Greece firmly and steadfastly supports the accession perspective for the Western Balkans. We are firm supporters of the need for the Western Balkan countries to join the European family. However, at the same time we recognise that this is a difficult path, which requires the Western Balkan countries to make significant adjustments to the European acquis.
And of course, the one principle that is non-negotiable for the European Union, but also for Greece, is respect for the rule of law. A respect which must be manifested in all aspects of the functioning of the organised state of all the Western Balkan countries.
Unfortunately, in the last months, our friend Albania has fallen short on this issue and I am referring specifically to the case of the elected Mayor of Himare, Fredi Beleri, who has been in custody for five months.
I want to stress my respect for the independence of the Albanian judiciary and I have no intention of interfering in the way it operates. Nevertheless, I want to emphasise, in a categorical manner, that Fredi Beleris has the right, even if he is in custody, to be sworn in as Mayor of Himare.
It is an inalienable right, which derives from the Albanian constitutional order, a right, moreover, which is fully compatible with the European rules of the rule of law. It is very important that Mr. Beleris is sworn in as Mayor of Himare, so that this important shadow, which at the moment undoubtedly affects Greek-Albanian relations, is removed.
And I will repeat, from here, that the resolution of this issue is a necessary condition for Greece to take the next step and agree to the start of the negotiation process of Albania with the European Union.
I hope that this problem can be resolved in a spirit of cooperation and goodwill, without further overshadowing the relations between our two states.
Journalist: Prime Minister, will you try to discuss the Beleri issue with Prime Minister Edi Rama?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Yes, I will discuss the Beleri issue with Prime Minister Rama. Our position regarding this issue is very clear: I have no intention or is it my job to intervene in the procedures of the independent Albanian justice, but Fredi Beleri has the right to take the oath, even if he is held in pretrial detention. I will make this absolutely clear to Edi Rama and I do hope that we will be able to resolve this issue amicably.