This article has been written for Albanian Free Press newspaper and www.albanianfreepress.al
By Plator Nesturi
The decision that will be taken by the European Commission will not come as a surprise. Albania and Macedonia will both receive positive recommendations to start accession negotiations with the European Union. Immediately after this, the EU head of diplomacy, Mogherini, will start a tour in Southwest Balkans and she will also stop in Tirana. Without any doubt, this is good news for Albania and Albanians, who have aspired to become part of the Union for the past 27 years.
Nonetheless, the journey continues. Even if the recommendation of the Commission is backed in June by other members of the European Union, many years will need to go by from the moment the negotiations are opened until the country actually becomes a member of the EU. Nonetheless, if we consider the Commission’s decision a success, we need to be more realistic. What the European Commission will issue tomorrow will be just a recommendation for the EU member countries, while these countries will need to decide if we will move onto the next phase or not. So, we still have time to rejoice once the acceptance becomes a reality. What’s happening within the EU and the relations that the EU has with some of its member countries, are not like they used to be. Many member countries have lost faith on Brussels’ bureaucracy and this has also been reflected on the elections which have taken place in many countries and the new political configurations that have been shaped. All of these have led to stances which have not always been in unison with the stance taken by the EU’s leadership. All of these years, the most senior EU officials have been focused on the countries of Western Balkans and they have continued to insist on the enlargement of the Union, despite the protest of individual countries. Also, the high intensity of their visits to Tirana, Skopje, Belgrade, Pristina and Podgorica, by offering support for the reforms and to ease tensions in the region, has often led them to turn a blind eye on problems that are present in societies of these countries. But, individual countries have not hesitated to express themselves with this language. They have voiced their criticism about the high level of corruption in these countries, crime and drugs, the laws and reforms which are not implemented and the level of democracy which remains a hybrid democracy, far from the standards of European countries. All of these differences that exist between the stance of EU officials and individual states are known, therefore we need to wait and see if the Commission’s recommendation for the opening of negotiations will be accepted or whether accusations will once again be addressed against Albania and Macedonia that there’s still a lot to improve in order for them to pass on this level. At the end of the day, these are the countries that will decide. The European Commission only offers a positive recommendation.
For every Albanian, a decision in favor of the opening of negotiations would be good news, even if it is a politically based decision to push the democratization of the region. This would be the only way for the EU to mount its pressure on the political class, in order for the latter to be concrete with the reforms that it undertakes and to offer better opportunities for the democratization of the country and the creation of independent institutions. Any declaration that this was achieved thanks to our successful efforts, as a state or as a society, would be a lie. If the EU summit takes a negative decision and we blame this on the xenophobia of individual countries who do not accept the EU’s enlargement, this would also be a lie. We would need to blame ourselves for the incomplete reforms that we undertake. Although we have received recommendations a long time ago, there’s been very little progress in the fight against crime and traffic, in the justice reform which has not been completed, the issue of properties which acts as a tumor for the country’s economy, the issue of building a professional administration and so on.
However, the progress that we make as a state should not be made for the sake of the international community and for the sake of obtaining a positive recommendation. First of all, this progress is something which should be felt by Albanians. The success should be measured, first of all, by the country’s economy, the drop of unemployment and the improvement of living standards, with institutions that serve the citizens and with a justice system that functions. In the recent years, the EU has insisted on these reforms not because the EU needs them, but because the country and society needs them to be closer to European standards.
April 17 comes as good news. Nonetheless, we hope that this joyful atmosphere will not be ruined by the decision of the EU Summit in June. This would really be bad news. However, in any case, it should act as a reflection to realize how many opportunities we have wasted so far and how little we have done in order for the country to be closer to European standards.
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy