Albania Year in Review: The political crisis and the devastating earthquake marked 2019

Albania Year in Review: The political crisis and the devastating earthquake marked 2019

With Albania afflicted by the ongoing political crisis, the powerful earthquake of November 26 that shook the country leaving 51 dead and hundreds of injured, managed to calm political passions, at least for a while.

January 10: Albanian President Ilir Meta does not accept Prime Minister Edi Rama’s proposal for the new Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, because according to him, Gent Cakaj does not meet the prerequisites, does not create credibility and does not provide the necessary guarantees to perform objectively and at the required level. The decision sparked a clash between the President and the Prime Minister, forcing Edi Rama to take over the Foreign Ministry, with Gent Cakaj as his deputy.

February 16: Opposition parties continue to hold anti-government demonstrations in Albania to form a transitional government and hold early elections. The protests are marked by tensions and clashes between police and protesters. The opposition parties demand the creation of a transitional government and the holding of early elections.

February 20: The Main Opposition formalizes with a decision of the National Council of the Democratic Party the resignation of its MPs from parliament; a decision followed by the rest of the minor opposition parties.

April 1st: Albania commemorates the 10th anniversary of its NATO membership. On the occasion of the anniversary, several official ceremonies are organized in the country.

April 10: A EUR 10m robbery takes place at the Tirana airport by five armed robbers.

April 12: In Dubrovnik, Edi Rama participates in the 16 + 1 initiative and meets with Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

May 9: Tirana hosts a summit on the Brdo-Brijuni process, attended by Balkan leaders. The purpose of the meeting is to convey a message about the European integration of the countries in the region.

June 2: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg pays an official visit to Albania, where he meets with the country’s political and state leadership.

June 10: Albanian President Ilir Meta annuls the decree on the June 30 municipal elections in Albania.

June 27: Albanian President Ilir Meta sets October 13 as a new date for municipal elections, but the ruling Socialist Party of Albania led by Edi Rama does not accept the change, nor does the Central Election Commission enforce the decree.

June 30: Albania holds municipal elections for 61 mayors and councilors. Only Albania’s ruling Socialist Party and some small parties and independent candidates are running in the elections. The main opposition parties are boycotting the municipal elections.

July 3: The European Commission decides to reject a request submitted by the Dutch Government to reintroduce the visa regime for Albania.

Kosovo and Albania sign an agreement to consolidate their diplomacy on the international stage, with the opening of joint embassies and consulates.

July 8: The Albanian Parliament approves the establishment of a commission of inquiry for the Socialist Party’s request to remove Ilir Meta, the country’s president, on the grounds that the decree annulling the municipal elections violates the Constitution.

September 21: Strong seismic vibration is felt in Tirana and other cities in the country, causing hundreds of injuries and property damage.

October 11: The first meeting of the Serbian President’s initiative named the “Mini Schengen” takes place in the Serbian town of Novi Sad, with the participation of Prime Ministers of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev, Albania Edi Rama and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.

October 17/18: The EU General Affairs Council, which is composed of the foreign ministers of the members states, during a two-day meeting in Luxembourg, decides not to start accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, following a veto by France.

November 10: Prime Minister of Northern Macedonia Zoran Zaev receives Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic at the second Schengen initiative meeting in Ohrid, which is also attended by representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. Discussions revolve around improving regional co-operation in order to eliminate all obstacles to the free movement of persons, goods and capital.

November 26: A 6.4 on the Richter scale earthquake hits Albania, leaving 51 dead and hundreds injured, causing significant property damage to homes, public buildings and cultural monuments.

December 5: The Albanian Parliament appoints Olsian Cela as the country’s new attorney general.

December 21: The third Schengen initiative meeting takes place in Tirana amid protests for the presence of the Serbian President there. The meeting is attended by host Edi Rama and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev and Montenegrin President Milo Đukanović, the latter for the first time./ibna