By Florion Goga
TIRANA (Reuters) – The Albanian parliament will have to suspend ratification of a migrant pact agreed with Italy after a top court on Wednesday endorsed an opposition request to review the constitutionality of the deal, according to a constitutional court statement.
Last month, Italy agreed with Albania to build sea migrant reception centres in Albania to host migrants trying to come ashore in an effort to try to bring down numbers that have nearly doubled in the past year.
The Albanian parliament was due to ratify the pact on Thursday but will have to suspend it after the constitutional court agreed to review its constitutionality following the request filed by 30 opposition lawmakers last week.
The lawmakers had complained about procedural errors during the negotiation and signing of the deal, which also must be authorised by the Albanian president as it affects issues of territory and fundamental rights, the court said in a statement.
They have also requested suspension of the parliamentary procedures for the pact’s ratification scheduled for Dec. 14.
The court said it has accepted their requests and scheduled its hearing on the issue for Jan. 18.
“The hearing of the case automatically suspends the ratification procedures in the parliament of the Cooperation Protocol, until the final decision of the Constitutional Court,” the court said.
The opposition lawmakers were unhappy that Prime Minister Edi Rama had not consulted them about his decision to make such a surprise deal with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.
Rama has said he felt a duty to help Rome due to the special relationship between the two countries, linked by geographical proximity and colonial history, among other things.
Meloni, whose hard-right Brothers of Italy party has long called for such facilities to be set up outside the European Union, has said the Albanian centres would initially host some 3,000 people when they would open in spring of 2024.
She has said minors, pregnant women and other vulnerable groups would not be taken to Albania. Few other details of the project, including the cost, have been disclosed.
The Italian government did not respond to a request for comment on the Albanian constitutional court’s ruling.
(Reporting by Florion Goga; Additional reporting by Angelo Amante in Rome; Writing by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Bill Berkrot)