The summit of Sofia and the heated atmosphere in Tirana

The summit of Sofia and the heated atmosphere in Tirana
This article has been written for Albanian Free Press newspaper and www.albanianfreepress.al

By Plator Nesturi

30 heads of states have gathered today in Sofia in an EU summit which is expected to make new decisions in order to adapt to the conditions that today’s world is facing. Of course we’re interested on the part which will cover the enlargement of the EU, because in this part it will also be decided if negotiations for EU accession will be opened. This is the reason why Rama and Basha are in the Bulgarian capital to exert their influence for a positive decision for Albania at a time when several member countries are still sceptic with regards to it.

However, today’s Europe is facing new crises which are expected to take much energy and attention. Tusk’s speech mainly seemed to focus on the cohesion needed by European countries, not only on the main issues concerning foreign policies, but also threats coming from Middle East, Russia and China. According to Tusk, another problem that the European economy will be facing is the one caused by the introduction of new tariffs by the EU on the import of steel and aluminum. Tusk also considered the new policy implemented by president Trump whimsical, slamming his withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran and the policies on Middle East. In this aspect, this high level summit will not focus so much on the enlargement of the EU, but rather on matters concerning global security. A special place will also be dedicated to the positioning of several countries which Brussels has criticized for sliding toward populist policies. While the main country to be criticized for this was Hungary and PM Orban, now we have another country which is embracing this policy: Italy, which will likely be governed by two populist forces such as Cinque Stelle and Lega Nord, who have expressed their criticism about the policies being followed by Brussels.

In this climate of antagonism where some countries will decide new balances in their relations with Brussels and the US, our concern to enable the opening of negotiations seems to be minor. However, this is important to us, because if we miss this train, then we would be delaying a process whereby under Brussels’ scrutiny, the reforms and democratization process would be more effective. But how does Albania present itself in front of the Summit panel?

The recommendation of the European Commission was positive and this was a success. However, the main European chancelleries have expressed their hesitation. The visits that PM Rama had in Berlin and Paris do not seem to be removing the doubts that exist about the reforms and the objectives that we have not been able to deliver. The term “hybrid democracy” which appeared in several reports and the concern that exists about the high level of corruption, organized crime and their impunity, create a climate of mistrust. Meanwhile, the political situation in Albania seems to illustrate this climate of mistrust. In no case we’ve seen a serious effort to unify the positioning of political parties to help the integration process. On the contrary, each side accuses the other of hindering the process and that if the opening of negotiations fails to take place, the other side will be blamed. This is sad because Albanian citizens will suffer the consequences for this and not politicians.

The fact that Rama and Basha are travelling to Sofia with different agendas and with a total lack of cohesion to achieve a joint result, is a negative element. Meanwhile, what they’ve left behind in Tirana is a heated atmosphere; in particular with the accusations being launched against Interior minister Xhafaj. These sorts of accusations will not make us look good in the eyes of the European Union. However, what really matters is to be able to convince Europeans that we’re building a functional democracy and trusted institutions that operate in the name of the law. But are we offering this image when, even if politicians argue with each other, institutions continue their work in order to uphold the law? Unfortunately, no, for as long as the political class continues to make institutions part of the debate, leaving the impression that nothing seems to be working here.

Note: The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy

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