Mayor Alfred Beleri (L) with Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis (R). Credit: Kovaçi

Regional Signal

Albania faces funeral controversy over Himare’s ethnic Greek mayor


Himarë, Albania

The funeral of ethnic Greek mayor’s grandmother in Himarë, Albania has intensified the strained relations between Greece and Albania.

The elected mayor, Fredi Beleri, accused of a bribery charge, experienced a funeral that more resembled the transfer of a high-profile prisoner than a dignified farewell.

The deployment of nearly 30 armed police officers to the cemetery is reported to have made the situation volatile.

Petros Beleri, the son of the mayor, spoke out against the Albanian police’s actions, describing the situation as a “cruel violation of human rights.”

He said there was a lack of discretion, emphasizing that the police showed unnecessary force during an emotional moment.

“They vehemently refused to let my father even light a candle in the church and attend the ceremony”, Petros Beleri said.

The images of this intense security detail not only raised concerns about the government’s handling of the situation but also sparked criticism for disregarding customs and traditions, particularly within the Greek national minority.

Many are concerned that the arrest of Beleri is a threat to the Greek minority in Albania, while others believe it to be a politically motivated move on the part of Prime Minister Edi Rama’s Socialist Party government.

The incident has broader implications for Albania’s candidacy to join the European Union, dealing a significant blow to its image.

The case caused controversy back in August, when it led to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to disinvite Rama from a meeting of Balkan leaders.

The Albanian government’s perceived politicisation of the Beleri case, coupled with the forceful handling of the funeral, has invited scrutiny and created tensions between the two nations.

Greece has been closely monitoring developments, seeking a resolution to the prolonged deadlock in Greek-Albanian relations, primarily caused by Fredi Beleri’s extended detention.

Efforts to appoint an interim mayor in Himara have faced obstacles, with Beleri insisting that any replacement must be from the party that won the May 2023 municipal elections.

Albania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Igli Hasanaj, acknowledged ongoing negotiations and commitments from both sides to find a solution.

However, suspicions linger that Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama’s recent moves might pave the way for repeat elections in the Municipality of Himara, leveraging Beleri’s imprisonment.

As diplomatic discussions unfold, tensions persist, with the Beleri case serving as a contentious focal point in the broader Greek-Albanian relationship.