OP-ED/The Italian crisis affects Albania’s negotiations

OP-ED/The Italian crisis affects Albania’s negotiations

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

By Plator Nesturi

European stock markets and Wall Street have plummeted as a result of the Italian crisis. The growing weight of Euro skeptic parties and the possibility that they may obtain more votes in the fresh elections, has led to debates over the very future of the EU, when Italy, the third European economy, could launch a similar process that Great Britain went through. But this crisis also has its positive side, at least for countries such as Albania, aiming to advance in the EU integration process. It’s clear that Brussels officials are not very keen on a government formed by populist political forces,  who are critical toward policies followed by the EU. It’s also becoming clear that the EU needs to undergo internal reforms in order to address new current challenges, which are emerging in many of the European countries. The French president, Macron said that the path that needs to be followed is the path of internal reformation and not the path of enlargement through new members.

But, Macron had not taken the Italian crisis into account. Following the shock caused by Brexit and while anti-European voices are growing in Italy following interventions to block a governing coalition of 5 Stars and League, the situation could get out of control not only with what is happening in Italy. This situation could also be reflected in Spain, Portugal and Greece. Under these circumstances, for Brussels’ officials, the path of reforms is not enough. The EU needs to see successes. The EU needs to remain dynamic; therefore the decision to give way to the Balkan countries is one of them.

Up until a few days ago, at least for Albania and Macedonia, it looked as if the decision not to rush with the process  of negotiations was taken en bloc. Despite the positive recommendation of the European Commission to continue the process with these two countries, the skepticism which was clearly expressed by important EU countries such as German, France and the Netherlands, make it almost impossible for member countries to give the green light for the opening of accession talks for these two countries in June.

But, the situation seems to be changing. Positive signals have started to be seen and lobbying is taking place in Brussels in favor of Albania and Macedonia. There are still skeptics around, however, the clouds on the horizon are not as dark as a month ago. Until June, there is a chance that they could come up with a positive decision.

For this, we need to thank the political crisis taking place in the neighboring country. Fears about the possible developments in Italy have opened a small door for us in order to advance in the process of negotiations.

The fact that the governing coalition in Italy has not been given a mandate by the president has caused tension not only in this country. European experts and analysts have considered this not only as an Italian phenomenon, but a European one.

The decision of president Mattarella not to accept Paolo Savona, a strong critic of EU policies, as minister of Finance and his initiative to promote a government of technocrats with a prime minister proposed by him, has lead to a wave of attacks not only toward the president, but also toward the interference of the EU, Germany and France not to allow an Italian government which is skeptic toward the EU.  Accusations have also been launched against financial lobbies. The proposed prime minister, Cottarrelli, doesn’t look as if he’s going to form the government and is withdrawing. And, although the president seems to be making a step backwards asking the governing coalition to form a new cabinet which follows EU policies, Salvini and Di Matteo consider it as blackmail and seem determined for fresh parliamentary elections within summer. It looks like the new move made by the populists is going to make them stronger during the new elections. Later on, the new majority could be blunter with its anti-EU stances. It’s a difficult bet and it looks like it’s going to have consequences not only for Italy, but also for the future of the EU, because populist parties are growing in strength all over Europe. This could lead to new political configurations and also to a fresh approach of the Union towards the countries aspiring to become part of it.

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