Albania’s new President, Bajram Begaj, was sworn in on Sunday (24 July) and called for the country’s political parties to cooperate on matters key to the future, particularly the rule of law.
Begaj is a retired military officer who had a long career in the Albanian Army before resigning his post as Chief of General Staff to accept the role of President. Politically independent, he was nominated by the ruling Socialist Party and received 78 votes out of 140 seats.
“I will be a servant of our people, a staunch collaborator of national unity. I will be a contributor and supporter of communication and initiatives and ideas that move our society forward,” the ninth president said in his speech.
He added that dialogue and cooperation between political forces, listening to the voice of the free media, and respect and acceptance of debate are needed for the country’s progress.
“Our common interest remains the consolidation of institutions that have the responsibility to protect and promote the interests of Albanians wherever they are,” he added.
Before the official swearing-in ceremony, outgoing president Ilir Meta received Begaj at the presidency. He took the opportunity to show him around his new offices and to shake his hand.
Meta’s five-year term was rocked by turbulence as the Socialist Party tried to impeach him on more than one occasion, dismissing him in June 2021. A decision on his dismissal was then sought in the Constitutional Court. They claimed that comments and actions by the president during the 2021 electoral campaign violated various laws and incited violence.
The Constitutional Court struck down all claims, claiming that it did not find any evidence of the violation of laws.
Albania officially opened negotiations towards EU membership on Tuesday (19 July) in a ceremony in Brussels where no representatives of opposition parties were present.
Prime Minister Edi Rama said this was due to not knowing who the opposition was, about the division of the Democratic Party into two factions, one led by Enkelejd Alibeaj and the other by ex-prime minister and president Sali Berisha.
Both claim they are the legitimate leader, and the other is illegitimate.
Berisha was declared persona non grata by the UK last week, a year after the US made the same designation.
The EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell welcomed his swearing in at this “historic milestone on its road to the EU.”