditions for ensuring a fair trial and the disproportionate sentence imposed. It is characteristic that during the hearing the Albanian side refused multiple requests of Mr. Beleris for an expert opinion and did not bring to the court the key witness for confrontation with the person used by the prosecution as a prosecution witness.

At this point I would like to bring to your attention one more critical element. The day after the conviction of the Albanian court against the elected Mayor of Kheimara Mr. Beleris with all the dark points I mentioned above, the unanimous recommendation of the committee of the CoE parliamentary assembly on completing the Monitoring process and activating the Post Monitoring process was exploited by the Albanian government which has been quick to present it as a clear recognition of Albania’s progress in matters of rule of law, human rights and democracy, deliberately omitting any reference to the remaining obligations and recommendations.

In the case of Mr. Beleris, the Albanian authorities are violating the rule of law, political rights and the rights of the Greek National Minority in Albania.

Adherence to the principles of the rule of law and respect for the civil rights of all citizens are a common European value and are not negotiable. But these principles are systematically violated by the Albanian government. This is why I consider the completion of the monitoring process and the transition to a Post Monitoring regime completely untimely. In any case, it must be clear that the issues of the rule of law, human rights, protection of national minorities and securing the property rights of the members of the Greek minority are issues on which progress will be continuously evaluated in the periodic reports.