IBNA Interview: Marko Bello: Theft has turned into an art, while impunity into a system

IBNA Interview: Marko Bello: Theft has turned into an art, while impunity into a system

Former Minister of European Integration, Marko Bello, who has served as an MP in several legislatures of the parliament of Albania, talks in an interview given for IBNA, about the latest political developments. Several years as an ambassador to Romania, vice minister of Defense and Minister of State, Mr. Bello has a long political and professional career. In an interview given for IBNA, Mr. Bello stops on the strong parliamentary debates and says that by including vulgarities in the debate, the problems of the citizens are neglected. He says that there is discontent among the population, but stresses that the beginning is hard for every government. Meanwhile, he criticizes the phenomenon of the abuse with the state post, when he says that “theft has turned into an art, while impunity has turned into a system”

Interviewed by Albert Zholi

Albania finds itself ahead of a big decision. The EU will decide in June in order to grant or not the candidate status for Albania. One of the main tasks for the Albanian political class remains the fight against corruption and the punishment of corrupted people. The government of prime minister Edi Rama has denounced many of the former ministers of Berisha’s government, but no ministers have appeared before court yet.

The prominent politician of the Albanian left, Marko Bello says that politics is not able to fight negative people, but it can and must fight negative phenomena. “For the people who break the law, for politicians that abuse and who are corrupted, there are specialized institutions which are being supported by Albanian taxpayers’ money”, says Mr. Bello in the interview given for IBNA, which you will find below:

IBNA: There’s a lot of talk about massive corruption from former officials of “Berisha 2” cabinet, but nobody has faced justice yet. What’s the impact of the accusations and culture of impunity amongst the population?

Marko Bello: Unfortunately, Albania has become a country where it’s been admitted that it has crime, but no criminals; where corruption exists in all the state levels, but it’s difficult to identify the corrupted ones; where there are traffics, but traffickers are rarely punished. In other words, a few small fishes are caught, but no big fishes have been caught by justice in order to end up behind bars and be held accountable for abuse with duty, bribery and embezzlement. Today, theft has turned into an art, while impunity has turned into a system. This has led to the citizens to lose their faith that our country may become like the Europe that we want to be part of. Of course we must make the difference between political attacks from facts, vulgar political rhetoric from the accusations based on the laws. In this context, I can say that Berisha’s government was voted off due to the numerous corruptive affairs, therefore, justice institutions should have not hesitated to make justice. The laws and codes are not missing, the structures and institutions exist. There have been indictments, but there have been no convictions. Only in Albania prosecutors rest their cases and do not prosecute senior officials pretending that there’s a lack of evidence and not offering an opportunity to judges to issue their verdict on the case. There’s bargaining where cases are closed in exchange of payments. On the other hand, there are many incompetent and corrupted judges, middlemen who fill the corridors of Tirana courts and also district courts, where we can say that the state doesn’t exist. In front of this pessimistic situation, the only thing that citizens can do is to take justice in their own hands, by complicating the situation and by taking the country far from its aimed destination, Brussels.

IBNA: What is the fairiest way to punish former government officials accused of corruption?

Marko Bello: Of course, it’s easy to point out, but it’s hard to solve cases of this nature. Nevertheless, the task of the political class is to find the best solutions for the development of the country, to offer more welfare and safety for its citizens. It’s a known fact that in a democracy, it’s not politics that punishes the people, but its duty is to secure the necessary means that appease the wounds and to fight the sources that produce crime, corruption, illegal traffics, poverty and misery. Politics cannot fight people, but it can fight negative phenomena. For people who break the law, for politicians that abuse with power and who are corrupted, there are specialized institutions which are supported by Albanian taxpayers. The responsibility of the political class is to determine the criteria for the recruitment, appointment or the election of people in leading posts. In spite of the amount of problems that Albanian society has, it still has the necessary capacities to “produce” professional people with high moral integrity. Such individuals must be appointed by parliament, which is the institution that represents the people. Such personalities must encourage and support decision making factors and among them I would mention the head of state and the head of government. If we cannot punish officials who have become rich at the detriment of Albanians, then we will have serious problems in the future.

IBNA: Do you think that the work of the government has been good so far and do you think it has done the right things for the country to be granted the EU candidate status in June?

Marko Bello: It would be unfair to say that this government has not done enough in the first 6 months in office, but expectations have been higher and this is why there’s so much discontent. After 8 years in power of a right wing government, which in its second term in office, it destroyed more than it built, people have expected a rebirth of the country, like the Socialist Party and prime minister Edi Rama declared. Time is showing that the country has serious problems and they cannot be addressed so quickly. There have been many promises and now we are seeing that some of them are impossible to be met. I praise the efforts of the government in fighting negative phenomena, but I expect more in the creation of material and spiritual values,  which are society needs so much. June is close and I hope that the government will accelerate reforms, in order to achieve the major objective, that of the EU candidate status and the launch of negotiations for accession.

IBNA: In parliament, the language of several MPs has been associated with a vulgar vocabulary. Meanwhile the time given to former prime minister Berisha to talk is almost unrestricted. How do you comment these facts?

Marko Bello: Compared to the time when parliament was being chaired by Jozefina Topalli, there’s a significant improvement as far as the minutes given to the opposition. When socialists were in opposition, they have suffered the injustice of the arrogant majority of democrats, therefore we must praise the equality shown for the representatives of the opposition. If someone like former prime minister Berisha abuses with the time and breaches the ethic, I think that the regulation must be applied in a rigorous way. Unfortunately, it often happens that the prime minister or the ministers fall a victim of Berisha’s “trap”, by using vulgarity in the parliamentary proceedings and by veering from the real problems that concern the citizens.

IBNA: There was a wide debate about the high salary of the governor of the Central Bank. Are these salaries approved and controlled? Are they justified?

Marko Bello: Of course, salaries in the state pyramid are regulated by law, starting with the president which is the highest paid official, up to the lowest ranking employer. In the case of institutions that enjoy autonomy, such as the case of the Central Bank, they are organized based on their statute, they have a steering committee which decides the level of salaries. The scope is to guarantee the independence of the Bank from other powers. Nevertheless, salaries in these sectors may be high, but the real capacities of the economy must be taken into account.

IBNA: Press is increasingly saying that the left is leaving the electorate, that MPs switch off their mobile phones and that they no longer hold meetings with the electorate. Is there truth in these?

Marko Bello: Of course there are problems, there’s discontent and the beginning is hard for every government. If the difference between the promises and realizations is not that great, then it’s easy for the government to face voters in the next electoral battle. Otherwise, results would be disappointing. Time would be the best indicator. Therefore, we can only wait and hope that the reforms, that the country needs so much, will be implemented and results will start to emerge. It’s still early, even though time in such cases is merciless. /ibna/