This article has been written for Albanian Free Press newspaper and www.afp.al
By Frrok Çupi
In the eyes of the public, the EU does everything to be ambiguous in relation to Albania.
At the beginning of the week, the European Union held a special conference in Strasbourg regarding the perspective of accession of Western Balkans (Albania included). In Albania, everyone was expecting the European Commission in Strasbourg to declare: “Dear Albanians, come and sign, the negotiations have been opened!”. But, it said the opposite:
The EU said that it will change the criteria and standards which would enable the opening of negotiations. At the same time, it also said that there’s not a clear date on the negotiations.
This is one of the two EUs.
What about one of the two Albanias?
The masses thought that 5 February would be a decisive date. The majority thought that the “negotiations would start”. Not that the majority believe that the country has achieved political and economic standards in order to be part of the European family. No, they know this, but there are many people who believe that the EU must do this for the sake of Albania. They think that the EU should accept us as part of it and take care of us.
There are many government opponents who pray for Albania to join Europe. Why? In order for the opposition to be able to “knock” on a door and complain about t the government over the violation of the rights of the opposition. The opposition is very frustrated in front of the government also due to the fact that it fears the EU more than the “people” here. The opposition is in a dilemma. No opposition action has been finalized. Even the actions that the opposition has launched have been left unfinished. Why? Because in the middle of these opposition gatherings, someone calls out: “Hey, they will think we are against the accession in the EU!”. This time, as soon as the conference of Strasbourg which snubbed Albania came to an end, there were many opposition supporters who addressed to the leader of the Democratic Party in social networks encouraging him to rise up, because at the end of the day, the negotiations are not being opened and the country has nothing to lose.
Even within the same political movement, two stances emerge in relation to the European Union. “Another Albania” is similar to the European Commission in Strasbourg. None of the government officials, senior officials or thoseconnected to the state spend their day in front of the television screen. Meanwhile, masses experienced it as a day of great curiosity and inspiration by the EU. Some TV networks were so smart that in order to attract as many audiences as possible, they made live connections from Strasbourg. Hundreds of thousands were waiting anxiously.
Besides the government, senior officials and politicians who were not really waiting anything.
Not even the EU was expecting to tell Albania that “we’re starting the negotiations”.
The EU has several dilemmas in relation to Albania and Western Balkans.
The last dilemma, which was almost ironic, was the following:
As soon as the Strasbourg conference ended and people went home, convinced that it was a “no”, the EU official, Knut Fleckenstein issues a press statement.
“Yes,” he said, “we have a date for the launch of negotiations with Albania. We will open the negotiations in the first half of 2018”.
Is this not ironic?! It’s so shocking that one finds it hard to believe this low standard of the EU or doesn’t want to believe it. One of the EUs officially declares from Strasbourg that “there’s no date” on Albania. The other EU is “officially” saying that the talks will start in the first half of 2018. When will this date really be?
Neither EU no. 1, nor EU no. 2 knows the truth. One of the biggest poets of the Albanian literature, Lasgush Poradeci, used to make fun of the political system during the communist regime. Once, he asked his friend Kadare: “Ismail, what system are we in now?”
The EU has been outside the “system” with the policy of new admissions from Western Balkans for years now. During 2017, it was very determined to keep countries out of it.
During the EU’s summit on Western Balkans, held in July in Trieste, another project was launched. This was the “Balkan Trade Treaty”. The EU openly said to Western Balkan countries that there would not be an EU for them and that the Balkan Trade Treaty was all they would get. Subprojects were drafted, funds were allocated, deadlines were set.
Soon enough, in August 2017, the EU holds a “casual” summit between prime ministers of Western Balkans in Durres (Albania). The EU Enlargement Commissioner, Johannes Hahn spoke during this summit, saying that Western Balkan countries are looking to become EU members until 2025. But, he was very doubtful on this.
In September 2017, the president of the European Commissioner, Jean-Claude Juncker declared during a speech held in front of the European Parliament that there would be no enlargement until 2025. “There is no enlargement within the European Parliament’s mandate”, he said. Then there would be elections, making this process indefinite.
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