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


Funeral scuffles heighten Albania-Greece tensions


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

Beleri is in custody on accusations of bribery and was allowed a six-hour release to attend the wake. He was accompanied by a deployment of around 30 armed police officers to the cemetery on December 31, which is reported to have seen scuffles erupt.

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”, claiming the police showed unnecessary force during what was an emotional time.

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

Images of the incident sparked criticism about what many saw as the disregarding of customs and traditions among the Greek national minority.

There are concerns that Fredi Beleri’s arrest illustrates a potential threat to the Greek minority in Albania, while others claim it to be a politically motivated move on the part of Prime Minister Edi Rama’s Socialist Government.

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

The Beleri case caused controversy back in August last year when it led Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to revoke an invitation to Rama to a meeting of Balkan leaders.

The Albanian Government’s perceived politicisation of the Beleri case, coupled with the forceful handling of the funeral, has heightened tensions between the two nations.

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.