This article has been written for Albanian Free Press newspaper and www.albanianfreepress.al
By Eduard Zaloshnja
In every village of this country, we could easily find the odd “philosopher”, who spends his day sipping coffee and raki and making up conspiracy theories about this or that failure. Someone may blame the MP of the area for not doing enough, while someone else may blame him for being corrupt (or both). Someone else may say that local officials are incompetent, while someone else may say that they are corrupt (or both). Someone smarter than them may say that there’s a secret deal going on between them to leave the villages in the situation that they’re in. But, none of them seems to know that the central government doesn’t even care about their remote village, because the government is busy with a million other things.
The EU decision to start accession talks with Albania in June 2019 continues to be discussed and will continue to be discussed in this “village” of hours, while in the EU capitals, governments are busy with a million other things, including the very existence of the EU.
During the heated discussions that European politicians held in Brussels (about the reformation of the EU, the refugee crisis, etc), the decision to postpone Albania’s accession talks until next year, has occupied a very small fraction of time. Albania was told to continue with its reform in justice, fight against corruption and organized crime, although European Commission officials had declared in their report that Albania had delivered the necessary conditions for the start of accession talks.
If we go back in time, we may recall that Greece had not delivered all the criteria for accession, however, it was accepted as part of the EU. Bulgaria and Romania too, despite the fact that corruption in these countries was enormous and Bulgarians and Romanians were some of the biggest suppliers of prostitutes and Afghan heroin for Europe.
But, when the EU started to be enlarged with the Balkan countries, European capitals were dominated by centripetal and not centrifugal forces. Today, French president Macron doesn’t want to see any steps to be taken for the enlargement process until June 2019, because he believes that this would give rise to extremist parties ahead of the European Parliament elections. An increase in the number of extremist MPs in this parliament would make the internal reformation of the EU, which is also the main objective for Macron, even harder to achieve.
German chancellor Merkel is promoting the enlargement of the EU with the Balkan countries, because she’s facing a domestic political crisis at home. Horst Seehofer, her CSU’s Bavarian ally, has threatened her of overthrowing the government if the chancellor does not put a stop to the “invasion” taking place from the south. His party is risking not winning the October elections in Bavaria, because extremist forces are using this “invasion” from the south for political gains.
The Dutch and Danish governments are against the advancement of the EU enlargement, because they rely on the votes of extremist parties, whose aim is to make the EU smaller and not larger.
The current Italian government is no longer one of the main promoters of Albania’s accession in the EU, because this government has been formed by two extremist parties which are even discussing Italy’s membership in the EU or euro zone.
Greece remains the only strong advocate for Albania’s EU accession (in particular after the agreement on the maritime borders). But, Greece does not have the muscle to influence EU decision making. This country has still not recovered from the financial crisis which led it to the brink of collapse.
In other words, centrifugal forces are dominating Europe and these forces are even threatening the EU’s existence. Therefore, it’s pointless to expect any desire for enlargement. However, here, we will continue to hear debates about the reasons for the postponement of the negotiations until next June, focusing on what has been done and what hasn’t been done by Edi Rama and Lulzim Basha. In fact, both of them had no input whatsoever in this decision. If the political atmosphere in European capitals were different to what it is today, the positive recommendation of the European Commission would have been more than enough for EU foreign ministers to give the green light for the negotiations today.
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy