OP-ED/Messages for integration

OP-ED/Messages for integration

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

By Plator Nesturi

The arrival of the EU Enlargement Commissioner Hahn to Tirana and the meeting that he will have with the Prime Minister, brings back the issue of the integration of the country in the EU. After the decision taken by the council of Foreign ministers, the reappearance of EU senior officials seems to show that the priorities of the EU for Western Balkans have not changed and that there will not be any delays in the implementation of its policies in this region. Last week was a very intense one with meetings held with the heads of states of the Western Balkans, which discussed not only issues relating to NATO, but also issues concerning further coordination of policies, focusing on the most crucial ones. In this context, Western Balkans has its own importance in the framework of the enlargement of the EU in this part of Europe and also in a geo-strategic context.

Hahn’s arrival in Tirana shows that we are still part of the European plans and that we haven’t been forgotten. Meanwhile, we need to convince member countries that we deserve to start the EU accession talks. As far as relations with the EU structures go, everything seems to be going well. Even the EU president declared a while ago that Albania has done everything to launch the process of negotiations. But this was not enough, given that there were still individual countries which were skeptic about our performance. Now, we need to show that we’re determined about the reforms which are being implemented and that the pace of these reforms will not slow down.  At the start of the year, there were a number of indictments against officials accused of corruption and this filled us with hope that things were starting to change. But authorities look like they’re afraid to go much further with this. We hear many declarations being made that the fight against corruption and crime will be an ongoing process,  so we’re hopeful that these efforts continue like this.

Recently, the public’s attention has been focused on the vetting process which aims at screening the professional and moral integrity of judges and prosecutors. Punitive measures have been given and many of these judges and prosecutors are leaving the justice system. However, this is one side of the coin. The most important thing is to spread the fight against crime and corruption in every sector.

Despite the stories that we hear about the so called “fishes” who will be caught in the net, a while ago, authorities arrested several officials who have been involved in abuses with funds in the construction of the road linking Tirana to Elbasan. If they are found guilty, then justice should be made and they should receive what they deserve and so far, there’s nothing special about this. At the end of the day, this is what investigation agencies are for and this is the justice system’s job. But, while we’re seeing a normal investigation take place, it’s a little annoying when we hear that with these arrests, authorities are cracking down on corruption in Albania. There are also other people saying that this investigation is politically motivated and is only being done to attack opposition representatives. In the midst of this cacophony, we can only hear political accusations and very few things that relate to concrete issues.

In spite of this, the investigation for corruption in state structures first started in Kavaja with the abuse with lands in Spille, where heads of property registration offices and heads of local government structures were involved. Meanwhile, the investigation was more intensive in the municipality of Lezha and once again, the investigation involved forgery, abuse and appropriation of lands in the area of Shengjin. This time, authorities arrested the mayor of Lezha and a number of officials working in this municipality.  However, later on, most of them were released, while the investigation continues. Following these cases of abuse with lands in these two municipalities, heads of the majority said that investigations would continue on the coastline, where there’s a larger number of abuses with lands. For this, authorities also pledged that a task force would be appointed to follow up on the problems that exist in most of the coastal areas. The media also speculated that other mayors of coastal cities would end up like the mayor of Lezha, but it’s now been two months now and nothing seems to indicate that there’s a serious investigation in place.

The justice system is still weak and in front of this powerful political class, it’s very hard to lead a successful fight against corruption and other negative phenomena that exist in the Albanian society. The solution may only come from the political class. At the moment, the political class needs to provide some examples to show that it is really engaged in the fight against corruption, because not everyone is convinced that we deserve the opening of negotiations.

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