Edi Rama’s Stubbornness Is Driving Albanians Away From The European Union
The coming days are crucial for the future of Albania. The European Commission will propose the EU negotiating framework within June 2020. Albania must convince all the EU member states on tangible progress on the 15 conditions set by the Council on 25 March 2020, otherwise, if it will fail to do so, according to the new methodology the entire process of Albania’s EU integration, it can be reversed, i.e. the European dream for the Albanian people will be over.
And the chances for a positive decision do not seem to be good at all for Albania. How did a country which few years ago was so much ahead of Montenegro and Serbia in the integration process, with only five conditions, ended up with 15 hard conditions and risking for good the chance to join the EU?
The reason is the corrupt, bully and dictatorial government of Edi Rama. When Rama and the Socialist Party came to power the accession of negotiations for Albania seemed within a reach, but things took an ugly turn. Rama had his own agenda: to make Albania a haven for the cultivation of marijuana and drugs smuggling; capture all the central and local institutions of the country; usurp the judiciary; control the media; strengthen the power of few oligarchs close to him; and mingle with Balkan regional affairs with his obscure plans.
As a result of Rama’s agenda Albania became known worldwide as the Columbia of Europe; the only country in the continent where a party controls 100 percent the central and local government, including all the municipal councils, where the Parliament does not have since February 2019 the full constitutional quorum of 140, but only 122, where the High Court and the Constitutional Court have not functioned for almost three years; a country that ranks in the international reports as the most corrupt in the world, serving as a paradise for money laundry; where the government and mafia are one in managing, organizing and determining the outcome of the elections; where democracy is eroded day by day by a bad governance and laws issued in violation of the Constitution but serve the PM and his proxies.
Can a country in such a state join the EU? Or better said, can a country with such a government and leadership join the EU?
The 15 conditions set from the EU for Albania are focused on fighting corruption, electoral reform and its implementation, the functioning of the Constitutional Court and the High Court, Initiation of proceedings against those accused of vote buying, and clarification on the lawfulness of the local elections of 30 June 2019, the most anti-democratic elections ever held in the history of the country.
These 15 conditions are very difficult. They are a clear indication of the failure and bad governance of Rama government. They should have received maximum attention from the ruling majority and should have united all the political actors. But Premier Rama seems more determined in his efforts to gain more power and seize the Constitutional Court, serve his oligarchs, rather than the EU integration for his country.
Instead of analyzing each of the conditions and working on fulfilling them, Rama shocked the world with his order to demolish at the break of dawn the National Theater, while artists and activists were still inside the building, despite the appeals from Europa Nostra and other international institutions not to undertake such an action. Rama hoped to win time and spin the public opinion also by announcing publicly for a plan for legalizing the cultivation of cannabis, or addressing the Venice Commission on several issues such as the impeachment of the President, the appointment of the Constitutional Court judges and on a set of media anti-slander law.
It all backfired on him, because the Venice Commission on all these issues noted the government’s actions as unconstitutional. The Opinions of the Venice Commission were severe slapping on the face for the Rama government, and inter alia, as the analyst Andi Bushati noted, they served as a mirror for the dictatorial regime that is installed in Albania.
As the June deadline approached, on June 10 Rama declared publicly that the 15 conditions do not exist, however, under tremendous pressure from some international actors, in particular the German Bundestag, who genuinely want to see Albania walking in the right path in the rule of law, democracy, and EU integration, Rama accepted to cooperate with the non-parliamentary opposition in working on one of the conditions. i.e. the electoral reform through a Political Council, in which, ironically, Rama sent as an envoy of his party Damian Gjiknuri, the man exposed In 2019 by the German magazine BILD collaborating with the mafia in buying votes and intimidating the voters.
In fact, Voice of America, BIRN and BILD have revealed wiretaps of the Albanian prosecution showing Socialist party and Rama Government officials, including the Prime Minister, Damian Gjiknuri and mayor Vangjush Dako engaging in phone conversations on buying votes in general and local elections in Albania in 2016 and 2017.
The Political Council seems to have reached an agreement on a new electoral code, but Rama, fearing a certain defeat in the upcoming elections, due to a huge loss of popularity and without the support of his mafia and business proxies, is using all his tricks to sabotage the electoral reform by pushing the parliamentary opposition MP-s under his control to vote against such a reform and blocking the practice of coalitions between opposition parties for the upcoming elections. These attempts have uncovered Rama as the only barrier of the electoral reform and as the prime minister whose stubbornness is driving Albanians away from the European Union.
Presently Albania has an unconstitutional Parliament with 122 out of 140 MP-s, a single party controls all the municipalities and city councils; High Court and the Constitutional Court are not functional. In short, the ruling party and government have no legitimacy, in contrary, they are running the country illegally and anti-democratically.
For this reason, as the deadline is approaching, The European People’s Party, the largest party in the European Parliament, submitted an amendment to the resolution of the Western Countries and called recently on Albanian authorities to launch criminal proceedings into officials involved in vote buying, adding that the fact that local governments in Albania are run by a single party puts it at odds with the fundamental notion of a plural democracy, recommending that the parliamentary and local elections be held simultaneously in order to move Albania one step further down the European path.
The EPP resolution was accepted on June 18, therefore for the first time in its history, the European Parliament has now officially set 15 conditions for Albania, which must be met before they can convene for a joint conference. Elections are an important part of these conditions.
Indeed, all the local actors and many internationals have appealed to Rama to return the country in the path of democracy by allowing Albanians to express their voice and will by choosing a legitimate central and local government by free, fair and democratic voting.
Albanians and their western allies want a democratic Albania, a legitimate Parliament, a Central and Local Government chosen by free and fair elections, but Rama, who has kept the country hostage for such a long time and who is risking the reversing of the EU integration process for his people who deserve Europe and who have longed for it for such a long time.
Parliamentary and local elections must be held simultaneously in Albania to save the EU integration process! Rama knows that this action is the key to save the integrity and the future of his country, and he has to decide very soon to let go of his personal hunger for power and obey the will of the people and allow Albania to move forward in its integration process.
In few days Germany will have the EU Presidency for the second half of 2020, a country that expects real progress and not the usual propaganda from the Rama government. A country that already knows so much of Rama affairs, past and present.
Rama’s stubbornness has to come to an end, otherwise the future of the country is at stake and the political consequences for Rama will not be optimistic.