Albanian opposition disrupts parliament as Italy migration deal taken off the agenda

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Albanian opposition lawmakers on Thursday disrupted the opening of a new session of Parliament, demanding an investigation into the government for alleged corruption.

Bodyguards blocked the entrance to the Parliament building, refusing admission to opposition lawmakers who were punished for previous outbreaks of violence in the assembly.

That sparked some friction and opposition lawmakers from the center-right Democrats blocked their Socialist counterparts on the government side from entering the hall. The latter used a back entrance instead.

The disturbances in Parliament started in October just before prosecutors accused Sali Berisha, 79, former prime minister and president and now the main leader of the center-right Democratic Party, of corruption over of a land-buying scheme that’s under legal investigation in the capital, Tirana.

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Opposition parliamentarians regularly pile up chairs, use flares, start small fires and even physically grab microphones when their Socialist counterparts take the floor.

Inside the hall Thursday, opposition lawmakers could not pile up their chairs in the middle of the hall as usual but lit flares and made noise to disrupt the session.

Parliament was supposed to be voting on a contentious migration deal with Italy, but Speaker Lindita Nikolla removed the item from the agenda after the Constitutional Court on Wednesday put ratification on hold.

The court will hold a public hearing on Jan. 18 to determine whether the agreement violates Albania’s constitution. Opposition lawmaker Gazmend Bardhi hailed the court’s decision.

“On behalf of the public interest, we ask for an impartial and independent judging of that deal which runs counter to many articles of the country’s constitution and of many international agreements,” he said.

The session lasted about 10 minutes with some draft laws passed in a quick vote from the governing Socialists of Prime Minister Edi Rama, the same method they have used in approving many laws, including next year’s budget.

Socialists hold 74 of the 140 seats in Parliament, enough to pass most of the laws.

The Parliament passed tougher new rules for lawmakers who disrupted proceedings, for example by using flares. Bardhi said they would not obey.

The opposition wants to create parliamentary investigative commissions to probe alleged cases of corruption involving Rama and other top government officials, but the Socialists say the plans are not in line with constitutional requirements.

The disruption in Parliament is an obstacle to much-needed reforms at a time when the European Union has agreed to start the process of harmonizing Albanian laws with those of the EU.

A day earlier that was mentioned in a bloc’s meeting with Western Balkan leaders in Brussels. Albania is ready to begin negotiating specific chapters with the bloc.

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