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TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albania’s opposition on Thursday boycotted a resolution expressing support for the launch of negotiations on joining the European Union.

Only the governing left-wing Socialist Party voted in support, but the vote did pass. Prime Minister Edi Rama called the opposition’s boycott “an unparalleled act of historic infidelity to the country.”

The opposition occupied the parliament’s speaking podium holding a large poster that said “Albania like the whole of Europe, not a government of crime and drugs.” Then its lawmakers left the hall, a move it has used repeatedly in the last month.

The opposition has said it wants the talks but accuses the government of having links to crime that hurt the country’s chances. The government denies that.

“The resolution on European integration, which the Socialist Party drafted itself and voted through itself, was a text full of brushes and paints for the make-up of the government’s face,” said conservative Democratic Party lawmaker Genc Pollo at a news conference after the boycott.

But Rama said the opposition fears that the launch of the negotiations would be “the end of the history of impunity,” referring to its leaders’ alleged criminal acts.

Last month the European Commission said enough progress has been made for Albania and Macedonia’s accession talks to begin.

The EU’s 28 member states must agree unanimously for any country to join. Not all of the countries have decided to support Albania’s proposal to launch negotiations next month.

The prime minister and his Cabinet members are in a frantic continuous diplomatic tour to Germany, France and the Netherlands, apparently the last countries still doubting whether negotiations should be launched with Albania.

Accession to the bloc has been a powerful driver of political and democratic reform in post-communist countries.

The launch of the negotiations or a postponement will be finally decided by the European Council at its meeting in the end of June.


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