A serious situation has arisen in Albania which needs urgent attention at senior levels of the US government. You may know that an opposition demonstration in Tirana on Friday resulted in the deaths of three people and the destruction of property. There are serious concerns about further unrest connected to a counter-demonstration to be organized by the governing party on Wednesday and a follow-up event by the opposition two days later to memorialize the victims. The prospect of tens of thousands of people entering the streets in an already inflamed political environment bodes ill for the return, of public order and the country's fragile democratic process.
I believe two things need to be done urgently:
1. Bring the full weight of the international community to bear on Prime Minister Berisha and opposition leader Edi Rama to forestall further public demonstrations and to tone down public pronouncements.
2. Appoint a senior European official as a mediator.
While I am concerned about the rhetoric being used by both sides, I am particularly worried about the actions of the Prime Minister. There is videotape of National Guard members firing on demonstrators from the roof of the Prime Ministry. The Prosecutor (appointed by the Democratic Party) has issued arrest warrants for the individuals in question. The Prime Minister had previously accused the opposition of intentionally murdering these activists as a provocation.
After the tape came out deputies from his party accused the Prosecutor of planning a coup d'etat in collaboration with the opposition, a charge Mr. Berisha repeated today. No arrests have been made as of this writing. The demonstration resulted from opposition protests over the conduct of parliamentary elections in 2009. The political environment has deteriorated ever since and is now approaching levels of 1997, when similar issues caused the country to slide into anarchy and violence. There are signs that Edi Rama's control of his own people is slipping, which may lead to further violence.
The US and the EU must work in complete harmony over this, but given Albania's European aspirations the EU must take the lead. That is why I suggest appointing a mediator such as Carl Bildt. Martti Ahtisaari or Miroslav Lajcak, all of whom have strong connections to the Balkans.
My foundation in Tirana is monitoring the situation closely and can provide independent analysis of the crisis.
Thank you, George Soros