On the eve of the Open Balkans summit in Albania, protests against this initiative were held in Tirana, led by former Prime Minister Sali Berisha and supporters of Berisha’s Democratic Party. The Serbian flag was set on fire, and the opponents of the Open Balkans initiative from Kosovo also took part in the protest. Vucic and Zaev arrived in Elbasan tonight, while 6 agreements are expected to be signed tomorrow.
As announced, the protests in the Albanian capital started at 4 pm and ended at 6 pm with the song „It’s the final countdown“. As the Top Channel reports, Berisha and his supporters were stationed in front of the building of Prime Minister Edi Rama, who is hosting the summit.
The protesters initially gathered in front of the seat of the Democratic Party, then made their way to the Prime Minister’s building. The building door was barricaded in order to avoid any incident, while water cannons could also be seen on the site.
While Top Channel reported that the protest was attended by several hundred people, the activists themselves claim that several thousands of demonstrators actually came to the rally.
On the other hand, approximately two thousand police officers were deployed to maintain order and peace, in addition to the Republican Guard.
According to former Prime Minister Berisha, the Open Balkans summit is a „malicious initiative against Kosovo and Albania“.
Sali Berisha is on the US list of people involved in corruption. When the US Secretary of State revealed the news that Berisha was sanctioned on May 19th of this year, the former Prime Minister immediately announced that he was filing a defamation lawsuit in a Paris court, which he did in August.
Berisha is Rama’s opponent, as well as an opponent of the Open Balkans. He is a vocal advocate of the unification of Albanians into one state. Berisha has repeatedly and publicly spoken about unification. In several sources, his name is brought into connection with the arms trade during the ’99 war in Kosovo. In the 1990s, in several articles published in the Western media, it was alleged that his family farm was a KLA base, as well as that Berisha thus „manipulated the crisis“ for a „political comeback“.
Several members of the Democratic Party of Albania, as well as Kosovo politicians, gave a speech during the rally.
Melihate Termkolli from the LDK reiterated the same message the Kosovan government and opposition parties regularly underscore: „The Open Balkans is the new Yugoslavia, Vucic’s last attempt to implement Milosevic’s plans and projects, but it will not happen. We will not accept the Open Balkans.“
She added that Albanians have „only one pact with the United States and the West“, and that the US stands by Albanians, and Albanians by Sali Berisha.
„Albania has two historical leaders, the great Ibrahim Rugova and the current Sali Berisha,“ the former Kosovo MP said.
Former President Bujar Nishani mentioned the „century of Albanians“:
„Today is a special night and a turning point in the country’s democracy. You filled this square with thousands tonight. You are united by a great and noble mission… This century will be the century of Albanians. We cannot bring back Serbian hegemony in the region. And that’s exactly what the so-called Open Balkans is.“
Sali Berisha’s party member – Edit Harxhi even said that Kosovo is „Jerusalem and Mecca“ for Albanians, and that the Open Balkans is a „fraud.” He also warned that „the danger comes from Vucic and Rama and those who pay them“.
During the protest, conspicuously young demonstrators set fire to the Serbian flag and posters with the inscription „Soros mafia, hands off Albania.“
Vucic and Zaev from Rinas straight to Elbasan
Immediately after the protest, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev arrived in Elbasan, where they are set to have an informal meeting with Edi Rama. The first meetings will start tomorrow at 9am, while Rama and Vucic will present their conclusions in a joint press conference later in the day.
Meanwhile, Koha reported in the text with the same-title that Rama hosted Vučić for dinner at the same place where he and Kurti dined a number of weeks ago.
As planned, they will sign the Agreement on Conditions for Free Access to the Labor Market in the Western Balkans, the Agreement on Connecting Electronic Identification Schemes for WB Citizens and the Agreement on Cooperation in Veterinary, Phytosanitary and Food and Feed Safety in the WB.
It is also planned to sign the Agreement between the Government of Serbia and the Council of Ministers of Albania on Mutual Recognition of Approved Business Entities for Security and Safety (AEOS), as well as the Agreement between the Government of North Macedonia and the Council of Ministers of Albania on Mutual Recognition of Authorized Business Entities for Security and Safety (AEOS).
An agreement on cooperation between accreditation bodies in the Western Balkans will also be signed.
On Saturday, Vucic, Rama and Zaev invited Pristina, Sarajevo and Podgorica, who objected to the initiative so far, to join the Open Balkans.
In the meantime, the three leaders addressed the German public with an op-ed published in FAZ, asking for Germany’s support for the Open Balkans.
„Europe is not just a continent, it is also a vision. However, the citizens of the Western Balkans, who are a significant part of the continent and that vision, have been excluded and ignored for too long. The desire of our people to be accepted by EU members has been thwarted many times – by the internal policies of the member states, failure to keep promises and fear of the future. This has led to disappointment, instability, emigration and the absence of major investments. As the political leaders of these countries, we can either complain – or do something about it. We decided on the latter,“ they wrote in the op-ed for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Deutsche Welle reports.
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