Editorial: Challenges and questions as new government set to form

Editorial: Challenges and questions as new government set to form

At the end of this month, Prime Minister Edi Rama will likely publish the list of people he is going to have in his new cabinet, the first in eight years in which the winning party does not need a

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Albania-Serbia cultural cooperation, mostly sporadic and on individual initiative

Albania-Serbia cultural cooperation, mostly sporadic and on individual initiative

By Monika Maric* Although political relations often cast a shadow on cultural cooperation, cultural exchanges between Serbia and Albania have been in constant growth. Cooperation is primarily based on individual initiatives, where networks of civil society represent the main communication

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Editorial: An Albanian version of the chicken and egg theme

Editorial: An Albanian version of the chicken and egg theme

Some time ago in an interesting expose of his understanding of the problems in Albania, current Albanian Prime Minister offered some thoughts on a key question: is it the system which is at fault or are the single individuals failing?

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Editorial: Women and justice reform in Albania – a new opportunity

Editorial: Women and justice reform in Albania – a new opportunity

It comes as a good omen for the justice reform in Albania that qualified women with the right experience are being selected at the top of key new institutions that shall oversee the most important overhaul of the judicial sector

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Kadare: ‘I have waved neither the dissident, nor the conformist flag. I wrote normal literature in an abnormal country’

Kadare: ‘I have waved neither the dissident, nor the conformist flag. I wrote normal literature in an abnormal country’

Albania’s internationally renowned writer Ismail Kadare, a perennial nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature, says his works written both under communist and in the post-1990s have remained the same in content, form and messages. In an interview with Germany’s

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A new rapprochement between Albania and Serbia: The implications for Kosovo

A new rapprochement between Albania and Serbia: The implications for Kosovo

By Albert Rakipi  Abstract The enhancement of the political dialogue between Albania and Serbia, including initiatives to foster economic collaboration, has spelled out a new era in bilateral relations. However, it has also prompted debate about three interrelated issues: The

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EU’s Ruiz Calavera: We hope to start vetting judges and prosecutors in September

EU’s Ruiz Calavera: We hope to start vetting judges and prosecutors in September

An interview with Genoveva Ruiz Calavera, Director for Western Balkans at the EU Directorate General for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations. In this capacity, she is responsible for managing bilateral relations between the EU and Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina,

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2030 Agenda and the Supreme State Audit

2030 Agenda and the Supreme State Audit

By BUJAR LESKAJ* Agenda 2030 is a strategy and concrete work plan of the United Nations for sustainable development at the global level. It seeks to strengthen universal peace and provide greater freedom and well-being in the world. All countries

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Editorial: Albania’s democracy needs a healthy opposition

Editorial: Albania’s democracy needs a healthy opposition

Albania’s main opposition Democratic Party will elect its leader this weekend at a time when the center-right party is defeated, divided and weak. The party has just gone through the worst defeat in its 27-year history and different fractions don’t

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Editorial: The digital government stuck in the virtual reality

Editorial: The digital government stuck in the virtual reality

The new craze of the majority which won the last elections convincingly is establishing an online platform for co-governing with the people. Used to have a coalition partner, albeit one that poked them on the ribs all the time, now

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                    [post_content] => At the end of this month, Prime Minister Edi Rama will likely publish the list of people he is going to have in his new cabinet, the first in eight years in which the winning party does not need a coalition party to rule.

Rama himself has indicated he wants a lean cabinet with fewer ministries. The questions that now remain relate to what ministries will be merged and how. The core ministries of the interior, defense, healthcare, education will likely remain as they are but all others are candidates for merging or restructuring into new bodies. The ministries of economic development and finance would like merge into a single institution, for example.

Other questions relate to who the ministers will be. Will any opposition-nominated minister make the cut, as some have suggested? If the Democratic Party does have some sort of participation in government, it would widen the appeal of the government but then it could also weaken the opposition, as critics of any grand coalition have suggested.

One thing is certain, however, Rama can rule alone. He has a comfortable majority for day-to-day governance in parliament. He is now free to act on his ideas without being burdened by other parties looking “to get a piece of the pie” as Rama has put it.

Rama’s campaign and actions following his victory in the general elections have created certain expectations among citizens. He has chosen a populist move to hold public hearings across the country, seeking “a co-governance with the people of Albania.” His findings from the hearings are not surprising – people want jobs and better infrastructure. They want quality healthcare and education. They want their property rights to be better protected.

It remains to be seen how and if Rama will be able to meet their expectation in this second mandate. What we do know is that Rama will likely start with a purge in the public administration. Some of the higher officials have already been sacked or forced to resign. Lower level purges are likely to continue. We can only hope this will lead to better services for Albanian citizens rather than simply opening the way for one party’s activists to get the jobs of activists from other parties.

Albania has major challenges ahead. Despite a more optimistic economic growth forecast this year, it must be translated into job number and better wages to stem the massive exodus of young and qualified workers leaving the country in droves to look for better jobs elsewhere.

Albania’s bid to open membership negotiations with the European Union will also likely be an uphill road. In addition to domestic issues related to organized crime, drugs, corruption and poverty – Albanians are now realistic about expecting little in terms of a push from Brussel.

As European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker put in an interview this week, he is “not in favor of the Western Balkans joining the EU soon.”

The region and Albania for now will continue to better serve as the boogeyman for the union and others. In Junker’s words: “If you take away the European perspective, then we will again experience what we experienced in the 1990s. In this respect, the stability of the composition of the European Union is a prerequisite for the Balkans not being at war again.”

 
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                    [post_content] => By Monika Maric*

Although political relations often cast a shadow on cultural cooperation, cultural exchanges between Serbia and Albania have been in constant growth. Cooperation is primarily based on individual initiatives, where networks of civil society represent the main communication channel

Potential membership in the European Union (EU) is the main foreign policy priority of both Serbia and Albania. In accordance with their European orientation, both Serbia and Albania are willing to prove their commitment to the promotion of regional cooperation. After 2005, Serbia and Albania have signed the following joint documents: agreement on the avoidance of double taxation, agreement on economic and trade cooperation, agreement on cooperation in tourism and several protocols.

Although political relations often cast a shadow on cultural cooperation, cultural exchanges between Serbia and Albania have been in constant growth. Cooperation is primarily based on individual initiatives, where networks of civil society represent the main communication channel. Since 2000, various institutions, art groups, amateur theaters and others, have established cooperation and constant exchange of cultural content. To mention only a few of them, there’s the participation of the Children's Cultural Center from Belgrade at the Children's Festival in Durres (October 2007), the 2009 Serbian-Albanian co-production of the "Honeymoon" movie by Serbian director Goran Paskaljevic in cooperation with Genc Permeti from Albania.

The main channels of official cooperation, at the state level, have been established through multilateral initiatives and programs such as the Council of Ministers of Culture of South East Europe (First Round Table: Tourism, Culture and Inter-University Cooperation), Cultural Heritage: The Bridge to a Common Future in the field of culture and cultural heritage established in 2004).

In 2016, the Forum for International Relations of the European Movement in Serbia (IPA) and the Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS) launched the project on the Joint Centre for Albania-Serbia Relations, with the support of the Federal Republic of Germany. The cooperation between Serbia and Albania has a strategic importance for the European integration of the Western Balkans. Main obstacles to the establishment of normal and fruitful relations between Albania and Serbia include the lack of knowledge about each other and the lack of opportunity for contact and mutual cooperation. Bearing all this in mind, the Albanian Institute for International Studies initiated the establishment of a joint center that would encourage interaction between experts, journalists, researchers, artists and decision-makers of the two countries. The project will help young people fight against mutual prejudice, pave the way for media cooperation etc.

 

20th century cultural relations

During the 20th century, Albania-Serbia relations included short periods of cooperation and good neighborly relations. The first official contracts between the National Committee for the Liberation of Yugoslavia (NKOJ) and the Provisional Government of Albania were set on 20 February 1945. For the beginning of cultural support and help by the Yugoslav authorities to a neighbor, it was of great importance Article 5 of the Treaty on Association and Mutual Assistance between Albania and Yugoslavia that insisted on maximizing the development of cultural and economic cooperation.

On July 20, 1946, the Albanian State Choir performed in Rijeka and in Opatija. After that, the stay of the Yugoslav art group during 1947 in Albania lasted for 23 days. During this time, members of the group performed in 17 events and three radio shows. There were also attempts to organize an art exhibition. Cooperation also involved the education of Albanian cultural workers in Yugoslavia, in Zagreb. The Albanian Committee for Culture and Art sought cooperation, and in particular the creation of repertoires (programs and texts for Albanian art institutions), they sought professional literature on theater arts, school programs for music, theater and painting schools. Albanian cultural workers received the greatest help in the development of classical music. For this purpose, the Yugoslav Committee for Culture and Art sent a conductor and music professor Bojan Adamič. At the beginning of May 1947, a mixed choir was established with the association for the cultural cooperation of Albania with Yugoslavia in Tirana. The conductor of the choir was Milo Asic. After 1 July 1948, all interstate agreements were terminated.

 

Literature

The Department for Albanology (Albanian Studies) at the Faculty of Philology of the University of Belgrade has a long tradition in educating new generations of teachers of Albanian language, literature and culture. According to the latest curriculum or the faculty, each year there are 19 places for the future students at the department. Since 1990, 283 students have been enrolled in this department, with 69 of them having successfully graduated by May 2010. This Faculty has cooperation agreements with the universities of Shkodra and Tirana. Currently, two professors from the University of Shkodra are teaching at the Faculty of Philology as visiting professors. In May 2010, the Department hosted a delegation from the University of Tirana.

Although it has been more than twenty years since diplomatic relations between Serbia and Albania were renewed, and in recent years there were regular visits and meetings between government officials including a cultural cooperation deal, literary cooperation between Serbian and Albanian authors remains at an extremely low level. Literature from Albania available in Serbian remains limited to several old Kadare novels and some isolated translation in anthologies or a "missed" translation from surrounding countries.

On 26 May 2017, the Joint Center for Albanian-Serbian Relations organized the cultural event "Unknown Albanian literature," dedicated to the Serbian-Albanian literary and cultural cooperation. The aim of this event was to get acquainted with the contemporary literature of Albania, to present the latest translations, and encourage its publication as a comprehensive anthology, as the countries in the region already have. In addition, this meeting was at the same time an opportunity to consider opportunities for broader literary and cultural cooperation between Serbia and Albania. Among the guests from Albania was also Arian Leka, (Durres, 1966), a prominent Albanian poet, essayist and translator, and founder of the influential magazine and cultural club "Poeteka", which promotes translations and cooperation in the Balkans.

As for the translation from Albanian to Serbian language and vice versa, until now the following books have been translated from Albanian:

 

Ismail Kadare 

The General of the Dead army (1968)

The Siege (1977)

Chronicle in Stone (1979)

The Palace of Dreams (1991)

The Fall of the Stone City (2008)

The Belgrade-based publishing house "Književna radionica Rašić" has published in Serbian language "Ormar", a book of essays by writer Arian Leka. The book consists of two main parts: "In search of the lost shirt" and the essay "Born in the Province". The book, translated by Natalija Žaba Stojilković and Sabri Halili, is accompanied by a preface by writer Andrej Nikolaidis, one of the most esteemed literary authors of the region.

In 2006, two books from Milovan Djilas were translated into Albanian: “The Unperfect Society: Beyond the New Class” and “The face of totalitarianism.”

Ivo Andric has had his Bosnian (Travnik’s) chronicles (2012) translated into Albanian. It is interesting that the books of Vuk Draskovic, who is a politician, were translated into Albanian language. They include “The Judge” and “The Memoirs of Jesus.”

Two of Milorad Pavic's books have also been translated into Albanian - Dictionary of the Khazars (2012) and collection of the “Terrible Love Story.”

Albanian publisher Onufri has published the luxury edition of Hazar, while Nikola Sudar did much to bring Serbian literature closer to Albania with the translation of “Terrible Love Stories.” Both books had a solemn promotion at the latest Book Fair in Tirana.

Chief-editor Lidija Kusovac said that the publishing house "Samizdat B92", which has been operating for 23 years, has paid special attention to books by Albanian authors and is also planning to provide translation of Serbian titles into the Albanian language.

During 2016, in addition to the novel "The Palace of Dreams" of Kadare, they repurchased the copyright for his collection of stories that will soon come out. "Samizdat" has published, following the "Millionaire" novel and essay publications under the title "Ambassador and other Heretic Notes", another novel by Veton Surroi - "All Love of Marija Gjakoni".

"Samizdat" also translated and published in Serbian "Sacrifice," the latest book by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama on the eve of his 2016 visit to Belgrade. And in Albanian, this publisher translated the first and second autobiography of famous actor Bekim Fehmiu "Brilliant and terrifying".

"Samizdat B92" also published bilingually, in Serbian and Albanian, the book of Petrit Imami "Serbs and Albanians through the ages", which demystifies established historical misconceptions about Serbian-Albanian relations.

 

Filmography

“The Hornet” is a 1998 Serbian drama film directed by Gorčin Stojanovic. The film tells about love between Albanians and Serb women on the eve of the war in Kosovo.

“Besa” (Solemn Promise) is a 2009 Serbian drama film directed by Srđan Karanović. The film was selected as the Serbian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 83rd Academy Awards, but did not make it to the final shortlist. The film portrays the drama between Azem, an Albanian man, and Lea, a Slovenian woman married to Filip, a Serb. The film speaks about love, the sacred Albanian promise ‘Besa’, as well as the cultural, ethnic, and language barriers in the Balkans. The movie shows how the sacred given word can be stronger than love and temptation.

“Honeymoon” is the first Serbian-Albanian film from 2009. It was directed by Goran Paskaljevic, who also wrote the script along with Genc Permeti. The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival on September 5, 2009, and had its Belgrade premiere in November 2009.

Honeymoon, as the first Serbian-Albanian co-production, at least attempts to demolish self-imposed barriers and unnecessary taboos.

“I honestly believe that the Honeymoon can be an important step in the process of approaching two nations who have been living since forever as neighbors, but who turned their back to each other,” Goran Paskaljevic has told Serbian magazine “Vreme” in an interview.

“Certainly, cultural cooperation with Albania will continue to develop,” he added.

Other sporadic cooperation events include mixed theater performances and classical music in Tirana and in Belgrade.

 

Cooperation prospects

Future cultural cooperation should continue to be based on individual initiatives, but the governments both in Serbia and Albania have to support and encourage initiatives, events, travel and other exchanges.

Bearing in mind everything that has been done so far in the field of culture, but mostly in the past few years, I believe that cultural cooperation will increase. As we can see, both sides are interested in getting to know the neighborhood literature, so publishing houses are also interested in translating and publishing books. Both sides are interested in movies, theater performance and music (about what I will write on another occasion). Student exchanges should increase, there should be more summer camps and school to overcome prejudice and learn about culture. Young people should be familiar with cultural festivals and events that exist in both countries. The media plays a key role in promoting culture, so both countries should be promoted this way.

*Monika Marić has graduated in Albanian language from the University of Belgrade at the Albanian Language Department of the Faculty of Philology.  She is currently doing a “Cultures in dialogue” Master’s at the University of Belgrade. Monika is the third Serbian fellow of the Centre for Albania-Serbia Relations at the Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS) in Tirana.

 
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                    [post_content] => Some time ago in an interesting expose of his understanding of the problems in Albania, current Albanian Prime Minister offered some thoughts on a key question: is it the system which is at fault or are the single individuals failing? To elaborate it just a bit more: is the system built in a such a way that it makes away with accountability and therefore leaves mistakes and crimes unpunished or are individuals skillful of such levels of corruption that they overcome any systematic barriers?

These are important and difficult questions that have bothered many who try to make sense of the long and torturous Albanian transition. The Rama answer a few years ago was that the system was to blame, it ultimately corrupted the individuals. Fast forward and he seems to have changed his mind.

It is becoming a usual, however disturbing occurrence that the Prime Minister calls a meeting with head of institutions of a certain sector, berates them on live broadcast in front of the cameras and urges them to resign. It is unclear whether his is an order, a suggestion or a threat, most likely all of the above. So far the property registration offices and hospital managers have been the prey.  His argument, which bears considerable and hurtful truth, is that these two sectors have shaped the connection of citizens with the state and due to their negative performance are the source of shame and disappointment. Again there is a lot of truth here, no doubt. The collective sigh and curse of Albanians when faced with the long lines at the property office or with the filthy corridors of the public hospitals is and has always been loud enough to be heard even without the wide consultations performed in the last weeks.

It is interesting to see how quietly these directors, managers and administrators sit in these meetings tilting their heads down, silently contemplating the misfortune that has come to their door. None of them has been shown to protest, to offer a counter argument, none has been canny enough to remind the PM of his system-central approach of some time ago.

Yet their silence does not make it right. In going after these sensational solutions with populist appeal, this government, which will be formally constituted next month, is already exposing a frightfully authoritarian intent.  Additionally the approach is not even as practical or efficient as it seems.

How will these new, supposedly clean and strong incoming leaders and managers outshine the systemic obstacles and built in incentives for corruption? The system has not ceased to be a problem just because the PM has changed his mind. How will the new property registration directors outperform the old ones when the digital data system in Albania is still dysfunctional and the state requires notarized documents even to recognize its own institutions, its own certificates? How will the new hospitals managers eliminate the barriers of medicine provision put up by the lucrative concessions or the party led employment requests for staff recruiting?

What will be done to assist the new heads of the sector not to fall into the same habits, the same traps, the same failing and dragging routine? These are questions that are not addressed in these meetings and since there is no official program yet, are not addressed anywhere. In this context playing the loud blame game does not serve governance but publicity purposes.

Is it the system or the individual? Who came first the chicken or the egg? The difficult questions persists.
                    [post_title] => Editorial: An Albanian version of the chicken and egg theme 
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                    [post_content] => It comes as a good omen for the justice reform in Albania that qualified women with the right experience are being selected at the top of key new institutions that shall oversee the most important overhaul of the judicial sector in the country.

Natasha Mulaj was selected a few days as Head of the Appellate Chamber. She follows Genta Tafa who was recently elected as Head of the Independent Qualifications Commission usually known as the famous Vetting Commission. Other prominent women of Albanian justice such as former Attorney General Ina Rama and Secretary General of the Assembly Albana Shtylla are also part of the Appellate Chamber. It is equally telling that the Head of the International Mentoring Mission that closely oversees the reform is also an influential woman of justice in the EU, Genoveva Ruiz Calavera. Rumor has it that the next Justice Minister of the Rama 2 cabinet may very likely be a woman with considerable legal experience.

The justice reform’s importance for Albania’s future development and for its progress on the European integration path is impossible to overstate. These women shall have the unique opportunity to shape what life will be in this country for years to come and to establish solid foundations so that Albanian citizens can have professional judges and prosecutors that act with integrity and are held accountable if they don’t.

The social science research over whether women are less corrupted and more efficient in relevant leadership positions is appealing yet inconclusive. There is not an inherent quality in women that makes them less prone to corruption. A few weeks ago a woman judge in Albania was given a harsh sentence for corruption and the President was formally asked to remove her title as a judge. Other women judges have been the frequent subject of investigative articles questioning the source of their impressive and allegedly unjustified wealth.

However there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that suggest that women may do better in high pressure reform times. There are good examples that that come from other countries. In Romania Laura Kovesi, the prosecutor heading the special anti corruption unit DNA became the fright of corrupted politicians bringing the career of many high level representatives to an end. In neighboring Macedonia, Special Prosecutor Katica Janeva appointed to investigate the wiretapping scandals held strong against immense political pressure from the previous government.

The women that apparently shall lead the reform in Albania have, in addition to their unquestionable expertise, substantial levels of support from the international community and should use it to their work’s advantage.  The expectations of the Albanian citizens from these women at the helm of important institutions are quite high. The success of this reform is the perhaps the single key condition for the country to make a significant qualitative jump into a better future. Let’s sincerely wish that the women in charge will succeed. 

 
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                    [post_content] => Albania's internationally renowned writer Ismail Kadare, a perennial nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature, says his works written both under communist and in the post-1990s have remained the same in content, form and messages.

In an interview with Germany's Die Welt newspaper, the Albanian writer says he repents of no book he has written and continues upholding the formula that "I wrote normal literature in an abnormal country."

Kadare's interview with Kosovo-born, Germany-based journalist Vjollca Hajdari came as the Albanian writer translated into more than 40 languages since the early 1970s, had one of his latest novels, "E penguara" (A girl in Exile) translated into German.

Tirana Times translated the full interview.

 

Mr. Kadare, you are Albania’s most famous writer around the world. Thanks to you the Albanian literature has its seat on the international stage. What does this achievement mean for you, Albanians and especially Albania?

-Allow me to reiterate the well-known idea that literature, as the most generous spiritual heritage of our planet, has two fundamental characteristics: it is universal and eternal. As a result, everybody talks about it anytime. Maybe this is the reason that talking about it seems easy, but it must be added that making mistakes is even easier.

No writer creates literature for themselves. Even less, no people. From its very first day, it is created for everybody. For England, even if it wants to keep its Shakespeare for itself, it’s not up to them. He belongs to everybody. There is no map of peoples where literature can be produced and another map where this is impossible.

 

As a small and isolated country Albania was unknown to the world. How would you introduce Albania to foreign readers and how would you acquaint them with Albania and Albanians? 

 -Literature is not created to make peoples known. For this, atlases, history books and similar stuff are enough. The art of literature is so independent that in every language it is translated into, literature is reborn. This is the gist of its magic.

Of course, getting to know a country or people where specific literature is born comes naturally, but this is never a goal in itself.

The ancient city of Troy is the most shocking example. When the Greeks destroyed it, their goal was eliminating every memoir and trace and even wiping out its name. But the other way round happened. Thanks to literary art, Troy nourished for about 3,000 years, and continues to this day nourishing human memory everywhere.

From this point of view, it can be said that the Trojan case is the most spectacular paradox of our world.

 

You have been nominated many times for the Nobel Prize for Literature. In addition to great expectations by your admirers, you have not been awarded it. Why? What do you think, what’s the problem?

 -Frankly speaking, I have no answer to your question. Questions of this kind are among the habits of our world. There are colleagues who worry about them. I think there is no room for worry. By contrast, I think it’s a good habit that, in the run up to the prize award, the same to the Christmas eve, when familiar questions like where are you going to spend the holidays are made etc., many ask about this award. I think literature should be grateful to such attention, be it somehow naïve, of the global public.

 

Rumor has it that you haven’t been awarded the Nobel prize for Literature because, according to them you were “in harmony” with the then communist regime, at a time when you were known as the universal voice against totalitarianism.  Isn’t this claim in contrast to your stance? Is it time to get rid of such statements once and for all?

-I will start from the end. You are right but it is not a writer’s job to deal with such explanations.

The question of literature relations with a tyrannical regime is usually complicated. History does not unveil any regime that had no exacerbation with literature. Regimes, especially totalitarian ones, try to hide this exacerbation. Often, they even flatter literature, at a time when they do anything to put it under control, intercept it, and remind it of prison and even death. Antagonism between literature and tyranny stems naturally because of the nature of both of them. It is known that literature has freedom, emancipation, democracy in its gist, the same as tyranny has the opposite. In case of renowned writers, the bigger the recognition, the more dramatic the problem becomes. A dictatorship cannot stand parallel authority, not to mention rancor, the number one trait of every ruler.

A common paradox appears in this case: a world-class literature can be developed in a cruel regime. The regime tries to take advantage of it. There are well-known clichés about literature honoring the country etc. implying, even the regime. Literature has never done this. If it’s about honoring, it has honored itself.

Dictatorship regimes are not famous only for cruelty, but also cunning. For several years, they prepared secret files about writers, especially flinging mud at them.

After the collapse of communism in Albania, I was one of the first to request the opening of secret archives. This has not happened even today that we are talking together, 27 years on. Even when any archival document was accidentally discovered, instead of triggering further research, it was surrounded by silence.

Few years ago, I accidentally came across, a 1982 report by the Albanian secret investigation unit.

Because the report was published and republished in the local press, I am telling you just to have an idea of what these secret files, which everybody talks about, but nobody has seen, are.

 

What is this report about?

-This report tries to prove that the writer you are talking to, I.K., [Ismail Kadare] was a member of a plotters band that aimed at overthrowing the government. As you can see, this is not trivia, but “serious” stuff of that kind that took one to execution.

If you are curious, you can easily find that report. It’s the text of the interrogation of [former] Albanian Health Minister Dr. Ziçishti, who died under torture the same year.

The report contains the “plot details” and the name of the investigator who is still alive in Albania and untroubled by anybody. Asked by a young Albanian journalist, the investigator has admitted to the authenticity of the text.

 

What happened later?

-That was all. The ‘scandalmongers’ you mentioned in this interview (there are even foreign journalists among them) showed no interest in this document which unveils the nature of a writer’s relationship with the dictatorship regime. After the collapse of communism, I never thought about bragging that I participated in a plot against the government, because this was simply not true, but the secret file is still there. It clearly shows that the government had already arranged a coffin for the writer and was only waiting for an order about it. That had happened in many other cases.

 

Could you further elaborate on the phenomenon based on this fact? 

-A writer doesn’t work wonders. He can’t settle the misdeeds of a country on the verge of collapse, as was the case of communist Albania. In the meantime, a writer is held responsible for the literature he creates, under all circumstances, including those seemingly impossible. Especially, for a renowned writer. The greater the popularity, the more sensitive responsibility becomes.

Since we are talking together and you asked me the question, allow me to accurately answer on my case.

I didn’t become popular after the collapse of communism when you could describe its gloom without risking anything. I would like to add that I didn’t write my works in any Switzerland lake area, i.e. outside tyrannical Albania, but inside the country.

This is what exactly happened.

In 1960 I was a very popular writer in Stalinist Albania. Meanwhile, in 1970 something uncommon happened. After the translation of a book in Paris, in a short time I gained global popularity, which at that time meant Western recognition.

The shock was quite evident for such a case. For the writer himself, his readers, the communist country where he lives. In the meantime, what seemed like an incredible event, could suddenly turn against you. And that’s what happened. A writer finds himself in constant doubt. The gist of doubt is the question: why the western world, “the bourgeoisie,” our sworn enemy, while they hate our heroic and Bolshevik Albania, love you so much?

I am not elaborating on the situation that followed. The paranoid Albanian government found themselves unprepared. There was silence and secret files against me, maybe like the one I told you about. But nothing was said in public. As far as I understood, they were waiting that I myself was going to “deal with bourgeoisie.” In other words, that I stated: You like me, but I am your enemy!

Nothing of this kind ever happened. Under global pressure, a meeting of “bourgeoisie” journalists was allowed with me. There are dozens of interviews that can be found and that I am telling you in full moral responsibility that there is nowhere, no paragraph, of those that Albanian Stalinists dreamt of.

This was the first ordeal I overcame and when the government, I am not ashamed of telling, bowed to.

 

Was this tough?

-Of course. All you have to do is making up your mind in order not to distort the gist of truth.

I would like to underline that Western journalists, considering my tough position, were careful not to further aggravate it. However, whether they wanted or not, the dangerous moment came quite suddenly. That was especially when there were live TV interviews.

 

What was such a moment like?

-I can remember such a case, exactly in Germany, at a Berlin TV. The journalist suddenly asked me a question, which, how to put it, was fatal for Eastern writers. ‘Mr. Kadare can you write against the regime?’ The question, even though not meant to be provocative, was in itself the most intrusive of all. I had heard, many writers had been left speechless because of it. Answers of the kind that such a thing didn’t have to be discussed as long as the interviewed writer had no problem with the regime etc. seemed in all cases poor.

A short silence followed, and I was lucky to remain cool and answer with a “no.” And soon after, explaining the reason: In my country such a thing is banned by law.

The answer seemed more courageous than it really was. Returning to Albania by plane, I thought about how to defend myself if this answer was deemed “bad.”  The first thing that came to my mind were the thousands of plaques littering Albania reading “Long live the proletarian dictatorship.”

This country did not hide it at all that it was a dictatorship, in other words that it allowed nothing to harm it, to proceed with ban of “bourgeoisie propaganda” etc. etc.

 

Was it more difficult or easier with fiction?

-That depended on the circumstances. From 1970 until the collapse of communism, despite the recognition and acceptance by the Western world, I was considered a socialist realism writer.

I gave no importance to this naming as long as it did not play any role in my work. In addition, I used the term so naturally that some of my close friends, half-jokingly, told me that apparently, I called what I had written myself that way. According to him, there was nothing I could do but call the other dogmatic, Stalinist literature decadent literature.

Although this looked like laughing, there was a true gist. Deep inside me, I believed that as much paradoxical it sounded, the dogmatic literature of that time, such as the Albanian, Soviet or Chinese ones, in the real sense of the word, were nothing but “decadent.”

As far as literature produced in a totalitarian regime is concerned, there are still misunderstandings even today. The use of the “Socialist Realism” term itself, helps in a kind of chaos. For some, this is an accused naming and they are ready to deny every kind of creativity related to it. For others, the term doesn’t have to be taken that seriously.

I have always thought that literature stands above prejudice, especially labeling. This is the reason I have maybe become boring with the formula that I wrote normal literature in an abnormal country.

The truth is I continue upholding this formula. During our talk, I believe it is well-understood that I wrote in three different eras: the first two decades from 1950 to 1970 was a typical time of Socialist realism involving both the government and the readers. In the second two decades 1970-1990, there was again a socialist society, but with two different kinds of readers: the Albanian and international ones. Lastly, the third era, the post-communist one of full freedom.

With full moral responsibility, I can say that my works written in three different eras, with about 40 titles, in and outside Albania, are the same, in content, form and messages. I have denied no book. I have waved neither the dissident, nor the conformist flag.

I was only a writer. I reiterate, the same in all three eras. Sounds unbelievable? Let me tell you a curiosity: While we are currently talking together London is hosting the Man Booker Prize competition about the best foreign book published in Great Britain. Twelve countries have been selected for the 2017 competition. Among them is also Albania, my country. The curious thing is that the book representing Albania, my novel “Kamarja e turpit” [The Traitor’s Niche)] was written 40 years ago in Albania. Allow me to be more punctual: in Stalinist and Bolshevik Albania, the number one enemy of the West, including Great Britain!

 

And nothing changed in this book, I mean was it published in the original form?

-No page has been changed in the book. Should I add it’s a novel about state terror? Even this is correct.

 

In 1990 you sought political asylum in France. Could you explain the reasons of your departure? Why did you exactly choose France?

 -For Albanians and for all Balkan people, France became a close ally especially during Napoleon’s era, as an example of inspiration to depart from Ottoman rule. Chronicles show that in the Balkans, especially in Albanian regions, there was a time when “La Marseillaise” was sung as a local patriotic song! I sought political asylum after harsh correspondence with [former, late] President Alia, after I finally understood there was no hope with him, at a time when many people believed he could become an Albanian Gorbachev.

 

What is your relationship with the mother country and how much has your relation with Albania changed compared to the previous years?

-I had no relations of misunderstanding with the wider public. On the other hand, there was full understanding in all cases.

The peoples of the Balkan Peninsula, in Europe’s eyes are usually perceived as very harsh, more prone to quarreling than lyrical passion. I have to admit that there is something true in this assertion.

Meanwhile, I can’t deny that it is exactly these people, among them Albanians, who love literature so much,  even sublimate it. This is really a surprise related to other paradoxes such as, for example, the stance toward women and love. Allow me to repeat the idea that young women and women, more than in their lives, when the stance toward them was not to be envied, were lucky in art.

There are few regions around the world where they are treated as goddesses. It is likely that literature has benefitted from this.

 

By the way, since we are talking about women. What role did your wife Helena, who is also a writer, play and currently plays?

-It is difficult for me to perceive how my daily literary creativity would develop without her assistance. Above all, she has been during all the time we have lived together, my first reader, i.e. my first opinion about the work, which for many writers, including me, has an irreplaceable importance.

Her literary taste is unmistakable. I am not talking about the other assistance: her supervision of the whole process of preparing the manuscript, its computer typing, the first correction and editing and whatever technical issues which the writer needs so much.

 

Last year, a great Albanian woman, Mother Teresa, born Anjeza Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, was declared a saint in Vatican. What’s your comment about it?

-You can guess my answer. It was legitimate pride. In the meantime, I would like to add that there was a dramatic dimension under communism.

While she was admired all over the world, there was a time in Albania when it was not talked about her for two main reasons: the first one because she was religious and the second because she was considered to be part of the Western world. The pressure was so strong that despite her pleas, she was not allowed to visit her family, or just take a bunch of flowers to their tombs.

 

If we leave out the communism era, Albania is one of the unique countries around the world for its religious tolerance. Albanians have another approach toward religion and do not identify themselves under religious belief. How do you explain this?

-This is true and I don’t hide it, this makes me feel proud. I would like to add, that for us, Balkan peoples, bragging is something easy. It is not a much enviable characteristic, but in this case Albanians are right to take pride.

The explanation should be complicated. Religious harmony is one of the rarest characteristics in   peoples’ history. Albanians have had this characteristic under all historical circumstances: under the Ottoman occupation, after becoming independent from it, during the time of the Albanian kingdom, during fascism, and surprisingly even under communism, when tolerance seemed to have bid goodbye to Albania forever.

I would like to add that the other legitimate pride, the continuous protection of Jews, especially during the World War is apparently related to the harmony mentioned above.

 

Did you know that Berlin has a school, which since 2014 is named after Refik Veseli, the Albanian photographer of “The Righteous among the Nations” who saved two Jewish families during World War II?

-No I didn’t know. I am learning it from you. And of course I am pleased to hear about this.

 

When did you visit Germany and what are your impressions about the German government?

-Germany was present in Albania since its return to Europe. Under a tradition that was being put in place in the Balkans, the first European-Albanian royal dynasty was Germanic, since 1914 with the approval of the Great Powers. Unfortunately, this first stage of Albania’s European integration, (a dream which still continues, now that we are currently talking together) was ruined by World War I.

After an Albanian kingdom that concluded dramatically, Albania ended up in a Fascist country, which collapsed together with the Italian-German axis. Then what followed was the already known story of the establishment of communism, the very passionate friendship with the communist camp, and the same passionate hostility toward it, the friendship-animosity with the Chinese, the desperate isolation under the collapse of communism.

During all this time, West Germany was the only Western country which taking advantage of Albania’s animosity with the communist camp, tried to push it toward Europe. The mission undertaken by Strauss [West German politician Franz Josef Strauss] was impossible because Albania, being really hostile toward its ex-communist allies, was in the meantime more Stalinist than them!

It was not easy to understand this. In the meantime, there was some hope with “German chance.” The thing was about West Germany. Two or three trips I made, because of publications in German, happened exactly in this “Capitalist” Germany. I first entered Berlin half-secretly!

I am not going into details about this grotesque story which continued until Albania found itself, eventually, together with present-day Germany, at the North Atlantic Alliance.

I am quite convinced that despite the paradoxes created by history, there has always been a positive feeling about Germans and Germany in Albania. It is likely that the explanation for this could be related to gratitude toward German scientists who dealt with the Albanian language, more thoroughly and seriously than anybody else, including Albanians themselves. This might seem exaggerated if you are not aware of the unlimited admiration toward the language, which in Albanians’ eyes, had undertaken the aureole of a martyr, especially after its ban under an Ottoman government decree.

 

Thank you for the very impressive curiosity. Allow me to conclude our conversation with a final question. Three years ago Turkish president Erdogan was in Kosovo and called Kosovo Turkey. What do you think of this?

-I am aware of this statement by him and the only thing I can say is that I didn’t believe my eyes when I read it.
                    [post_title] => Kadare: 'I have waved neither the dissident, nor the conformist flag. I wrote normal literature in an abnormal country'
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_130553" align="alignright" width="225"]Albert Rakipi, PhD Albert Rakipi, PhD[/caption]

By Albert Rakipi

 Abstract

The enhancement of the political dialogue between Albania and Serbia, including initiatives to foster economic collaboration, has spelled out a new era in bilateral relations. However, it has also prompted debate about three interrelated issues:

The first issue relates to the past, current and the future of interstate relations between Albania and Serbia. Second, there are the implications for the relations between Albanians and Serbs as two peoples in the region, including reconciliation. Last but not least, the new rapprochement between Albania and Serbia has generated a controversial debate on the future of interstate relations between Albania and Kosovo.

The efforts to normalize relations between the states of Albania and Serbia began soon after the fall of the Milosevic regime, and took on new impetus after the last change in the political map of the Balkans with Kosovo’s declaration of independence in 2008. The recognition of Kosovo as an independent state marks the solution of what for Albanians, in the past 100 years, has constituted the essence of the national question.

In the past two years, Albania and Serbia have increased their political communication substantially and have undertaken some concrete steps to enhance economic collaboration. Despite modest progress thus far, all the necessary premises are now in place to mark a new era of relations between the two states. To date, there has been low local support for the development of the relations between two states and their respective people. The causes of this are historic, and they include the myth of eternal enmity between Serbs and Albanians in the Balkans, the war in Kosovo and the ethnic cleansing campaigns undertaken by the Milosevic regime there, as well as weak economic interdependence. In today’s new context, local ownership would be necessary to deepen the bilateral relations in a sustainable way.

This paper analyzes the current state of relations between Albania and Serbia and the potential implications for the relations between Albania and Kosovo in the context of the recent rapprochement between Tirana and Belgrade.

 

Conflict as a dominant narrative

Despite the fact that Albania and Serbia as two independent states have never fought a war against each other, conflict and enmity have been the dominant mode of relations between Serbs and Albanians. In addition, there has been a constant effort on the Serbian side to dominate in this relationship, starting at least from the establishment of the modern states in the region, during a period when the examination and comparing of facts is easily feasible.

In the eyes of Albanians, neighboring states in the region have historically been racing and fighting among themselves to grab and divide as much Albanian territory as possible. Following the establishment of the modern Albanian state in 1912, on a fraction of what Albanians historically considered to be their territory, Serbia and Montenegro took the lion’s share of Albanian-inhabited areas, with “40 percent of the Albanian nation and over half of the territories inhabited by Albanians” ending up in the northern neighboring states.1 This was perceived as a great injustice for which Albanians blamed their neighbors but also the great European powers of the time. In a paradoxical and even tragic way, the establishment of the modern Albanian state created rather than solved the Albanian national question, the solution of which in 1912 included the return of the Albanian territories annexed by neighbors, mainly what later became Yugoslavia, with the support of the Great Powers.

Preparing the foundations for the creation of the modern Albanian state during the period of King Zog was initially accompanied by a controversial foreign policy, especially toward Belgrade. However, King Zog very skillfully achieved the right balances in the Balkans in an environment which was entirely hazardous towards the future of an Albanian state.

After the end of the Second World War, Albanian-Serbian relations were developed in the context of state relations between Albania and the Yugoslav Federation. In an extraordinary turn of events for a traditional understanding of Albanian-Serbian relations, Albania and Yugoslavia, at the time both communist countries, established a completely different relationship in the years immediately after the war. They quickly moved into a special alliance consolidated by a number of agreements which signaled that Albania was about to become part of the Yugoslav Federation.2 The extraordinary influence that Yugoslavia had on the communist government of Enver Hoxha could be easily explained by the role that the Yugoslav Communist Party played in the establishment of the Albanian Communist Party. Hence Albania was swiftly and silently sliding into the Yugoslav orbit with plans to join the federation as a seventh republic. In 1946, with the signing of a Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance Albania and Yugoslavia entered into a formal alliance of a dual political and military nature, which, as mentioned above, was an extraordinary departure in the foreign policy of the entire history of the Albanian modern state. This alliance was further strengthened by signing the Treaty for Coordination of Economic Policy, achieving a customs union and unified currency, while in 1947, Belgrade presented the plan to unify Albania and Yugoslavia on a federal basis. However, one year later, in 1948, the disagreements between the Soviet Union and the Yugoslav Federation ended the honeymoon between Albania and Yugoslavia.

Relations between Albanians and Serbs, as part of state relations between Albania and the Yugoslav Federation, froze for about two decades. However, at the end of the 1960s there were a set of new developments between the two states influenced by several factors. These concerned mostly Cold War dynamics such as the dramatic development of the occupation of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union, but also the new alliance between Albania and China. This was the second non-conflict relationship period since the end of the Second World War. Among other things, the new relationship also enabled dynamic cooperation in several areas between Albania and Kosovo. At the beginning of the 1990s, Albania had just emerged out of communism, and a shrinking Yugoslavia fell under the leadership of Milosevic. The countries came close to a military conflict at the time, a trend that continued for the entire decade. However, despite the fact that conflict has been the predominant relationship mode, Albania and Serbia, as two independent states, have never fought an official war against each other.

 

Towards a new chapter

Since the fall of the Milosevic regime, Albania has been willing to establish dialogue and cooperation with Serbia. Even before the removal of Milosevic, during some of the most difficult and tense times in the relations between Albanians and Serbs, then Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano did not hesitate to meet then Serbian President Milosevic at the Crete Summit in November 1997. At the time the war in Kosovo, the last of the wars of Former Yugoslavia, was about to erupt, it is unlikely that the Crete Summit, and more specifically the meeting between the Prime Minister of Albania and the President of Serbia, could have served to stop the new conflict between Serbs and Albanians, or contributed to a new climate in the region. Following the Crete Summit, Milosevic declared that Kosovo was an internal Serbian issue and that a solution was to be found in providing guarantees for the fundamental human rights of Albanians in Kosovo and not in granting autonomy.

After the fall of Milosevic, the political dialogue and the official relations between Tirana and Belgrade began to enter onto a normal path, having an active and consistent approach of Albania’s diplomacy behind them. Immediately after the re-establishment of the diplomatic relations in January 2001, both countries committed to increasing communication. In 2003 Deputy Prime Minister Ilir Meta visited Belgrade. In addition, several visits of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs took place on both sides.

Economic relations, despite being quite modest due to the long separation and lack of communication, have now raised the interest and captured the attention of both countries. At the same time, a number of relevant agreements have been signed. Trade exchanges have jumped from a mere $233,000 in 2000 to $139 million in 2010. During the past three years, trade and other exchanges have risen consistently and a number of competitive Serbian companies present in the region have openly expressed their ambition to enter the Albanian market. The current annual economic exchanges have reached €173 million.3

In September 2014, Air Serbia started regular direct flights to Tirana, thereby facilitating communications between people, while statistics show that year after year an increasing number of Serbian tourists choose Albania as a tourist destination.

There are several factors and issues that make cooperation and integration difficult. These include the relatively long isolation of the two societies from each other, the lack of communication and, among other things, the lack of mutual cultural knowledge and interaction in addition to the strong myth of enmity between the two peoples. But the issue of Kosovo is more important than all the above: The Kosovo War, the independence of Kosovo and the subsequent recognition and support from Albania, most Western states and more than half of UN members, but not Serbia and its allies, remain a clear point of division.

Many Serbian citizens who visit Albania and especially Tirana today are very surprised to find an open-minded society and a friendly environment, far from the enemy that they feared. Their surprise stems from the perception that they have of Albania and for Albanians. The myth of ‘two people and two countries forever enemies’ seems to have a hold over a considerable part of Serbian society and, unfortunately, the Serbian elite. The same myth is rooted in the mentality of many Albanians as well, although this is more relevant for segments of the Albanian diaspora in the West as well as for Albanians in Kosovo and Macedonia.

According to the most recent relevant study of the Albanian Institute for International Studies, the majority of Albanians, contrary to expectations, believe that if there is a state that represents a major threat to Albania, it is Greece, not Serbia.4

 

Albania and Kosovo, two brothers, each one in his own home 5

Since 2008, Albania and Kosovo have made efforts to accommodate their relationship as two independent states. It is paradoxical and even ironic that what seemed to be an easy feat, a guaranteed smooth operation, is tuning out not to be such. One reason, for which neither Tirana nor Pristina can be blamed, is the past, the separation and the long-term lack of communication between the two societies and elites as well as the very weak, indeed almost nonexistent relations between the two markets. Historically the economic and market relations between Albania and Kosovo were very natural, especially in the northern and eastern part of Albania until the first decade of the 20th century. However, the decision of the European powers to recognize the shrunken Albanian state in 1913 left outside its formal borders purely ethnic Albanian cities like Prizren and Gjakova, hence interrupting the natural and coherent markets as well as civic cultural exchanges.6 For more than 100 years of the history of the modern Albanian state, Albania and Kosovo have functioned as two separate markets. The short-term establishment of the Natural Albania, almost on its ethnic borders, during the Second World War by Nazi Germany, remained nevertheless very far from creating a functional state, market and joint administration.78 Ten years after Kosovo’s declaration of independence, the state of economic relations is unveiling other forms of incoherence between the tendency to cooperate and the reality in the ground. The emergence of an ethnic market between Albania and Kosovo might seem as natural development given the fact that the two states belong to the same ethnic group, sharing the same language and culture. Now that Kosovo is an independent state and the context is much friendlier, the natural tendency is expected of being that of economic integration with Albania. In spite of this, the economy remains one of the weakest links in bilateral relations. In order to understand what seems like an anomaly in the relations between Albania and Kosovo, we must look backward in time.

Throughout the past century, the markets and the economies of these two countries have existed in complete isolation from each other. The trade relations that existed at the beginning of the 20th century, influenced by the long period of Ottoman rule, were destroyed for many decades. Kosovo became part of the wide market of Yugoslavia, while Albania slowly turned into itself. The difficult years of the 90s when communist regimes collapsed and Yugoslavia dissolved were certainly not favorable years to conduct trade in a legal and legitimate form.

Second, for many decades, both these economies have been primarily agrarian and often very underdeveloped. Similar to most of the countries in the Balkans, the degree of industrialization in Albania and Kosovo is quite low even today and that is a serious obstacle to integration into the current profitable global economic sectors.

Third, the markets and economies of the Balkan states are being increasingly oriented toward member states of the European Union and especially neighboring ones, such as Italy and Greece. Trade exchanges between the Balkan countries which are not members of the EU, are very far from their real potential. The strengthening of the economic ties between Albania and Kosovo is of crucial importance for the economic development of both countries. Through Albania, Kosovo has an access point to the sea and also an opportunity to expand its very small existing market. The highway between Durrës and Kukës, popularly known as “The Nation’s Road,” has brought recognizable changes in the road infrastructure between both countries and will facilitate Kosovo’s use of the Durrës Port.

The social and cultural sphere presents a slightly more dynamic panorama. To a certain degree, Albania and Kosovo seem to represent two different societies and two different levels of modernization. Religion and family play a much different role in terms of quantitative and perhaps even qualitative importance in the social structure of each country. However, at the same time, both societies reflect common characteristics including the low level of law implementation, the weak organizational power of communities, etc.

Kosovo is starting to resemble Albania more and more when we consider developments pertaining to society, state, culture, education and media. However it remains to be seen whether this means that Albania is exporting a model or whether it is a normal manifestation of the contradictory developments within Kosovo society itself.

Albania was among the very first countries9 that officially recognized the independence of Kosovo, which seems to be thus far the only true contribution to the recognition of the sovereignty of Kosovo as a state, despite many claims that Albania played a significant role in securing new recognitions for Kosovo in the global arena.10

This decade of bilateral relations has been characterized by more enthusiasm, fewer obstacles but still very little substance. It seems that the heritage of a shared market of the former Yugoslavia still has the upper hand: Business ties from the time when Kosovo was part of the Yugoslav Federation are still strong to this day. Hence Kosovo, a former unit of Yugoslav Federation , has developed a dependence on market exchanges with the other former members of Yugoslavia, but not with Albania. This is also the reason that the countries that once made up Yugoslavia, and now are all independent states, from an economic perspective, are all returning to their previous experience in a sort of ‘back to the future’ fashion.

This scenario is not valid for Albania. It cannot turn back to any previous experience in its relations with Kosovo except to the times before 1913, when, as mentioned earlier, the main Kosovo cities were an integral and functioning part of the economy of Northern Albania. In the meantime, the idea of establishing a common market between Albania and Kosovo based on ethnic commonalities, in spite of all the desires and patriotic slogans, seems not to be working. Both markets, in Kosovo and in Albania, reflect a very low scale of functionality and their ethnic commonality is certainly not helping. Despite the improvement in the infrastructure that connects the countries and the repeated efforts by both governments, a healthy and vibrant economic exchange relationship is yet to happen. In the last three years, Albania has taken the initiative of holding joint government meetings in order to push forward bilateral collaboration, mainly in the economic field. However, we have not seen any results yet. In the last four or five years, both countries have signed several agreements in the areas of economy, education and even culture; however, most of these are not accompanied by the necessary concrete instruments, including the needed bylaws and regulations that would directly help the development of economic relations. These ‘brotherly’ agreements between two countries resemble more general protocols where the two sides commit to the deepening of the collaboration in principle, while at the same time, practically, there are many barriers between the countries that impede the communication and economic cooperation.11 The so-called “Greater Albania,” in modern terms, can only be seen as a “Greater Economic Albania,” but from both sides of the border we have not seen yet any serious initiative and instruments to enable it.12

The poor state of relations in the economic field should also be analyzed and understood in the context of the current economies in Albania and Kosovo. This explanation should also take into account the low level of rule of law, widespread corruption and the influence of monopolies in both economies.

From the strategic point of view, both Albania and Kosovo see their joint future as members of the European Union13 and not in establishing a joint state, as is often speculated with the idea and term of “Greater Albania.” At the society level, the majority of citizens in Albania believe that relations with the state of Kosovo are of primary importance, and they want their government to pay proper attention to these relations.14 However, Albanians in Albania do not support the unification of Kosovo with Albania. Only 9 percent of Albanians believe that unification would be a positive thing, whereas a full 35 percent believe that it would be a negative development. Another 37 percent are neutral on the issue.15 The situation is very different in Kosovo, where 81 percent of the surveyed public is in favor of the unification with Albania into one single state.16 However, Albanian leaders prefer a sort of ambiguity, with vague notions,17 when they speak about the future of both states, in an attempt not to lose the votes of the remaining nationalists who keep talking about the unsolved national issue and see its solution in the unification of the two states. Currently in Albania there are no large political parties or any other serious organizations that support or call for the unification of Kosovo with Albania. On the other hand, Kosovo’s Vetëvendosja (Self-Determination) Party has a political platform to unify the two states, but it has failed to increase its clout and numbers in the parliament to turn its platform into action.

The relations between Kosovo and Albania as two independent states are determined by a variety of complex factors. These include the long separation in the past, beginning with the establishment of the independent Albanian state, very weak economic ties, the missing links between cultures and peoples as well as the current poor state of both economies, the low grade of functionality of the state and democracy, and finally the populist actions on both sides.

However there seems to be another new factor that will influence the future of the relations between Albania and Kosovo, again as two independent states, in a stronger and perhaps more decisive way, and that is the new rapprochement between Albania and Serbia.

 

Albania-Serbia, Kosovo as a proxy battle

When Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama visited Belgrade in November 2014, the first Albanian government head to visit since Enver Hoxha in 1946, it was not expected that the agenda of discussions would include Kosovo in any way. It was well understood that more than the agenda of the event, what mattered was the very fact that this visit was happening.

The attention of European diplomats, as well as that of the local and international media, focused simply on the fact that after many decades of conflict, an Albanian Prime Minister was going to Serbia and not on the content of the conversations that were to happen. The symbolism behind the change was clear: “The two greatest enemies in the Balkans are departing from the past and setting out towards peace.”

In the same vein, the poor state of relations between Albania and Serbia was another factor that was impeding any immediate concrete agenda of bilateral relations, even less so of a high level meeting of the two governments. The only feasible thing was an agreement in principal to cooperate.

In the meantime there were at least three factors which suggested the exclusion of Kosovo from the agenda of the meeting of the two Prime Ministers:

First of all, Kosovo has been an independent state since 2008 recognized by more than one hundred states, including Albania. Despite the fact that currently Serbia does not recognize Kosovo as an independent state, both countries have entered into a process of dialogue and have signed several agreements mediated by a third party, the European Union. The inclusion of Kosovo in the agenda of the bilateral talks between Albania and Serbia, which was in fact the inclusion of a third country, was entirely out of place and suggestive of incorrect assumptions. Kosovo’s inclusion would have suggested that Kosovo could be perceived and interpreted as an issue that needed to be resolved between Albania and Serbia. This did not happen even prior to 2008 when the status of Kosovo was really unsettled after the fall of the Milosevic regime. Albania has never conditioned its relations with Serbia after the democratic changes that happened there and until 2008 when Kosovo’s independence was declared. During this period Albania, in cases when the issue of Kosovo emerged, applied the formula ‘agree to disagree’ in order to foster dialogue and cooperation with Serbia.

Second, even though there exists a possibility that Albania can influence and can encourage the recognition of Kosovo as an independent state by countries that haven’t done this yet, this opportunity has rarely materialized and is unlikely to do so in the future.18 This is also due to the fact that Albania itself is a small country, a weak state in which the international community frequently interferes in both internal and foreign policies. And of course Albania had little power to influence Serbia’s decision with regard to the recognition of Kosovo.

Third, there was a potential hazard of including an issue such as Kosovo’s independence for which Albania and Serbia maintain diametrically opposite positions in a special meeting that happened after so many decades of a divergence of opinions. This would neither help the meeting nor contribute to the fulfillment of expectations for a new climate between these two countries long hostage to the myth of “historical enmity.”

Another accidental factor that excluded Kosovo from this high level agenda was the incident in the Belgrade stadium with the flight of the “famous drone,” carrying a flag that was later interpreted as a flag of Greater Albania. Just one week prior to the visit of the Prime Minister of Albania to Serbia, both countries nearly returned to a clash that was reminiscent of the past. Within 24 hours, both governments exchanged Protest Notes.19 The ambassadors of both countries were urgently called to the relevant diplomatic premises. The highest level statesmen from both countries were involved in declarations, polemics and even accusations made from a distance.

These, among other details, bore a stunning resemblance to the Cold War times of 70 years ago, when Albania and Tito’s Yugoslavia ended their ‘honeymoon’ in 1948. The myth of the historical enmity between Albanians and Serbs in the Balkans reappeared suddenly and in an absurd way in the interstate relations between Albania and Serbia.

However, despite the fact that including Kosovo in this first meeting of heads of governments after 70 years would be neither rational nor beneficial, it happened nevertheless. Kosovo was included in front of the press, and the public reaction to the two different stances on the state of Kosovo of the two Prime Ministers almost eclipsed everything else, including the importance and the symbolic nature of the entire visit. The lengthy speech of the Prime Minister of Albania focused excessively on “the issue of Kosovo” in Belgrade, and the speech was saluted by Albanian political leaders20 from Albanian populist circles, especially those outside Albania, including some of the political leaders in Kosovo.

A similar process happened in Serbia. Kosovo served as a “proxy battle” for nationalists and populists, including Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic who expressed pity for what he called “the provocation of the Prime Minister of Albania,” while all Serbian local media unified in their position and glorified “his determination to confront the provocations and protect Kosovo, whose independence we shall never recognize.”

On the other side, the government of Kosovo and high level state officials showed restraint with regard to this “patriotic act of the Albanian Prime Minister in the heart of Belgrade” and through almost neutral comments stressed the fact that Kosovo and Serbia were currently engaged in a dialogue with each other.

Hashim Thaçi, at that time Prime Minister of Kosovo, while “congratulating Rama on his stance about the necessity of ‘coming to terms with the reality of the independent Kosovo,’” also highlighted the ongoing dialogue process between Serbia and Kosovo.21

Meanwhile, in Tirana and Prishtina, independent analysts highlighted that the important aspect of the meeting between Rama and Vucic was the effort from both leaders to project an image of collaboration to Brussels and other Western decision-making circles.22

Since that first meeting in the autumn of 2014, the Prime Ministers of Albania and Serbia have continued to meet more frequently,23 in order to push forward a new climate in the interstate relations and simultaneously build their own image as modern leaders, who "look toward the future.”

Despite the fact that economic ties between Albania and Serbia are still weak, trade flow during the past two years have witnessed a modest increase,24 while both administrations are looking for new instruments in order to further develop economic cooperation.25

However, efforts to establish a new close relationship between Albania and Serbia have not been welcomed in Kosovo. Starting with a lack of enthusiasm and neutral positions noticed in the beginning, political leaders in Kosovo look progressively more critical positions on what was happening between Tirana and Belgrade. They think that Tirana is “rushing” its efforts to deepen relations with Belgrade.

Why does Prishtina harbor so much skepticism regarding the rapprochement between Tirana and Belgrade? At the political level, Kosovo and Serbia, while being engaged in a process of dialogue facilitated by the EU, have reached some solutions or have begun to approach the solving of some practical issues between their countries. These issues have a direct impact on the lives of their citizens despite the fact that Serbia does not recognize the independence of Kosovo. From the economic point of view, there is more substance between Kosovo and Serbia than there is in economic relations between Kosovo and Albania.

It is clear that the nervous stance and opposition that Kosovo shows is not related to the deepening and developing of economic relations between Albania and Serbia in particular, nor is it even related to the development of the state relations and their rapprochement per se.

The reserved position of the government of Kosovo with regard to the rapprochement has to do with the fact that Albania and Serbia, continue “to keep” Kosovo on their bilateral agenda in a situation in which in Kosovo, de facto, Serbia does not have any kind of sovereignty whereas Albania de facto and de jure has recognized Kosovo’s independence. The same has been done by more than one hundred states, most of the Security Council members, most of the EU members and most of the globe’s democratic states.

 

Is Albania trying to play the role of ‘mother country’ toward Kosovo and if so why?

When, 103 years ago, the European powers recognized the Albanian state, they split Albanian territories. Therefore Albania, the established state, at that time became the ‘mother country’ in relation to Kosovo and the other Albanian populations that made up compact communities in the then Kingdom of Yugoslavia and later, after World War II, the Yugoslav Federation. But for the first hundred years Albania could not play the role of the mother country toward Albanians that were left out of the official state borders and acquired the status of minorities.

Even after the collapse of the communist regime and the end of the Cold War, Albania, a very weak state occasionally endangered itself, could not play the role of mother country to Kosovo and other Albanian minorities in the Yugoslav Federation, which had started to violently disintegrate.

Albania in a consistent way has supported Western policies in the Balkans and its political position in relation to the future of Kosovo has not differed from that of the western powers, such as the United States and major European countries. Despite the fact that political leaders in Albania have often declared that they supported the independence of Kosovo, the official political class in Tirana was unable to form and advocate for a unique point of view and position, independent from others, in relation to the future of Kosovo as an independent state. Such a thing did not happen at least not before the start of the war in Kosovo.

It would be worse than paradoxical and ironic if Albania tries to do now what it could not do before: To play the role of mother country now after more than 100 years and with Kosovo already independent, a role never played for known historical reasons. There is no doubt that after 2008, Albania could no longer be the mother country of an independent Kosovo. It is even questionable whether Albania should play the same role for Albanians in the Presevo Valley, which constitute a minority in Serbia. It is quite natural that for the Albanian minority in Presevo, Kosovo and not Albania is considered their mother country. To arrive at that conclusion, one must keep in mind that the Presevo Valley is an integral part of the same economic and cultural unity that connects it to Kosovo first and foremost, before ever connecting it to Albania.26 In a context when Albania cannot even theoretically play the mother country role for Kosovo in its relations with Serbia, is it then reasonable for Albania “to keep the elephant in the living room”, a proxy battle, just as it is for Serbia? Albania has continuously asked to be rewarded for its moderate policy in the Balkans, where bloody conflicts and disagreements have been raging and where tensions persist to the present day. The international community has often spoken about Albania’s constructive role in the Balkans and as a result Albania has been waiting to be rewarded for its constructiveness. The reward is often conceptualized mainly as support from the West for individuals and leaders, rather than for the countries and states that they lead.

Currently this role for Albania in the Balkans is decreasing for at least three reasons. First, the recognition of Kosovo as an independent state with its own institutions and its own government naturally reduces the role that Tirana could potentially play in the region. Second, the efforts of Albania to influence developments in Kosovo (and also in Macedonia) have been perceived mostly as paternalism, which also explains the gradual rebuttal from the political elites in Kosovo. Third, the efforts of Tirana to influence the politics in Kosovo have ended up being clientelistic actions to back certain political parties or even worse single individuals. And last but not least, the recurrent crises in Albania, that sometimes have bordered on state collapse, have eroded the legitimacy, the reputation and therefore the possibility of Albania exerting a leadership role as a model for Albanians in the Balkans.27

The efforts to build up a new climate in the relations between Albania and Serbia are in fact efforts to normalize these bilateral relations. On the surface it looks paradoxical that two states without any substantial contested issues would have difficulties to normalize relations. This of course would not be the case if the two countries chose to leave their Kosovo stances out of their bilateral agenda. In fact, including a third country like Kosovo, is a paradox in itself.28

The European Union is already playing the role of mediator, as a third party, in the normalization of the relations between Serbia and Kosovo. Therefore, it does not make any sense for Albania, a small and weak state, to try to play the very same role. Additionally, let’s not forget the implications that came with the fact that Albania as a state was considered at least formally the mother country for Kosovo until 2008, the year of Prishtina’s declaration of independence. Currently, Albania does not have a mandate to negotiate with Serbia on behalf of Kosovo and expectations that Albania could have any influence on the relations between Serbia and Kosovo do not exist, either in Belgrade or in Tirana.29 Kosovo itself is opposed to any intermediating role of Albania, among other reasons because “Albania is not a global actor like the United States or the European Union.” Therefore, in the relations between Kosovo and Serbia, the former requires the support of the United States or the European Union,” which are in possession of the instruments that can make a difference.30

Hence, if Albania is a state too small and weak and dependent on a high degree of interference on the part of the international community in its internal and foreign affairs; if Kosovo itself does not desire a mediating role for Albania in its relations with Serbia and considering that this role has been already taken up by an international power like the EU, what then would explain the persistence of official Tirana to keep the “issue of Kosovo” on the bilateral agenda with Serbia? The term itself, “issue of Kosovo” symbolizes fully the mythic notion of post-communist political Albania concerning Kosovo.31

Throughout the last 25 years, since the beginning of the dissolution of Yugoslavia, in the “battle of Albania for the issue of Kosovo” the elements of a proxy battle have been abundant. The issue of Kosovo before and after independence has been used first and foremost by political leaders of Albania in order to advance their own short term political interests and second, most importantly, the issue has been used to secure legitimacy from the international community for their “moderate and constructive policies in the Balkans.” On the other side, the political leadership in Kosovo has accepted these proxy elements by welcoming the package of support and contributions from Albania. In the meantime, political figures in Kosovo have also used their connections and influence in Albania for their internal political conflict. In this complex relationship between Tirana and Prishtina there have often been disagreements, polemics, but for the first time we are witnessing real tension in the political relations between these “two brothers.” The battle that Tirana is currently waging with Belgrade for Kosovo implies the perception that in fact Kosovo, factually a third state, is simply a matter that should be solved between Albania and Serbia.32 The tensions between Kosovo and Albania were at an apex particularly after the visit of the Albanian Prime Minister to Serbia in October 2016. First, some independent voices in Prishtina compared the behavior of Albania regarding Kosovo to the behavior of Serbia regarding Republika Srpska and considered this approach as entirely “unacceptable.”33 The government of Kosovo joined these critical voices through the comments of Foreign Affairs Minister Enver Hoxhaj, who warned Tirana that as far as “the normalization of the Kosovo-Serbia relations, Kosovo is itself a political actor and Albania is clear about the process and ... will be clear about it even in the future.”34

Kosovo and its relationship with Serbia is becoming increasingly included as an issue on the agenda of the bilateral relations between Albania and Serbia, whereas it is an of a third state and naturally under the mandate of that specific state, in this case Kosovo.35

Albania and Serbia have prepared project proposals about infrastructure whose implementation, such as in the case of the Durrës-Nish highway, implies the agreement and the engagement of a third state that geographically stands between them, that of Kosovo. The signing of bilateral protocols between Albania and Serbia for these infrastructure protocols has generated concern and even alarm in Prishtina which fears that the signed agreements recognize the sovereignty of Serbia over Kosovo.36

Keeping this “elephant in the room,” while the elephant was set free in 2008, is not the only thing that makes the “proxy” battle of Albania, as well as that of Serbia, for Kosovo not only useless but dangerous. With this new rapprochement with Serbia, Albania has not hidden its ambitions to lead together with Serbia the process of reconciliation between Albanians and Serbs in the Balkans.

According to the Prime Minister of Albania, “Serbia and Albania must look forward, accomplishing for the Balkans what Germany and France accomplished for the entire Europe after World War II.”37 Is the Franco-German model of reconciliation sustainable for the case of Albania and Serbia? Enmity between Albanians and Serbs is a myth, unlike the case of the enmity and rivalry between France and Germany. Most importantly, in the modern conflict between Albanians and Serbs the issue of Kosovo has been central. Despite the conflict dominated relationship, Albania and Serbia as two independent states have never fought against each other, as France and Germany have often done until the end of the Second World War, of course if we don’t consider the efforts of Serbia, Montenegro, Greece and the European powers to split Albanian territories on the eve of the establishment and recognition of the Albanian state. The war, the genocide, the mass killings, the mass dislocations have happened in Kosovo and not in Albania. Under these circumstances, is it possible for Albania to lead the reconciliation between Albanians and Serbs in the Balkans?38 Hashim Thaçi, President of Kosovo, has a clear and unequivocal answer to this question: “The full normalization of Albanian-Serbian relations does not go from Belgrade through Tirana, but through Prishtina”.39

 

Conclusions

Albania and Serbia are two key states with regard to the security, stability and development of the Balkans. Their relations are strategic relations and as such they require local ownership and local support, aside from the encouragement and support of the European Union.

The new rapprochement between Albania and Serbia obviously has the backing of special key European powers who have high expectations for results. The support of the European Union, in general, and that of Germany, in particular, for a new era in the state relations between Albania and Serbia is related to the expectations for the idea of reconciliation of Albanians and Serbs as the two “biggest enemy states” in the Balkans.

Deepening and developing state relations between Albania and Serbia can help to create a new climate between Albanians and Serbs in the Balkans, however, the reconciliation between Albanians and Serbs as two peoples must happen between Serbia and Kosovo.

In the meantime there are two decisive factors that shape the current relations between Albania and Kosovo: The recognition of Kosovo as an independent state and the new relations between Albania and Serbia.

Since the declaration of independence of Kosovo in 2008, Albania and Kosovo have been trying to develop entirely new relations, now as two independent states. It might seem like a paradox, but the accommodation and the functioning of Albania and Kosovo as two independent states and furthermore the development of the relations between them seems a difficult feat even after almost a decade. From time to time, on the state border that now separates two ethnically Albanian states, we see the explosion of “little wars” about the trade of potatoes, milk, flour, etc. In the relations between the two states, there is less substance and disproportionately more facade about the brotherly cooperation. In addition, there is a constant paternalistic attitude from Tirana that from time to time results in nervous reactions from Prishtina.

For well-known historical reasons, Albania could never play the role of ‘mother country’ toward Kosovo or the other Albanian minorities in the Balkans and it is understood that every effort to try to play this role after the independence of Kosovo would be absurd and damaging. Kosovo and Albania, as two independent states, could harmonize their regional policies, especially those that concern Albanian minorities in other countries in the Balkans, rather than having clashing positions.

Since 2008, as far as relations between Albania and Serbia are concerned, Kosovo is not and can no longer be “the elephant in the room.” Not adapting to this reality and still keeping he same position means ignoring the fact that Kosovo is independent, which could lead to serious implications in its relations with Serbia. In the meantime, it also relativizes, if not undermining altogether, the role of the international factors, as third parties between Serbia and Kosovo, such as in the case of the European Union. And last but not least a ‘proxy’ battle from Tirana has brought on the clouds of a tension and antagonism between Albania and Kosovo.

Populist and paternalistic stances from both Belgrade and Tirana will keep the stagnant status quo in state relations between Albania and Serbia and become an obstacle toward real progress, while simultaneously substantially damaging state relations between Albania and Kosovo.

 

1Biberaj, "Albania in international relations"

 2Biberaj, "An unequal alliance"

3"Further steps to normalize relations" Tirana Times, 7

4Cela, “Albanian Serbian Relations", 22

5Jan Braathu, Ambassador of Norway to Kosovo and Albania quoting President Ibrahim Rugova, “We are two brothers, but we live in separate houses,”

6Armstrong, “The six months Kingdom”

7Fischer, “Albania 1943-45”

8Milo, “Udhëkryqe shqiptaro-gjermane”

9Certainly, after the recognition from the United States and major European countries.

 10The latest initiative of the Albanian diplomacy to support the membership of Kosovo in UNESCO failed quite spectacularly, with the abstention of some European countries which have in fact recognized its independence since many years ago.

11“Albania still doesn’t recognize certificates of origin issued by Kosovo authorities which makes the export of Kosovo products to Albania difficult.” Naim Gashi

12In order to assess how ridiculous the thesis of Greater Albania, often claimed by third parties, truly is one needs only to observe the economic relations.

 13Rakipi “Il Piemonte Albanese e Bruxelles”

 14AIIS, "People on state and democracy"

 15Ibid.

16The support for the Natural Albania seems spectacular in Kosovo with about 81 percent of those asked in favour, however this number seems questionable if we consider the fact that the political party Vetëvendosja, the only serious political organization that supports the unification of the two states, received only 12 percent of the ballots in general elections in Kosovo.

 17The series of joint government meetings between Albania and Kosovo started with the first meeting held in Prizren. The choice of the place, Prizren, coupled with the careful scenography of the event full of flags, and two leaders of course was a reflection of the symbolic history of unity, enshrined in the League of Prizren.

18In 2015, Albania undertook a leading role in assisting Kosovo’s efforts to become a member of UNESCO but this attempt failed as many states which have in fact recognized Kosovo’s independence abstained in the voting.

 19Agolli, "Shqipëria notë proteste Serbisë", Voice of America

20 “Demaçi and Thaçi on Rama’s declarations", InfoAlbania

21Ponatov, "Albanian visit to Serbia"

22 Robelli “Rama’s visit to Belgrade”, Koha.net

23In addition to meeting in third countries, the Serbian Prime Minister Vucic visited Tirana in March of 2015, while the Albanian Prime Minister visited Belgrade again in October of this year (2016).

 24Albania-Kosovo trade exchanges continue to remain lower than with Serbia, Tirana Times

 25In October 2016 Albania and Serbia established The Joint Chamber of Commerce with the aim of encouraging trade exchanges and potential investments.

 26 “Rama meets Vucic” - Gazeta Dita

27Rakipi, “Talking Albanian Foreign Policy”

 28The Italian proposal in the summer of 2014 to mediate between Albania and Serbia has been equally paradoxical in a context when these two countries have never experienced disagreements that require the facilitation of a third country, barring of course the case when in the relations between Albania and Serbia one includes Kosovo.

 29Zaba, “Serbia-Albania Relations: A Fragile Work in Progress”

 30Hoxhaj, “We don’t need Albania’s help to dialogue with Serbia”

31Since the start of the dissolution of former Yugoslavia and throughout the recent 25 years it has been in the agenda of every meeting with third parties including that of the President, Head of Government, Foreign Affairs Ministers and even down to Commune mayors.

 32During the last meeting in October of 2016 between the Prime Ministers of Albania and Serbia in Belgrade, Kosovo dominated the public discussion between them in front of an audience of experts and journalists. For more see Belgrade Security Forum, October 2016.

 33Pallaska, “Albania can not behave with Kosovo as Serbia behaves to Republika Srpska”, Telegrafi.

 34Hoxhaj, “We don’t need Albania’s help”

35During the public semi-formal meeting between the Prime Ministers of Albania and Serbia in Belgrade, in October of 2016, the issues that were prominent in the discussion were: the decision of the government of Kosovo to nationalize the mines of Trepça, the arresting of the Albanian police director of Mitrovica Police and similar issues.

 36Hasani, “Albania and Serbia undo Kosovo”

37 Ibid.

 38Robelli, The Albanian-Serbian reconciliation” Koha Jonë

 39Comments of the Kosovo President, Hashim Thaçi, for Klan Kosova TV.

 

REFERENCES

"Adem Demaçi and Menduh Thaçi vlerësojnë deklaratat e Ramës në Beograd", InfoAlbania, 12 November 2014. http://infoalbania.al/adem-demaci-dhe-menduh-thaci-vleresojne-deklaratat-e-rames-ne-beograd/ According to the activist Adem Demaçi the speech of the Albanian Prime Minister in Belgrade was an act of courage. According to him, Rama made it clear to the world that Serbians are keeping at their role of hypocrisy. “With his stance in Belgrade, Rama ended the century-old illusions of the Serbian politics that Albania should not speak about Kosovo. Albania showed to Serbia that it is independent from Europe and Edi Rama showed them what they have to do. He showed them that Serbs should look towards Europe and should not daydream about Kosovo”, - Demaçi says.

“Albania-Kosovo trade exchanges continue to remain lower than with Serbia”, Tirana Times, 2 December 2016. Albania’s exports to Serbia rose to 3.2 billion lek (€23.3 mln) in 2015 but imports were seven times higher at almost 21 billion lek (€153 mln), according to INSTAT, Albania’s state statistical INSTAT.

"Albania Twenty Years After: People on State and Democracy" AIIS, 2011. According to the latest relevant study of the AIIS, 88 percent of the citizens in Albania see relations with Kosovo as strategically important, while at the same time 99 percent of them see relations with Italy as such, 94 percent believe the same about the European Union and 90 percent about the United States.

"Rama meets Vucic, let’s do what Germany and France did after the Second World War" (Rama Takohet me Vuçiç, Të bëjmë atë që Franca dhe Gjermania bënë pas Luftës së Dytë Botërore.) Gazeta Dita, 21 April 2015

Agolli, I. "Shqipëria i paraqet notë proteste Serbisë", Voice of America, 16 October 2014. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Albania presented a note of protest on October 16, 2014 to the Serbian government in which the following was stressed: The Albanian government “was strongly condemning the political mud-throwing of the main Serbian leaders against the Albanian state and Albanian people.” The protest note from the Albanian government was in fact a response to that of the Serbian government. http://www.zeriamerikes.com/a/deklarat-e-ditmir-bushatit/2486075.html

Albania, Serbia take further steps to normalize relations, Tirana Times, 13 May 2014.

Armstrong, D. H. “Albania – The six months Kingdom”. AIIS Press, 2012.

Biberaj, E. "Albania: a small power in search of security" in Albania and China: An unequal alliance (Shqipëria dhe Kina - një aleancë e pabarabartë), 13-35. AIIS Press, 2011.

Biberaj, E. Albania in international relations (Shqipëria në marrëdhëniet ndërkombëtare), AIIS Press, 2013

Cela, A. “Albanian Serbian Relations in the eyes of the Albanian public opinion 2015”, 22 Tirana, AIIS, 2015. http://www.aiis-albania.org/sites/default/files/Albania-

Serbia%20relations%20in%20the%20eyes%20of%20the%20albanian%20public%20 2015.pdf

Fischer, B. “Albania 1943-1945: A view through Western Documents”. AIIS Press, 2012.

Hamidi L. et al, Albania and Serbia undo Kosovo (Shqipëria dhe Serbia 'zhbëjnë' Kosovën). Zeri, 19 October 2016. http://zeri.info/aktuale/112919/shqiperia-dhe-serbia-zhbejne-kosoven-dokument/ Signing of a protocol of collaboration between Albania and Serbia on projects of infrastructure.

Hoxhaj, E. "We don't need Albania's help to dialogue with Serbia" (Nuk na duhet ndihma e Shqipërisë për dialogun me Serbinë) http://www.gazetadita.al/hoxhaj-nuk-na-duhet-ndihma-e-shqiperise-per-dialogun-me-serbine/

Milo P., “Udhëkryqe shqiptaro-gjermane”. Toena, 2016.

Pallaska, D. "Albania can not behave to Kosovo as Serbia behaves to Republika Srpska" (“Pallaska: Shqipëria nuk mund të sillet me Kosovën si Serbia me Republikën Srpska.) According to Pallaska, a lawyer and analyst, “Serbia has created Republika Srpska while Kosovo has been created by its own people with their war and with the assistance of the international community.” http://telegrafi.com/pallaska-shqiperia-nuk-mund-te-sillet-kosoven-si-serbia-republiken-srpska-video/

Poznatov, M. "‘Historic’ Albanian visit to Serbia leaves bitter aftertaste" https://www.euractiv.com/section/enlargement/news/historic-albanian-visit-to-serbia-leaves-bitter-aftertaste/ EurActiv, 13 November 2014.

Rakipi A. “Il Piemonte Albanese e Bruxelles”, Limes Nr. 2, Rome 2008.

Rakipi, A. "Talking Albanian Foreign Policy". The Journal of Turkish Weekly, 25 May 2016.

Robelli, E. “Edi Rama’s visit to Belgrade and the unnecessary greetings from Kosovo” (Vizita e Edi Ramës në Beograd  dhe Selamet e panevojshme nga Kosova).

Koha, 12 October 2014.

http://archive.koha.net/index.php/.../docs/repository/pytjet/pdf/jeta-xharra.pdf?id=31&o=349

Robelli, E. "The Albanian-Serbian reconciliation: Large shoes to fill in for Rama and Vucic" (Pajtimi shqiptaro-serb: Këpucët e mëdha për Ramën dhe Vuçiçin) Koha Jonë, 24 October 2016

Zaba, N. "Serbia-Albania Relations: A Fragile Work in Progress". Balkan Insight, 13 October 2016. As Albania’s PM visits Serbia, experts argue that improving Belgrade-

Tirana relations are a result of their leaders’ hope of pleasing the EU rather than a real breakthrough between the two countries.

http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/serbia-albania-relations-a-fragile-work-in-progress-10-13-2016#sthash.cTXRwJYa.dpuf

 

 
                    [post_title] => A new rapprochement between Albania and Serbia: The implications for Kosovo 
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_133314" align="alignright" width="300"]calavera Genoveva Ruiz Calavera[/caption]

An interview with Genoveva Ruiz Calavera, Director for Western Balkans at the EU Directorate General for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations. In this capacity, she is responsible for managing bilateral relations between the EU and Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia, guiding and monitoring their progress toward the EU. In Albania, she has particularly been involved in the justice reform, leading a team of international officials monitoring its implementation. DW's Ani Ruci interviewed her about the justice reform's implementation and its vetting process for judges and prosecutors.

DW: Ms. Calavera when the re-evaluation of judges and prosecutors, the vetting process will start in Albania since it considered as the founding stone to have a fair, impartial and independent judiciary?

Genoveva Ruiz Calavera: You put it very right: the vetting process is so important for Albania that it can be considered a process of historic relevance, a defining moment for the justice system in the country, but not only. Strengthening an impartial, independent, accountable, efficient and truly professional judiciary has relevance also for a broader challenge:to irreversibly consolidate the rule of law in Albania, once for all. With such expectations, clearly, the earlier the process starts the better it will be. The citizens of Albania have already waited too long; they deserve a judicial system that can be truly relied upon, by everybody.

As regards the constitutional and legal requirements for the international community to monitor and, so speak,'accompany' the process, I can only confirm that all preparations have been timely undertaken. The International Monitoring Operation (IMO) is ready to deploy its highly qualified expertise to accompany the process, once the domestic vetting institutions are ready to begin the re-evaluation process, which we hope will start by early Autumn. Yet, to be clear, while the international community holds responsibilities to monitor the process, it is up to the domestic structures, the vetting institutions that have just been put in place, to carry out first-hand the re-evaluation.

 

DW: Are there risks that could jeopardized the overall successful implementation of the vetting process which have been taken to consideration to obviated?

Genoveva Ruiz Calavera: In complex reform processes there are always risks. The vetting process is surely amongst the most complex endeavours on the current reform agenda. Preparations have been carried out based on very intense consultations, both amongst political actors domestically, and between those and the international community, to mitigate as much as possible potential risks. Actual implementation of the process will require dedication, courage, and readiness to swiftly overcome any bottleneck that might come along the way.

 

DW: Will vetting process in Albania handle with the judges or prosecutors that resigned in time, escaping, de facto, from the investigation of their past related to their assets and connections with organized crime? What about those who refuse to declare their assets and don't resign?

Genoveva Ruiz Calavera: The law on the vetting provided a clear timeline for all the members of the judiciary to submit preliminary information on their assets and patrimonies. By that deadline, some judges, prosecutors and legal advisers opted to resign. In a sense this proves that the vetting process has started to deliver, even far ahead of its actual beginning. The process develops on three clear pillars: background, assets and proficiency assessments, which will be compulsory and carried out for each member of the judiciary. We will monitor that investigations will be thorough and ultimately allow cleaning up the ranks of the justice system from those who do not serve in the interest of the Albanian citizens, but have pursued corrupted practices and/or developed links with organised criminal networks.

 

DW: Calavera what's the situation on establishing the High Judicial Council and the High Prosecution Council, two new institutions to implement the justice reform?

Genoveva Ruiz Calavera: We are monitoring very closely the formation of the new councils that will be first-hand responsible to administer the justice system. There are some specific legal responsibilities attributed to the IMO in this regard, when it comes to the appointment of the lay members of those councils. Thus far, we maintained close consultation and partnership with the relevant authorities,in order to carry out our respective duties in a timely fashion and ease the finalisation of these processes.

 

DW: Please could you foresee when the first results of the justice reform in Albania will be achieved as the precondition for Albania opening the accession negotiations with EU?

Genoveva Ruiz Calavera: We have already seen the first results with the new legal framework that has been adopted to underpin justice reform. Further concrete achievements will now depend on many factors and it is difficult to make specific predictions on timing. But one thing has been very reassuring thus far: to see that the citizens' demand for change has not been left unheard. Hopefully, this will continue to push the reform engine forward and generate all the positive changes that are long due. I really have ground to maintain a very optimistic perspective, including with seeing very soon the vetting moving forward.

 

DW: Is the situation within EU in favor of concrete actions and political decisions to speed up the pace of integration process for candidate countries for accession in Western Balkans like Albania?  Is the geo-political situation in the region having its role in the EU enlargement policy?

Genoveva Ruiz Calavera: The EU is facing many challenges, most of which are linked to global issues and complex dynamics also beyond the Union. Recent history has once more shown that when unity within the EU prevails, shared solutions based on solidarity have brought benefits to all countries in Europe and beyond. This has also been relevant for the Western Balkans countries. Cooperation on the refugee crises through the region, for instance, has shown that ever closer partnership is necessary and the ultimate goal of granting EU membership to all countries in the region represents nothing but the culmination of a natural historic trajectory: the Western Balkans are part of the European family and their future lies within the Union. In this context, reference has to be made also to the important progress achieved in the framework of the Western Balkans Process. The recent summit in Trieste was the occasion to strengthen dialogue and also concrete cooperation in many sensitive sectors, confirming a strong joint commitment to advance further our bilateral relations as well as regional cooperation.

 

Interview by Ani Ruci, DW, republished in English by Tirana Times with permission.

 
                    [post_title] => EU's Ruiz Calavera: We hope to start vetting judges and prosecutors in September
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_133311" align="alignright" width="300"]bujar-leskaj-1024x740 Bujar Leskaj is the head of Albania’s Supreme State Audit[/caption]

By BUJAR LESKAJ*

Agenda 2030 is a strategy and concrete work plan of the United Nations for sustainable development at the global level. It seeks to strengthen universal peace and provide greater freedom and well-being in the world. All countries and all stakeholders, acting in partnership and in cooperation, should implement this plan signed by all UN member states.

The Agenda has 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets signed by UN and World Leaders on 25-27 September 2015, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Organization. These targets are based on the Millennium Development Goals 2000-2015 and seek to complete what these did not achieve.

They are integrated, indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental.

UN objectives are orienting and stimulating the actions of the governments of the main and most developed countries today in the world. It is the responsibility of our government so that they can serve as a work plan for government policies and for our new government that will start work in September 2017, as well as a fundamental orientation for the next Parliament.

Agenda 2030 requires a full participation of the government, where each country complies with the global SDGs in its national policies and objectives, depending on its circumstances, capabilities and priorities. Implementation means ensuring a clear commitment on reporting and accountability, as well as ensuring the existence of appropriate and coherent coordination between the various levels of national and local government.

The UN guides governments to move from sectorial perspective to a more integrated decision-making process, oriented by the 2030. This requires leadership, clear engagement at the highest political level, formulating a national strategy and identifying priority areas.

The United Nations has INTOSAI, the community organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs), one of the most trusted and fundamental partners in the success of implementing the SDGs. The UN requires from INTOSAI to oversee the implementation of the SDGs, to determine in real time and objectively how well they have been implemented and  in what quality for the citizens.

Based on the inputs of several INTOSAI working groups and several years of scientific research, INTOSAI, in its recent Congress, INCOSAI XXII in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates in December 2016, identified four approaches for the Monitoring the implementation of the SDGs by the SAIs:

I- Assessing the willingness of the national government to implement monitor and report on the progress of the SDGs, and then audit their functioning and reliability of the data they produce

II- Conducting performance audits that address the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of key government programs that contribute to specific aspects of the SDGs

III- Evaluating and supporting the implementation of the SDG 16 related to an effective, accountable and transparent public institutions

IV: Contribution of SAIs by being models of transparency and accountability in their actions, including auditing and reporting.

Abu Dhabi's Congress highlighted that in order to achieve comprehensive information and monitoring for the SDGs, investments are needed in building up independent national statistical capacities, as well as strengthening the quality and standards. International organizations and donor agencies can also contribute in creating and reporting the data for the monitoring of SDGs.

The INTOSAI Congress underlined that SAIs have an important and independent contribution to give in the process of tracking and reviewing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This contribution is expected to develop and change over time as the SDGs cycle progresses. SAI contributions may include carrying out a basic review of the government's readiness to implement, track and review SDGs, carrying out performance audits based on International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions (ISSAI) and then conduct various types of SAIs audits related to the implementation of the SDGs. SAIs can also assess whether the deployed and systems used by the government to track and report on the progress of the SDGs are appropriate, and at a later stage may audit the main processes for their tracking and reviewing and potentially providing security for the credibility of monitoring data at the national level.

The above steps will depend heavily on the level that governments have advanced in implementing the SDGs and whether there is a suitable base, eg, clear policies or specific programs for this purpose.

We note with concern that in our national policy there is little information and awareness about the objectives of the 2030 Agenda and on the vital importance of their implementation. Looking at recent political developments in Albania (which the article writer, as the representative of a depoliticized constitutional institution cannot and should not comment), measuring the consistency of the new government program with the country's priorities under the SDGs, would constitute a clear and fair standard to seek accountability in the implementation of government policies and programs 2017-2021.

INTOSAI in Abu Dhabi insisted in particular on the role of SAIs in supporting the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) No. 16 "Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels[1]. SDG 16 seeks to ensure that national governments have the institutional capacity to function effectively, with accountability and transparency institutions that are needed to meet the ambitions of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The ability of our government, as well of the governments to in the world, to provide public services in a sustainable way will be largely determined by the health of their public financial management systems through:
  • The Ability to generate sufficient income;
∙ State Budget Planning and execution a regular basis; and ∙ Ensuring accountability and transparence. It is a fundamental duty of SAIs to consider whether public funds are spent with economy, efficiency and effectiveness, in accordance with existing laws and regulations. As the SAI examines the mobilization of budget resources and revenue management, they help improve key public finance management processes. In this way, SAIs contribute to the fight against corruption by reviewing internal audit and making visible the risks by publishing their findings and recommendations in the public domain (traditional media, social media, etc.). Abu Dhabi's Congress launched the challenge of how INTOSAI and SAI members could contribute to the UN's 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, including good governance and strengthening the fight against corruption. This is by no means a challenge only to Supreme Audit Institutions, an exclusively and only their responsibility. National Governance, in our case, first and foremost, the Parliament and the new Government, should not overlook but rather should place them at the center of their interest and goals for 2017-2021, the United Nations 2030 Agenda. It will be, in the first place, in the interest of these two key factors, the Parliament and the Government, to be credible in the eyes of the citizens and the international community if they embrace from the start and without reserve the 2030 Agenda. This agenda and its implementation are closely related to the community of Supreme Audit Institutions and their global organization, INTOSAI. There are three successive UN Resolutions (2011, 2014 and 2015) in support of SAIs and INTOSAI. At the 14th point, UN Resolution A / 69/327 of 14 September 2015 entitled “Promoting inclusive and accountable public services for sustainable development”, states that “UN encourages all States, observers and relevant United Nations institutions to  continue  to  intensify  their  cooperation,  including  in  capacity-building,  with  the International Organization of Supreme  Audit Institutions in order to promote good governance  at  all  levels  by  ensuring  efficiency,  accountability,  effectiveness  and transparency  through  strengthened  supreme  audit  institutions,  including,  as appropriate, the improvement of public accounting systems”. The compliance of the 2017-2020 government's economic, social and environmental program with the Goals of United Nations 2030 Agenda For Sustainable Development would be a crucial step in ensuring transparency, accountability of our public governance for the next four years. By contrast, ignoring the role and objectives of the 2030 Agenda would raise major concerns and questions in the seriousness of government engagement. As the Albanian Supreme Audit Institution SAI we clearly feel our responsibility, even in the context of implementing justice reform, and we are ready to offer and guarantee our modest contribution to deepening the fight against corruption and improving our public governance. [1] SDG 16 Progress for 2017  https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg16 *Bujar Leskaj is the head of Albania’s Supreme State Audit   [post_title] => 2030 Agenda and the Supreme State Audit [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => 2030-agenda-and-the-supreme-state-audit [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-21 09:25:42 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-21 07:25:42 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=133310 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 133307 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2017-07-21 09:08:09 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-21 07:08:09 [post_content] => Albania's main opposition Democratic Party will elect its leader this weekend at a time when the center-right party is defeated, divided and weak. The party has just gone through the worst defeat in its 27-year history and different fractions don't agree on whether the leadership election should have taken place at all this time or even whether the incumbent leader, Lulzim Basha, should have even been allowed to run again. Regardless of what happens inside the party, the thing to keep in mind is that a healthy democracy in Albania requires a strong opposition, and the Democratic Party must reform itself to fit that role. There are three sides in these elections. Basha, the incumbent, Eduard Selami, the challenger, and a group of critics who want the election to be held a later date. Even-though Basha is trying to deflect some of the responsibility for the election loss, it is clear that he is the one most responsible for it, as chief campaigner and as the man behind the losing lawmaker lists the party presented. It would have been best if he had resigned and allowed the party to move on and pick the pieces under new leadership. Selami had a great platform for four years in parliament to become one of the top voices for the Democrats – he did not use it. It is unclear whether he is the best alternative Basha or whether he even has a chance on Saturday. Then there is a group of people arguing against the election and against Basha. They want the election to take place a bit later and without Basha. This group, made up mostly of the old guard of the party, is not perfect either. Most of the members waited to read whether they had made Basha's candidate lists, and when they found out they had been purged, they actively worked against the Democratic Party and contributed to the loss. With three problematic actors at play, the party needs to find a fourth way, that of unity and openness. The Democrats must make the party “cool again” – reaching out to widen it to smart, young Albanians who hold free-market and center-right values of a smaller government, lower taxes and less state interference in everyday life. They must unite all of the opposition into one institution. The Democratic Party must move away from the shady influence of its previous leadership, chiefly historic leader Sali Berisha, a divisive figure among Albanians whose strongman legacy still looms large on the Democratic Party and which the party must shed in order to regain its popularity among Albanian voters. If the Democratic Party wants to survive intact and come to power again, it must reinvent itself. It cannot do so with business as usual or with the election this weekend that will almost certainly allow Basha to stay at the helm and causing the departure of many members and voters. The best solution is to allow for a council or a caretaker interim leader to rule the party for up to two years, to allow for new leaders to emerge through a process of openness and new memberships. Of course, what is more likely to happen is that in keeping with political tradition in Albania the leader will hang on, purge all critics and hope that the Socialist government becomes so corrupt and inept that voters again vote for the lesser evil. Let's hope, for the sake and health of Albanian democracy, that the Democratic Party lives up to its name and can break this bad loop of the Albanian transition from communism. [post_title] => Editorial: Albania's democracy needs a healthy opposition [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-albanias-democracy-needs-a-healthy-opposition [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-21 09:08:09 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-21 07:08:09 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=133307 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 133218 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2017-07-14 08:26:30 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-14 06:26:30 [post_content] => The new craze of the majority which won the last elections convincingly is establishing an online platform for co-governing with the people. Used to have a coalition partner, albeit one that poked them on the ribs all the time, now the socialists need the voice of the citizens to make them govern better. And luckily progress in technology makes the premise easier to accomplish and able to be quite inclusive. That is the premise. A new website has been duly opened entitled gloriously ‘The Albania that we want- Platform for co-governance’. The website has a variety of interesting categories in which citizens can denounce wrongdoings, make their own proposals about issues, give opinions, seek employment and various services, etc. The reality (not the virtual one, the old uncool one) is that platforms like this either partially exist (e-government) or have lived short and unsuccessful lives (transparence.al.) Adding some features to them or combining them in one overarching site may do some good to efficiency but cannot replace a governance system as this executive-to-be is attempting now. And the first negative consequences are starting to show. Asked by the Prime Minister to submit complaints about being abused by public administration, an avalanche of unchecked, unverified and potentially hazardous claims overflowed. What shall be done with these claims is unclear. Can they serve as legitimate grounds to open investigations? Will they be used to mass fire people? This move followed another one a few days ago when people with ‘impressive’ (undefined and ambiguous word) CVs were called to return from abroad and contribute here. It is equally unclear how this tendency to rule via Facebook shall be managed in practice. Will the social media administration at the PM office be in charge of this new approach? How many new staff would they need to face all the load? What about all the other regular, procedural ways to submit request, complaints, job applications and pitch project ideas? Will they all suffer a slow un-institutional death? Is this a revolution or just the new trend? There is an additional hypocritical element in all this enterprise. It makes citizens feel as if they have the attention of the supreme leader themselves, as if they finally have an opening where they can vent their anger, fear and hopes. However with no clear and believable follow-up mechanisms the feeling remains hollow, not genuine. It turns into a form of virtual disrespect. Digital governance and the digitalization of many services has many practical benefits for citizens. It reduces corruption, reduces time lost in administration offices, and improves life for both sides. Virtual reality is altogether another matter. Dismantling the institutional, hardcopy if you want, version of procedure, institutions, regulations and replacing them with an uber-online centralized system run according to nontransparent strategies will certainly not help. It shall be at best another cool but non-useful trick and at worst some sort of malignant Big Brother.   [post_title] => Editorial: The digital government stuck in the virtual reality [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-the-digital-government-stuck-in-the-virtual-reality [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-14 13:54:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-14 11:54:39 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=133218 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 133533 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2017-08-11 16:38:13 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-11 14:38:13 [post_content] => At the end of this month, Prime Minister Edi Rama will likely publish the list of people he is going to have in his new cabinet, the first in eight years in which the winning party does not need a coalition party to rule. Rama himself has indicated he wants a lean cabinet with fewer ministries. The questions that now remain relate to what ministries will be merged and how. The core ministries of the interior, defense, healthcare, education will likely remain as they are but all others are candidates for merging or restructuring into new bodies. The ministries of economic development and finance would like merge into a single institution, for example. Other questions relate to who the ministers will be. Will any opposition-nominated minister make the cut, as some have suggested? If the Democratic Party does have some sort of participation in government, it would widen the appeal of the government but then it could also weaken the opposition, as critics of any grand coalition have suggested. One thing is certain, however, Rama can rule alone. He has a comfortable majority for day-to-day governance in parliament. He is now free to act on his ideas without being burdened by other parties looking “to get a piece of the pie” as Rama has put it. Rama’s campaign and actions following his victory in the general elections have created certain expectations among citizens. He has chosen a populist move to hold public hearings across the country, seeking “a co-governance with the people of Albania.” His findings from the hearings are not surprising – people want jobs and better infrastructure. They want quality healthcare and education. They want their property rights to be better protected. It remains to be seen how and if Rama will be able to meet their expectation in this second mandate. What we do know is that Rama will likely start with a purge in the public administration. Some of the higher officials have already been sacked or forced to resign. Lower level purges are likely to continue. We can only hope this will lead to better services for Albanian citizens rather than simply opening the way for one party’s activists to get the jobs of activists from other parties. Albania has major challenges ahead. Despite a more optimistic economic growth forecast this year, it must be translated into job number and better wages to stem the massive exodus of young and qualified workers leaving the country in droves to look for better jobs elsewhere. Albania’s bid to open membership negotiations with the European Union will also likely be an uphill road. In addition to domestic issues related to organized crime, drugs, corruption and poverty – Albanians are now realistic about expecting little in terms of a push from Brussel. As European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker put in an interview this week, he is “not in favor of the Western Balkans joining the EU soon.” The region and Albania for now will continue to better serve as the boogeyman for the union and others. In Junker’s words: “If you take away the European perspective, then we will again experience what we experienced in the 1990s. In this respect, the stability of the composition of the European Union is a prerequisite for the Balkans not being at war again.”   [post_title] => Editorial: Challenges and questions as new government set to form [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-challenges-and-questions-as-new-government-set-to-form [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-08-11 16:38:13 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-08-11 14:38:13 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=133533 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [queried_object] => stdClass Object ( [term_id] => 30 [name] => Op-Ed [slug] => op-ed [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 30 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 677 [filter] => raw [cat_ID] => 30 [category_count] => 677 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Op-Ed [category_nicename] => op-ed [category_parent] => 0 ) [queried_object_id] => 30 [post__not_in] => Array ( ) )

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