By Marcus Tanner
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama has taken to the pages of the London Times to tell squabbling UK politicians to leave Albania out of the acrimonious debate on Britain’s EU membership.
Rama wrote on Tuesday that it was “a bit weird” to see his country looming so large in an argument about whether Britain would be better off outside the EU. The country is due to vote in an in-out referendum on EU membership on June 23.
Rama went on to say that anti-EU campaigners should not imagine Albania as some sort of “model” for Britain’s potential trading arrangements with Europe once it left the 27-member club – noting that in spite of not being a member of the EU, Albania was effectively bound by most of the EU’s major decisions.
The small Balkan country found itself pulled into the euro-row when leading anti-EU campaigner Michael Gove, also the UK Justice Minister, last week said Britain could link up with Albania, Serbia, Bosnia and Ukraine in a free–trade zone outside the EU.
The suggestion that Britain might replace Brussels with Tirana as its European partner drew widespread condemnation and ridicule and was seen as a major gaffe on Gove’s part.
Making clear how he would vote if he was a British citizen, Rama concluded: “Most countries on the edges of Europe want in, because we know the remarkable benefits there have been to EU countries.
“I cannot believe it can be in Britain’s interest to look for a model in Albania or to emulate the current status of Albanian-European relations. We are not ourselves interested in the status quo. Why would anyone in Britain be?”