Former Minister of Defense and two terms MP of the Democratic Party, renowned politician Gazmend Oketa, launches criticism about the developments in Albania. In an interview for IBNA news agency, Mr. Oketa, who is currently the general secretary of the New Democratic Spirit, says that Albanian doesn’t have a western type democracy, but a mixed oriental one. A former December ’90 student, who participated in the efforts to overthrow the communist regime, Oketa compares the 45 years of the communist regime with the 24 years of political pluralism. He says that the best thing that was won, freedom, is better than all the good things that the communist regime claimed that it offered, without taking into account the fact that today Albanians live better off. But, he emphasizes that the dream of the December ’90 students, part of which he was, was not this half democratic and half totalitarian Albania.
IBNA: Mr. Oketa, you have been one of the December 1990 students. 24 years have gone by since that time. Is today’s Albania the country that you had in mind when you overthrew the communist system?
Without any doubt, today’s Albania is a much better country to live in than Albania during the communist regime. The desire and the dream of that time for Albania to be like the rest of Europe, was and remains a great dream, which was not going to become a reality within these 24 years. Every society needs time, time in which it learns, makes mistakes, earns experiences, falls down, rises up and if it’s a society led like it should, then it makes up for lost time, but, if not, it wastes even more time. The 45 years under the cruelest communist regime have left their scars in the formation of Albanian society and its relations with the state, institutions and democracy. On the other hand, the governing of the country during these 24 years by the same “political elite”, which was professionally and politically formed during the communist regime, has made Albania a country whose real governing system is hard to identify. Today, Albania seems as democratic as it’s totalitarian, free and isolated, with a free market economy and a controlled economy, with independent institutions and politically controlled institutions, with an independent justice system and a country without justice, a country with many medias and with very little freedom of media, a country with land owners but with the issue of land owning still unresolved, a country where everyone talks about former spies and nobody opens the old classified files, a country where everyone talks about fight against corruption and where everyone likes corruption and defend it. This country today is more of a mixed oriental and Putinian democracy than a western type democracy. This makes the country be far from our dream of 1990. Perhaps that dream was more beautiful and idealistic than it should have been.
IBNA: What is your comment on the maritime pact with Greece?
Today we have a ruling of the Constitutional Court which has quashed the agreement between the Albanian government and the Greek government concerning the sea border. This ruling has been respected, but this ruling cannot offer a final solution to this issue, as it’s not within the power of the court to solve it. We must bear in mind the fact that this is an issue which requires a solution, which means that we all know that the sea border must decided, because we and our neighbors, whoever they are, will be here for as long as humanity lives. In the state that we’re in, I believe that legal mechanisms must be found to come up with an agreement with our neighboring countries for the demarcation of the sea border, which means that fresh negotiations or a solution based on maritime law must be offered and this may also lead to an international judicial process. At the end of the process, responsibilities must be addressed about the way that the previous agreement was handled and what mistakes were made.
IBNA: We came out of a system that turned Albania into the most armed country per person in the Balkan. Currently, our armed forces have no tanks, no war ships, no aircrafts and highly reduced personnel. Experience has shown that NATO accession has not defended the Alliance countries from conflicts whereby both countries are members-among others, conflict between Turkey and Greece on Cyprus. Would today’s army handle such conflict if the opponent is a NATO member?
Currently, Albania and Albanians in the Balkan are living the best moment since the proclamation of the independence of Albania in 1912. Today, Albania is a NATO member, Kosovo is independent and the Albanian factor in Macedonia has become stronger. Let us not forget the support that Albanians of Montenegro gave to the referendum held there, which separated Montenegro from Serbia. Albanians in the region today are seen as a factor of stability and security and Albania in the NATO is a safer country than Albania before 1990, in spite of the great arsenal of weapons that it had at that time. Today, Albania doesn’t face any threats of armed conflict and the security concept is wider and is not only guaranteed through military means. Nevertheless, Albanian army today is a restructured army, a professional and modern one, able to meet all the obligations enshrined in the Constitutions of Albania.
IBNA: What was the hardest decision that you have taken since the time that you started to be involved in politics?
The decision to enter politics.
IBNA: In the quality of a senior official within NDS, what is your opinion on the new territorial division and how would you comment the refusal of the opposition to recognize this division and the possibility of the boycott of local government elections, which Mr. Basha has declared?
Since the beginning, the New Democratic Spirit said that it was in favor of conducting a new administrative reform. It was pointless and without any interest to the citizens to continue with the same communes and municipalities that the country had before 1990. Of course, the fact that from the version with 47 or 49 municipalities, it was decided for the version with 61 municipalities, makes one realize that political interests continue to have a strong influence even when it comes to big reforms. Nevertheless, it’s a very good thing that this reform was passed. What’s negative is the fact that the biggest party of the opposition in parliament, DP, didn’t participate in the process of discussions about this reform and even worse, it didn’t offer any alternatives or proposal. Even its efforts and calls to prevent the implementation of the reform, did nothing else but increased political tension, which mostly damage the opposition. As far as the DP declarations that it may boycott local government elections, this is an answer that you must obtain from that party, but for as long as that party is driven by political or economic interests and not by democratic principles, everything is possible.
IBNA: Another hot topic today is the shutting down of 19 private universities and reform in education. How do you consider this process?
Albania is the only country where kiosks that sell diplomas, are called universities. A society can make up for wasted time if it’s led and if it educates its young generations like it should. But, what’s happened in Albania with higher education, unfortunately, will do the opposite. The pyramids of higher education or universities which didn’t even equal the level of high schools in the country, are one of the biggest disgraces of these 24 years of democracy, the consequences of which we will feel on a later period. The most ignorant and unscrupulous part of society understood the mechanism and how they can move forward in the state pyramid. Involvement in a large political party, blind “loyalty” toward the heads of the party central office or local offices, a purchased diploma, financial donations or counting votes in the next elections is usually the path that has been followed to become a director, head of commune, MP and even minister. Sami Frasheri has said: “If you want to harvest for a year, cultivate corn and wheat, if you want to harvest for a thousand years, cultivate education and culture”. During these years, we have done neither. Instead of wheat, we cultivated cannabis. With the liberalization of kiosk type universities, instead of education and culture, we cultivated ignorance. I would like for this process which has started and which is not a reform, but a mere application of the laws in force, to be finalized by closing every kiosk that claims it offers education, from elementary schools to universities. If this process is driven by good will, by principles and not interests, and it’s a transparent process, then most of society will be in its favor. /ibna/