OP-ED/From EU summits to the political discourse in Tirana

OP-ED/From EU summits to the political discourse in Tirana

This article has been written for Albanian Free Press newspaper and www.albanianfreepress.al

By Plator Nesturi

It’s been months now that we closely follow what is said and done during the meetings that the EU holds, from the statements issued by MPs from particular countries to big summits where EU leaders meet. The reason for this is that they happen to discuss on issues of enlargement too. From Sofia to the summit of Luxembourg, heads of states or foreign ministers discussed the conditions that the world faces today. Of course, we’re more interested on the part concerning the issue of the enlargement of the EU, because this will also determine the future decision on the opening of EU accession talks. This is the reason why PM Rama, opposition leader Basha, Foreign minister Bushati and the parliamentary speaker Ruci have often travelled to European capitals to lobby for a positive decision on Albania. Different countries have been skeptic on the performance of our country and Macedonia’s too.

However, today’s Europe is facing other crises, which will require more energy and attention. Tusk and other EU leaders are more focused on the creation of cohesion between European member countries on issues such as Middle East, Russia and China. The problem that the EU faces today is to protect the interests of the European economy following the new tariffs introduced by the US on the import of steel and aluminum. And this is not all. We all saw the frictions between EU leaders and president Trump during the G8 meeting, when they criticized his withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran and the policies followed in the Middle East. Therefore, the high level meetings that are held today are not focused on the issue of EU enlargement but on issues concerning global security.

In this climate of antagonism, where particular countries need to establish new balances with Brussels and the US, they don’t seem to pay a lot of attention to the issue that concerns us the most. However, to us this is a big deal, because if we miss this train, this would not only cause a delay on the process, but we would also miss a chance for Brussels to exert a bigger influence on everything that goes on in our country. This, in turn, would make the process of democratization and reforms more effective.

The recommendation of the European Commission was positive and this was a success. However, the messages sent out by different European capitals reflect 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.

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.  The decision to start accession talks next year has now been taken. What we need to do is to prepare for that date.  Do we wait for that day to come by engaging in pointless discussions as to what was achieved and what wasn’t or do we need to do everything that is required of us in order to be ready for when that day comes? Time has come to continue the reforms and make this a functional democracy. Not only would this make us more credible in front of our partners, but this would also make this a better country for its citizens.

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