Fighting for a stronger Europe!

Fighting for a stronger Europe!

By Sigmar Gabriel It’s your birthday, Europe! Sixty years ago, on 25 March 1957, the founding members of the European Union signed the Treaties of Rome. This date is a major crossroads for the most successful project for freedom, peace and prosperity

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Editorial: Albanian political crisis: Going nowhere, doing nothing

Editorial: Albanian political crisis: Going nowhere, doing nothing

There is a well-known and popular expression in Albanian to express irony and frustration to futility and losing time. The saying goes: “Where were we? Nowhere. What did we do? Nothing.” The mantra seems to fit very well in the

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Editorial: Unburdened for all the wrong reasons

Editorial: Unburdened for all the wrong reasons

The key political event of this week was the change of four ministers of the Rama cabinet, all of them of the Socialist Party. Two of the ministers have key positions: that of Interior Affairs and that of Healthcare. These

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News analysis: Questions abound as interior minister sacked

News analysis: Questions abound as interior minister sacked

Kadri Hazbiu, an interior minister in communist Albania, was executed in 1983 after being sacked. Hazbiu had been the longest serving interior minister during the dictatorship period – a champion of success and undying loyalty for the communist dictator. He

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Reflecting on women in Albania instead of a well-deserved party

Reflecting on women in Albania instead of a well-deserved party

By Alba Çela The beginning of the month of March in Albania brings along with the new season two important holidays, 7 and 8 of March respectively Teachers’ Day and Women’s Day. And since a large majority of teachers are

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Open letter to the Academy of Sciences

Open letter to the Academy of Sciences

In an open letter to the Albanian Academy of Sciences, Aleksander Dhima, the first Albanian anthropologist with more than four decades of experience, condemns the Academy’s failure to elect him as an academician as degradation of the way the country’s

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Matryoshkas and friends

Matryoshkas and friends

By Genc Pollo* The matryoshkas are a set of egg-shaped, empty, wooden dolls painted as a mature woman and they fit into one another from the smaller to the biggest one. They can be found in Russia and its neighborhood

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The General is a lady and why we need women at the decision-making table

The General is a lady and why we need women at the decision-making table

By Dewi van de Weerd Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands This week we celebrated Women’s Day in Albania. But also, a National Conference took place on women, peace and security. I would like to share the Dutch perspective

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Editorial: Oil concessions in Albania: The rich, the poor and the dirty

Editorial: Oil concessions in Albania: The rich, the poor and the dirty

The inhabitants of Zharrez, a small village of the Fier region, which has suffered considerable damage due to fracking by the companies that extract oil there, were not put off by the general indifference of the politicians and the heinous

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Editorial: Caretaker governments are needed to protect all elections

Editorial: Caretaker governments are needed to protect all elections

In its 12 years in print, this newspaper has supported without any hesitation every effort and action that ensures that Albanian elections are free, fair and democratic. The ongoing protest Albania’s opposition is holding is such an effort, Tirana Times

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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_131755" align="alignright" width="300"]gabriel Sigmar Gabriel, Germany's Federal Foreign Minister[/caption]

By Sigmar Gabriel

It’s your birthday, Europe! Sixty years ago, on 25 March 1957, the founding members of the European Union signed the Treaties of Rome. This date is a major crossroads for the most successful project for freedom, peace and prosperity that the world has ever known.

This gives us cause for celebration.

After 60 years of Europe, we are standing at a crossroads once again, however. The financial crisis and our efforts to deal with the refugee movements have ruthlessly exposed the weaknesses of the European integration project. The UK will provide notification of its desire to leave the European Union in a few days’ time. This is a wakeup call. We must reach an understanding on what Europe means to us, where we want to go with the Union and what we are prepared to do to achieve this.

This is the actual significance of this anniversary of the Treaties of Rome.

The European integration project is under greater attack today than at any time in the past, from within and from without, by populists who claim to have simple solutions and by autocrats who loathe our values. They are all out to dismantle or even destroy Europe.

For me, it is clear that the path of European integration is both the right and the only path to take. Let us not deceive ourselves. In this world stricken by crises in which so many certainties have fallen by the wayside, the countries of Europe can only successfully defend their interests and values when they speak with one voice. No European country, not even Germany, can do this on their own any more. Together, we are so much more and so much stronger than the sum of all of our individual nations. We must close ranks in order to do this.

This 60th anniversary must therefore stand as a beacon of hope and as a call to fight for Europe. We must not remain silent when voices clamour for an end to European integration.

Fighting for Europe means defending our common, i.e. our European, values. We want to make the EU, which has brought us decades of freedom and stability, fit for the future. The rule of law and democracy, solidarity with one another and diversity among our member states are the building blocks of the European project. We must stand up for this both on the international and domestic stage.

Fighting for Europe also means standing up for what we have accomplished. Dismantling our integration will not help us. We overcame the sovereign debt crisis together. We are working to ensure that everyone in the eurozone is able to look ahead with confidence, that there is a return to growth across the board and that new prospects are generated with more jobs. We will need to further deepen economic and monetary union to achieve this – not in order to set ourselves apart from the others, but because we are more closely linked than ever before thanks to our common currency.

Our work goes beyond this, however. The historic task that we now face is to create a better and stronger Europe. We must invest together in the European Union and make the most important project for peace and prosperity of our age fit for the future.

Firstly, in European foreign and security policy. It is time to do away with the perception that we are not responsible for our own security. It is true that Europe must finally come of age. Our partnership with the USA and NATO are the cornerstones of the transatlantic community. However, the European Union must be able to cope with crises and conflicts in its neighbourhood by itself. Initial steps have been taken and further measures must follow.

Secondly, we need protection of Europe’s external borders that is genuinely worthy of the name. Borders have lost much of their significance within Europe. That is an amazing achievement – but strong external borders are equally important. Amidst the crises in our neighbourhood and the refugee flows, we can see how important effective protection of our borders is. Anyone who holds Schengen dear must also value the protection of our external borders. While a number of measures have got off the ground, we must do more. This is a European task that applies to us all, and not to only those of us who are most affected.

Thirdly, Europe must raise its game with respect to domestic security. The fight against terrorism is a common effort. We must do better in this area, through improved cooperation and better communication. People in Europe should not have to live in fear – be it in Brussels, Paris, Berlin or elsewhere. Freedom and security are two sides of the same coin.

Fourthly, we must be far more mindful of the fact that part of the European project’s allure always was to do with the promise of prosperity. The single market brought prosperity to most of us, and over a long period of time. However, too many people in Europe feel that they no longer benefit from a common Europe, but have been left behind. We have to appreciate and take steps to counter this. For me, fighting for Europe therefore means strengthening the single market and taking the social dimension of the European project seriously. We need new conditions for growth and prosperity. This includes European investments in digital infrastructure, as well as in education and research. If we manage to deploy our resources better and, at the same time, if everyone is willing to tackle the necessary reforms to preserve their competitiveness, then we will not be net contributors and net recipients, but all net beneficiaries of Europe.

We want to stand together in order to send a message from Rome that we Europeans are getting our act together and standing up for Europe and that we want to do a better job! We will succeed if we do not allow ourselves to be guided by our fears and if we revitalise the European spirit with courage and self-confidence and if we take everyone on board and challenge certain national sensitivities.

Germany is prepared to do just that.
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                    [post_content] => There is a well-known and popular expression in Albanian to express irony and frustration to futility and losing time. The saying goes: “Where were we? Nowhere. What did we do? Nothing.”

The mantra seems to fit very well in the current context of the development of the Albanian political crisis with the opposition camped at a tent in front of the Prime Minister’s Office, the elections threatened to be boycotted and the ending mandate of the President of the Republic set to ignite another round of problematic political relations. 

The crisis extends also to the relations between the main and the junior partners in the governing coalition that are continuously throwing jabs at each other despite keeping a cool poker face in public. 

Despite expectations to the contrary the removal of four ministers, including the one in charge of interior affairs, from their public office did nothing to quench the thirst of the opposition and little to placate the aggression of the ruling coalition sides.

Meanwhile as a result of the parliamentary boycott, the judicial reform implementation is frozen in time, the chances for any positive developments in the European integration path of the country are vaporizing and a light-headed chaotic sentiment prevails. This is particularly true in the justice sector caught between the end of the official mandate of the incumbent institutions and people and the impossibility of going ahead with the new ones given the gridlock.

Other institutions seem not to be fully aware of the gravity of the situation. The Central Election Commission is trying to substitute the opposition commissioners with independent citizens through inviting them to apply. This is certainly a futile move as the opposition will never allow the elections to go on without its people in the voting and counting booths.

The international community is also stuck, frantically trying to facilitate any forms of dialogue and solution but achieving very little. It seems their capital is also running a bit low in the midst of the European crisis and the arrival of the new American administration. Its ranks are unified in seeking the progress of the implementation of the justice reform but that is not proving very efficient with convincing the opposition.

Civil society and media are hushed bystanders, powerless at best and bought-up at worst, in the face of these political zero-sum calculations and electoral games which mobilize large swaths of people and divide them into polarized camps, transmitting the negative division top down with speed and efficacy.  

Meanwhile once again, Albania even without ethnic issues, border and recognition problems and despite lots of international support is finding itself punished by the behavior of the domestic political elite. It is frozen just like the neighboring Macedonia where a harsher political situation with an ethnic underlying is raging for years or like Bosnia, rendered fragile and inefficient by many overlapping statehood issues.

For more than 25 years Albanian politicians have had a problem with dialogue. They consider every agreement and compromise a defeat and certainly do not suffer any pangs for blocking the country’s progress towards the EU.

Where were we? Nowhere.

What did we do? Nothing.

 
                    [post_title] => Editorial: Albanian political crisis: Going nowhere, doing nothing
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                    [post_content] => The key political event of this week was the change of four ministers of the Rama cabinet, all of them of the Socialist Party.

Two of the ministers have key positions: that of Interior Affairs and that of Healthcare. These two have been for most of the time subject to multiple accusations for corruption, abuse of power and even connections to crime.

The other two portfolios that of Welfare and Local Governance are of secondary importance and seem to have been done only to de-escalate the dramatic effect of the change itself.

The most striking change of course is that of the Minister of Interior, Saimir Tahiri, trumpeted by the majority as the success story of the ‘Renaissance’ and relentlessly attacked by the opposition. Tahiri is also considered by many as a contender to follow Rama in the leadership of the party in the future.

Tahiri’s departure from the Ministry has been throughout these days a real mystery. Prime Minister Rama called this “an unburdening” – the freeing up of the Minister from the duties of the executive in order for him to focus fully and exclusively on the upcoming election campaign. Rama argued that Tahiri is responsible for the region of Tirana whose share of MPs in the Assembly is at an unparalleled 34 out of 140 in total. This is the first time in the history of Albanian transition that someone tries to make the claim that an ex-minister of interior can do better electorally then a minister.

This reason is most likely not true and if true is definitely very concerning. In any democratic state and society the prevalent interest should the public one and not the electoral one. Relieving a successful minister, as this government has claimed, from the public duty just three months before the elections is a signal that public interest is at best of secondary importance. Elections and power are the real priority here for this specific side and in a rare show of genuine political spirit it is being proclaimed openly.

This reason which the Premier himself made public and tried to advocate for, does not fulfil the basic conditions of transparency, accountability and legitimacy. This reason does not make this move right. The confusion over the move is a direct result of this: for many days it was discussed whether there was a quitting, firing or letting go, until the ‘unburdening’ term was coined.

In a funny attempt to add to the confusion, the head of the government also wanted the public opinion to consider that now the executive has almost 50 percent women. Entertaining this thought for a minute, for it is worth no more, that would be again a wrong reason. Gender equality is not and should not be the byproduct of ad hoc political games but a truthful objective which is pursued with seriousness and integrity.

Another reason, equally not very likely, is that Tahiri’s departure was a request from the junior coalition partner, SMI. Again, if this is true it is similarly a borrowed prop from the Byzantine times, especially in the form of trying to camouflage it with three other ‘unburden-ings.’

In the same vein, Tahiri’s removal has not satisfied the demands of the opposition, still camped in front of the PM office and publicly wanting still the technical caretaker government. As for a potential suggestion or demand from the international community to let go of the Minister of Interior Affairs, it would still be inexplicable. 

Finally the Albanian citizens do not have a truthful reason why their Minister of Interior Affairs, possibly the most important sector in the country for all these years is no longer occupying his seat. The reasons given so far are pure smoke and mirrors. Hence most likely they are hiding a seriously grave reality.  
                    [post_title] => Editorial: Unburdened for all the wrong reasons
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                    [post_content] => Kadri Hazbiu, an interior minister in communist Albania, was executed in 1983 after being sacked. Hazbiu had been the longest serving interior minister during the dictatorship period – a champion of success and undying loyalty for the communist dictator. He was executed in a purge as part of an alleged international effort to eliminate Enver Hoxha, the communist dictator, through a deal with American, Russian and Yugoslav secret services. At least that was the official explanation. The regime believed in an unwritten rule that it never violated: The public needed to be clear about why something had happened – it was its own version of what in today's world we call “transparency.” Hazbiu was the last in a long line of people close to Hoxha to be removed through execution – a model used by other dictatorships throughout history, with North Korea being the most recent example. But regardless of the nature of regime, even paranoid dictators give an explanation for the ousting of high level officials. So in Hoxha's regime, as absurd as things were, serious changes in cabinet went explained with serious reasons that could be accepted by at least the regime supporters – an impending coup, a plot against the party, an international plot to overthrow the regime – things that could hurt the people, the homeland and the party.

Fast forward this week to the sacking of the government's most powerful minister, Saimir Tahiri, who lead the Ministry of the Interior.

In liberal regimes and democratic systems there need to be even more serious reasons made public when a minister or other senior official is fired. There needs to be accountability and transparency in a decision as important as replacing someone who holds a cabinet seat. The main difference between dictatorships and democratic governments however is that one must show that public interest is what guides the prime minister in all decisions, including replacing ministers.

The main question that remains with the weak and unacceptable reason given for Tahiri's removal – to help the party win more votes in the next election – is how is the public interest protected with his replacement?

Prime Minister Edi Rama came under fire from independent analysts and journalists for refusing to give a clear explanation as to why Tahiri, “a champion” minister in Rama's words, had to go. In a televised interview, Rama said Tahiri was needed to spearhead the Socialist Party electoral campaign in Tirana and could not do both jobs at once. When pressed for the real reason, the prime minister got visibly agitated and started attacking the usually government-friendly host, asking whether the host was sober in asking the question.

Several commentators say the explanation remains opaque and it is unlikely to be the real cause. This lack of transparency has encouraged a wave of conspiracy theories as to the real motives that led Rama to dismiss the most successful minister to date, according to the prime minister.

One of these theories came from the former justice minister, Ylli Manjani, who noted that international partners had pushed for Tahiri's dismissal due to alleged ties between Tahiri and those who control the marijuana cultivation and trafficking in Albania.

The U.S. Ambassador to Tirana, Donald Lu, told the Voice of America, the United States will expect the new interior minister to fight organized crime aggressively. While there was no direct statement to this from the ambassador, the commentators read into his statement that the dismissed minister, Tahiri, might not have enjoyed the support of the Americans.

Another scenario widely discussed in the media is that Tahiri was made a scapegoat to appease Rama's coalition partner, Ilir Meta of the Socialist Movement for Integration. Rama needs SMI to stick with him in the next elections, otherwise a second mandate is unlikely to become a reality.

In addition, Rama is now facing a major crisis as the opposition has stated clearly that it will not participate in the next general elections because it does not believe a government led by Rama can guarantee free and fair voting without interference from the criminal world. The opposition Democrats want a caretaker government staffed with technocrats to conduct the elections instead.

Ultimately, even if voters take the prime minister's implausible explanation at face value, that Tahiri is needed to get more votes for the Socialist Party than to manage like “a champion” the interior ministry, it shows the public interest takes back seat to party politics, and that does not put the prime minister in the best light, commentators say.

 
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                    [post_content] => By Alba Çela

The beginning of the month of March in Albania brings along with the new season two important holidays, 7 and 8 of March respectively Teachers' Day and Women's Day. And since a large majority of teachers are women it turns into a two-day party of flowers, speeches and parties for women, by women and mainly with women. Indeed women deserve to get the attention, appreciation and special treatment for the heroic venture they carry out every day: surviving and being successful in a country where they face many obstacles.

Although I tend to look a bit down on the partying and the flower frenzy, I look at this as my own problem with cynicism and sincerely hope that women have a good day and a good time. On International Women's Day I believe in any case, before or after or without the party, there is a need to reflect on the current state of affairs.

Albania has come a long way with its improvements in legislation (still incomplete!), participation in politics (still largely dependent on male party leaders) and distinguishing themselves in economic and social life (still after many hurdles which their male peers never face).

Gender imbalance due to gender selective abortions are a problem in Albania according to Council of Europe and other international sources. Hence problems for women are starting from the right to live and in the same vein domestic violence is another major threat. It continues to be the number one threat to women security and well-being in Albania, including the position of children often affected in the same process.

Domestic violence also generates many murders and other grave crimes whose victims are usually women. Women rights just as in general human rights are also under threat from corruption as the latest State Department report points out as well.1 This is more pronounced in sectors like healthcare which affect access and quality to public health, one of the key importance issues for women.

Another facet of life deserves attention as well: financial and economic power and women stake in it.

Take one example from a very interesting and through study carried out recently, poignantly by women researchers. Although according to official nationwide statistic women run about 30 percent of business companies or are business legal persons in Albania, only 5 percent of the contracts from municipalities are won by women (roughly in the period 2015- 2017). These contracts make up only 3.2 percent of the total allocated value from public funds at the local level.2 Even those cases that look like success stories turn out to be companies in which the husband has transferred shares to the wife for purposes not related to women empowerment.

Women participation and strength in political decision making and economic activity of Albania needs not only a jump forward in quantity but also in substance, in style and in fairness. It needs to be a process of multiplication, through which more and more women get empowered and uplifted.

Poverty, unemployment, discrimination at the job place continue to mar the experience of women in the economic life and initiatives taken so far are simply not enough or not well-structured enough to become systemic.

The process of reflecting on the problems that women face in my country certainly does not put me in the party mood. Then those women know better than me, better than being all grumpy on women day. In any case I hope there are as many voices reflecting seriously and trying to make changes as there are those celebrating.


1 https://al.usembassy.gov/2016-human-rights-report-albania/


2 Data is taken from http://open.data.al/sq/lajme/lajm/id/1919/Vlera-te-kontratave-me-Pale-Subjekte-Biznesi-zoteruar-nga-Femra-finalizuar-me-Njesive-te-Qeverisjes-Vendore-korrik-2015-deri-31-Janar-2017?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+OpenDataAlbaniaFeeds+%28Open+Data+Albania+%28No+Media%29%29
                    [post_title] => Reflecting on women in Albania instead of a well-deserved party
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                    [post_date] => 2017-03-08 16:20:19
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                    [post_content] => In an open letter to the Albanian Academy of Sciences, Aleksander Dhima, the first Albanian anthropologist with more than four decades of experience, condemns the Academy's failure to elect him as an academician as degradation of the way the country's most important scientific institution operates

By Prof. Dr. Aleksander Dhima

[caption id="attachment_131493" align="alignright" width="266"]Aleksander Dhima Aleksander Dhima[/caption]

What was expected happened: the first Albanian anthropologist could not become an academician! And the field of candidacy in the Section of Social and Albanological Sciences (February 2017) was determined in Anthropology. The final vote result at the Assembly showed that I, the creator of Albanian anthropology, got only 1/3 of votes!

The recommendation made to my anthropological profile by Prof. Dr. Adrian Civici (the President of the European University of Tirana, where I have been a lecturer of Sociocultural Anthropology and Applied Anthropology for the past 7 years), stresses that “scientific research and teaching by professor Dhima is evaluated in several aspects” as a ‘pioneer’ of Albanian anthropology, a citizen of high national feelings, a tireless and continuous scholar and a wise demanding friend for younger generations of researchers.”

Likewise, Prof. Dr.  Horst Schmidt (one of the German mentors of my post-doctoral thesis at the Ulm University in Germany, notes in his recommendation: “Thanks to him, Albania, with the respective scientific contributions, has been admitted and praised in Germany as a partner country. To us, Dr. Dhima is a reliable source and an important contact person regarding information on the state of anthropology science for that country.”   Another quote by Prof. Dr. Romeo Gurakuqi, published on daily MAPO on February 25-26 2017: “The Monograph ‘The ethnic anthropology of Albanians’ is the ‘lifetime work’ by Prof. Aleksander Dhima, a work of real Albanological character, where through treating some of the most important aspects of the ethno-cultural ‘shaping’ of Albanians, he aimed at highlighting the correlation of the traits of different natures in the Albanians’ anthropological synthesis. This work fulfils a realistic judgment on the ‘‘track’ of further research into the applied fields of Anthropology in Albania. I have the conviction that this work will be echoed broadly, not only in the domestic scientific environment, but also beyond borders, especially among Albanian intellectuals who live abroad, and hopefully broader in international scientific circles.”

What do you think, can these be interventions to ‘praise’ my work or do you have to trust these renowned professors? I don't think the chairmanship of Academy of Sciences can doubt the truthfulness of their quotes… On the other hand, I don’t think there are considerations of this nature by the recommenders of the candidacy of the other contestant, Prof. Shaban Sinani, specifically on his achievements in the field of Albanian anthropology.

Then, one should have flaws intellectually, ethically and professionally by trying to cheat or ‘fling mud’ at Section or Assembly members, hoping that they could not have adequate knowledge in the respective fields, forcing them (through unfair lobbying) to vote blindfold, without being aware how fields of sciences differ from each other, for example, if a poet can be an academician not in literature, but in Albanological sciences, or as Prof. Artan Fuga puts it, - “to intentionally mistake ethnography with folklore, folklore with literary history, literary studies with anthropology, anthropology with who knows what else… At the end of the day, why should we so shamefully award such titles at a time when they could become academicians more decently in the field they really develop, i.e. if their merits are really competitive against other candidates within their respective fields.”

In fact, on what logical or academic basis, the Sections or Chairmanship decided that a literary scholar should be admitted to compete for election as an academician not in the literature field, but in the field of anthropology? Doesn’t this look like nonsense from the viewpoint of academic logic to decide by vote, let’s say, a literary scholar, despite his fame, become an academician in anthropology?

Quite frankly, such undertaking by the Section of Social and Albanological Sciences and the Chairmanship is meaningless and unacceptable. The other candidate, Prof. Shaban Sinani, has no anthropological records, but he has another “advantage”: he is the scientific secretary of the Section of Social and Albanological Sciences. This is enough for him or his patrons in the Chairmanship of the Academy of Sciences, to impose upon “others” (I am sorry to say that, but people with no scientific authority) to vote for him…

To be more specific: for the two candidacies in case, were there taken into account important selective criteria such as: specialization (abroad, because there have been no such qualification opportunities in Albania in the field of anthropology), monographs and research into the field of anthropology, participations in international anthropology congresses, membership to international anthropology organizations, local and international projects focusing on anthropology, teaching in the field of ethnic anthropology, sociocultural or applied etc.? I take full responsibility to admit that none of these criteria was taken into consideration in the selection of the candidacy for the position of anthropologist and awarding the title of “Associated Academician” exactly on this field. Could such a situation take place at a time when the Academy of Science was headed by Prof. Aleks Buda? O tempora, o mores.

What happened to my more than four decades of work in the field of anthropology, at a time when I sacrificed my career in medicine, responding to a call by Prof. Aleks Buda, to take on studies in explaining Albanian ethnogenesis through anthropological means? I was hoping the Academy of Sciences would ‘recognize’ this contribution by awarding me the title in case, but this contribution was not taken into account, exactly because of pragmatic interests characterizing the Academy, the same to the current Albanian society (“give me/I will give you”).

Why does the current head of the Academy of Science, Prof. Muzafer Korkuti, pretend he has not understood my contribution at a time when “we shared numerous sacrifices on field expeditions to document Illyrian elements in the skeletal finds of (pre) Illyrian era, or my work in the scientific exigency of the articles of the “Iliria” magazine, where he was editor-in-chief, and which thanks to this work – was honored with the Golden Medal of the Academy of Lutece (Paris), or the recommendation he gave me (as director of the Archaeology Institute) so that I could get a scholarship at the “Alexander von Humboldt” Foundation on thorough studies in the field of ethnic anthropology of Albanians (1990), or his presence as participant in the promotion of my publication "Qasje në realitetin kulturor shqiptar” (Approaches in the Albanian cultural reality) (December 2013)? [Maybe because he didn’t ask me to write any festive article for him]. The current deputy head of the Academy of Sciences, Prof. Gudar Beqiraj, who knows quite well (when he was heading INIMA, the Institute of Informatics and Applied Mathematics) how he motivated me on the mathematical processing of the results on the analysis of the Middle Ages data in the skeletal material from Albania, why did he decide to “incite” other academicians?

The field expeditions (not few but 37 expeditions!) gave me a sense that it was worth it undertaking anthropological studies for this people which preserves priceless cultural and social values, based on which it has managed to survive and remain alive from a biogenetic viewpoint. In addition to inventorying and studying bone finds of different eras (pre) historic, there were intensified consequent field expeditions to follow the anthropological profile of the country’s current population, which was made possible thanks to anthropological research based on the big ethno-cultural zones of the country.

Based on the achievements of these expeditions, I wrote 3 monographs on the Albanians’ anthropology and the solution to the complicated issue of the Albanian ethnogenesis with anthropological means, 55 studies in specialized local and international scientific magazines (with an impact factor), essays, research papers, international and local projects, in cooperation with PhDs in Albania and abroad on issues of applied anthropology, I am also an author of (post) university textbooks on anthropology; a scholarship holder of the renowned German “Alexander von Humboldt” Foundation that gave me the opportunity to get insight on the reconstruction of the morphobiology of old populations and the determination of evolutionary elements of an anthropology character until the current population of the country.

In this case, there were clarified some of the hypotheses launched time after time by Albanologists  (both Albanian and foreigners) on the Illyrian ancestry and the Illyrian-Albanian continuation.

The results of this piece of research were reflected in the ‘post-doctoral work “Beitrag zur ethnischen Anthropologie der Albaner” [Contribution to the Albanians’ ethnic anthropology], which was defended at the Department of Anthropology and Human Genetics of the “Johannes Gutenberg” University of Mainz.   

Aren’t the above arguments enough for the academicians’ attention to my candidacy for the “Associated Academician” title for the first Albanian anthropologist? I don’t know if the other candidate met at least one of the above criteria, to consider himself an anthropologist, for real.

To tell the truth, after the vote in the Section, where the result “overturned” in favour of the other candidate, some friends recommended that I quit any other candidacy and address the media with a civic protest for the Academy’s failure to apply the selection criteria for the candidates in competition and the way the voting took place. I did not accept this offer, because I continue remaining convinced that the “Academician” title belongs to professors who have outstanding contribution to the respective field.

But, the ‘surprise’ happened after the voting in the Section when I was clearly told that “I had to lobby to win”!   As far as I am aware, lobbying makes sense in other fields such as politics, economy etc. but never in the award of scientific titles. What’s worse, this was a common practice, applied for a long time in competing for titles at the Academy of Sciences! However, I accepted the “challenge” with regret and look what happened! Some of the academicians said “we have promised to the other candidate” [Prof. Shaban Sinani], but I am convinced without consulting the respective files! Undoubtedly, this is first of all an issue of academic logic and ethics and then a legal and administrative issue. And with this, I am sorry to say it, it seems like it is “intentionally” being sought to hide the manipulation and violations of academic ethics and logic behind legal justifications and formal regulations.

In addition, I would say that this logic and academic confrontation becomes necessary especially under the current conditions of Albanian science environment, where, unfortunately, as has earlier happened in almost all East European countries, the naming of “anthropology” has come “into fashion” even in Albania. There are some literary scholars, but even philosophers, historians, literary critics and scholars of different backgrounds and schooling in Albania, who, when becoming public personalities or gaining media popularity, they more and more mention anthropology in their articles. Many of them are urged to introduce themselves as “anthropologists” or “culturologists” only by trying to manipulate any common knowledge on the human nature, culture and the society. In these cases, the frequent appearance of “anthropologists” in the post-communist period bears eloquent testimony to the use of a disciplinary naming as an instrument of “differentiating” in a still fragile field of the redistribution of other academic spheres such as anthropology.

However, ever since anthropology was also heard in Albania (and I am the first one to deal with this field), these ‘so-called’ anthropologists seem to have been dealing with anthropology for a long time without even knowing its meaning well. They simply think that adding the “anthropological” term to themselves or their literary or folkloric writings, they will be considered anthropologists, or that their work will be considered anthropology. However, they are not to blame for the “main fault,” but it is the leaders of the Academy of Sciences, who when announcing “Associated academician” job vacancy in the field of Anthropology ignored decades-long achievements of Albanian anthropologists.

Let there be an intellectual debate at the Albanian Academy of Sciences, with the participation of all real Albanian anthropologists (and we have such, even internationally acclaimed ones) and let Prof. Sinani tell us about his “remarkable” achievements in this field.

* * *

Regarding the above, I think the March 6 voting was immoral, illogical and even illegal in the selection of “Associated Academicians” because, it seems that academicians who appreciate logic and the academic figure must have remained a “minority” and they don’t have to be “accomplices” to the responsibilities stemming from this new manipulation.

Some time, I hope this happens as soon as possible, the ‘bomb’ will explode and the series of “geniuses” of the new Albanian science, together with their proponents in the chairmanship at the Albanian Academy of Sciences, will collapse. Only then, will we be able to remind of: where were we not to prevent the “plunging” of this elite institution into the swamp of the “neighborhood of mad people”!

 
                    [post_title] => Open letter to the Academy of Sciences
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                    [post_date] => 2017-03-08 09:23:04
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2017-03-08 08:23:04
                    [post_content] => By Genc Pollo*

[caption id="attachment_128731" align="alignright" width="300"]Opposition Democratic Party MP Genc Pollo Opposition Democratic Party MP Genc Pollo[/caption]

The matryoshkas are a set of egg-shaped, empty, wooden dolls painted as a mature woman and they fit into one another from the smaller to the biggest one. They can be found in Russia and its neighborhood where they based on a Japanese inspiration (the shichi-fuku-jin dolls), gained much popularity in the 19th century. Matryoshkas beside being a matriarchal symbol are also a metaphor for the ongoing surprise or the lack of certainty in what you hold in your hand.

I am not quite sure why I was reminded of these folklore artefacts as I followed these days the renewed debate over the conditions which Albania must fulfill in order to open EU accession negotiations.

From October to December last year, I kept saying  in parliamentary sessions that if the EU did not open immediately the accession negotiations with Albania (this would have been admittedly a game changer), most helpful for the country would be a string of conditions, and successive pressure,  to deal with severe problems of the last few years such as former  criminals in public office/politicians in bed with current (organized) criminals and the cannabis planting and trade which spiked overwhelmingly in 2016 affecting also labour, business and spurring home consumption. And the obvious consequence of this two: the political-criminal alliance aiming to get the June elections for the ruling party.

I also stressed that those in the EU who under these circumstances reduced the negotiations conditionality in the  first steps of the implementation of the justice reform could be friends of Edi Rama  (not necessarily negatively meant). While those in the EU, who insist on the five priorities with an emphasis on the three problems mentioned above certainly are friends of Albania (not necessarily just Basha's friends). I say this because with such a high level collusion of government and bandits  having them influence the justice reform, whatever the safeguards,   could make things from bad to worse.

Whatever I or any other colleague did say, this issue then was up to the EU. The  European Commission which on November 10 through the  “2015 Albania Report” (the former progress report) proposed the opening of accession negotiations with the key condition of implementing the justice reform and the other  concerns detailed in the report. The EU member countries, which along the European Parliament approve the proposals, represented by their foreign ministers convened on December 13 and decided that Albania must fulfil in a sustained, comprehensive and inclusive way the five priorities including decriminalisation, narcotics and the general elections, before being reconsidered, probably in May 2018,  for the opening of negotiations (I recently posted on social networks again the link to this Council conclusions in the EU website hoping to help tell apart reality from spin).

Since October, I have been hearing the Prime Minister, promising,  well, predicting the opening of negotiations within 2016 only to say later say that justice reform or even only vetting is the sole condition and the five priorities will be gradually implemented throughout the negotiation years. In other words, it can take him months or years to dismiss Roshi as mayor of Kavaja and that the cannabis cultivation will in 2017 successfully be reduced by 10 percent compared to the previous year. Considering that Mr. Rama’s  prime mastery is  selling an icebox to an Eskimo and that he has messed up in far worse dealings than making fancy forecasting on  EU affairs,  is not worth it wasting the readers’  time on this.

But I would add, that when European central or local representatives for  foggy reasons misrepresent the EU position when talking to the Albanian public mentioning only one of them the others hiding within the wooden dolls, they not only do not help Albania, but maybe they damage the credibility of what they represent.

*Genc Pollo is an opposition Democratic Party MP.
                    [post_title] => Matryoshkas and friends
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                    [post_date] => 2017-03-08 09:20:56
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                    [post_content] => dewiBy Dewi van de Weerd

Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

This week we celebrated Women’s Day in Albania. But also, a National Conference took place on women, peace and security. I would like to share the Dutch perspective on this issue.

"I intend to remain Minister of Defense until we have a female general in our armed forces", Albanian Minister of Defense, Mimi Kodheli, told her Dutch counterpart Jeanine Hennis when she came to visit  Tirana last October. She had also said this to her Chief of Staff, who then joked "Are you intending to stay that long, Minister?". But indeed, it's a few months later, and the first Albanian female general has been appointed. She heads the military academy, which seems an appropriate function for her to inspire other military recruits, both male and female.

The two ministers are not alone any more in this predominantly male culture. Today, a quarter of NATO’s defense ministers are women. In both the Albanian and Dutch armies, however, only around 15 percent of the staff is female. Talking about equal treatment of women in relation to peace and security, Dutch Minister Hennis says: "I find involving female military in the field the main issue. We need to get our women out there in peace-keeping operations. They can make a difference, through actively participating in resolving conflicts, preventing them and in bridging the communication gap with vulnerable women in conflict areas.” For example, it is important in conflict resolution that not only men sit around the negotiation tables, but that women also actively take part in debates. In fact, having them at the table might make the chances much higher for conflicts to be solved. It is clear however, that we do need men to commit to making this happen. And, also as a He4She Ambassador, I would like to stress that. We are all in this together.

Training to include women at all levels

To increase the number of women in the military at all levels, the Dutch Ministry of Defense recently created its own roadmap. Extra attention goes to training, making leaders in the military aware of the importance of gender equality, inspiring their staff and creating safe environments for women to thrive. We are eager to share experiences in this field. A training course we organize together with Spain twice a year tries to do just that: to train and equip participants with practical tools. Two Albanians participated last December at the invitation of the Netherlands.

There is a lot of international attention on this issue. UNSCR 1325 was adopted in 2000 and addresses the effects of armed conflict on men and women. The resolution calls for specific gender-based action, and indeed many countries have made action plans to try to implement the resolution in their national policies. The roadmap mentioned above is part of the third national action plan in the Netherlands. NATO has a special envoy for the implementation of the resolution, Marriet Schuurman, she is Dutch as well. Fifteen years ago when the Netherlands was a member of the UN Security Council, we were one of the main advocates of this resolution. Implementation of UNSCR 1325 will remain high on the Dutch agenda, also in the period that we have a seat in the UN Security Council in 2018.

Albania getting ready for action on UNSCR 1325

Other countries in the region already have such action plans. In Albania, the interest in implementing the resolution is growing. Recently there has been more attention for equal rights for men and women, for instance in political decision-making. The country took a big step when in local elections in 2015, political parties had to have the same number of men and women on their candidates lists. As a result, some municipalities now have more women than men on their councils. So the time seemed right to also start thinking about a national action plan to implement resolution UNSCR 1325 in Albania. The Association of Women with Social Problems (AWSP), an Albanian NGO, developed different kinds of training, debates and meetings with many different actors to explain the importance of women’s increased participation, treating women equally and knowing how to deal with gender-based violence.  NGOs play a crucial role in sensitizing civil society and assisting and monitoring the work of governments. In fact, the UNSCR 1325 national action plans are usually cooperation between civil society and government. The Albanian deputy ministers of the Ministry of the Interior, and of Defense and an expert from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs joined us at the Dutch embassy together with specialists from UNWOMEN, OSCE, ICITAP and of course the inspiring Bajana Ceveli from AWSP. It was an exciting morning, where the room was full of energy to start marking the achievements Albania is making in this field, and to decide together what more can be done. There was a very similar vibe at the national conference.  We will meet again soon and I am hopeful that in 2017 an Albanian National Action Plan on Resolution UNSCR 1325 will be born.
                    [post_title] => The General is a lady and why we need women at the decision-making table
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                    [post_date] => 2017-03-03 10:48:10
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                    [post_content] => The inhabitants of Zharrez, a small village of the Fier region, which has suffered considerable damage due to fracking by the companies that extract oil there, were not put off by the general indifference of the politicians and the heinous silence of the national media over their hunger strike. Used to years of suffering, with their lands poisoned and unproductive, their house walls cracked and falling and their families in persistent danger, they had nothing to lose. Therefore they organized an original form of protesting: a long journey on foot towards Tirana. This kind of protest through a long march on foot was done for the first time in Albania and mobilized the support and sympathy of many ordinary citizens. On various stops along the way citizens applauded them, provided them with refreshments and even joined their march. Many people are familiar with their cause since the issue has been persisting for years. 

Every time the fracking explosions caused seismic movement in the village, the companies claimed they were natural earthquakes. Most of the time the government complied even putting official meteorological reports to their use. But people knew better. It was obvious that they were trying to cover up a process which generates similar results all over the world. Fracking is a complex oil extraction procedure with many side effects. Denying those is stupid at best and criminal at worst. 

The protesters refused to let their movement be interpreted politically, they were uninterested to see their cause being captured by parties. Camping in front of the Ministry of Energy they patiently negotiated with the government and with the right kind of civic persistence camped there, not taking the offers for granted until they could see them written officially in government decisions. While their problems might have found some solace and at least due recognition, many questions persist. 

Why have the governments, independent of their side, allowed such a damaging process to continue unabated at the expense of the citizens? How are these citizens going to be reimbursed? If that will be from public money, can the government understand this is the ultimate betrayal of public interest? How can private companies that earn millions in profits, not be held responsible for damage caused but instead benefit from the use of public funds to remedy the mistakes? And finally are all those Albanian institutions and individuals who have allowed this to happen going to assume their share of the blame over the situation? 

Zharrez is by no means an isolated case. Investigative reporting has exposed other villages negatively affected and polluted by oil extraction which have even won their court cases but has not been awarded compensations yet since bank accounts of the companies are empty. The issue of these concessionaires that seem to suffer financial losses while transferring their real profits to their subcontractors and mother companies abroad is the subject of more investigation which has so far produced no results.

All these point to the obvious and immense need to reevaluate and re-conceptualize in a strategic way the future of the use of natural resources in Albania. Fairness, transparency and accountability are sorely lacking in these often concessionary contracts. Not only are they producing no tangible financial benefits for the state budget but on top they are causing significant harm to the local communities. This needs to stop. Chapeau to the Zharrez protesters for standing up for their rights. We all should. 

 
                    [post_title] => Editorial: Oil concessions in Albania: The rich, the poor and the dirty 
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                    [post_date] => 2017-02-24 06:43:23
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2017-02-24 05:43:23
                    [post_content] => In its 12 years in print, this newspaper has supported without any hesitation every effort and action that ensures that Albanian elections are free, fair and democratic. The ongoing protest Albania's opposition is holding is such an effort, Tirana Times believes, and this newspaper supports its aim for a caretaker government to run the elections.

Failure to hold elections that are free and fair has been a key factor that has hurt the stable and democratic development of this country. Albania has seen several bad elections in the past, and their rigging has led the country to the edge of the abyss. Long term political conflict in Albania has always been about elections, the legitimacy of which has been continuously problematic, leading to serious consequences for the country.

Political parties in Albania have seen conflict based on elections and their outcome, and in very few cases the loser has accepted defeat as unmarred by rigging. Failure to achieve democratic elections based on international standards has kept and continues to keep Albania in transition. As such, rigging election results and vote theft must end once and for all.

Albania's opposition and ruling parties are now on two sides of a deep and insurmountable rift of mistrust. And that's because the conditions are now in place for the manipulation of elections and vote theft on a massive scale like never seen before. The opposition says this. But international observers do too.

The risk comes from the growing power of the underworld and drug money in politics. This week alone, OSCE's ambassador to Albania, warned publicly about the risk the drug money in circulation, calculated at about 2 billion euros, could be used to influence the elections through buying votes, candidates and influence.

Four years ago, the Socialist Party, which was then in opposition, decided to run as MP candidates a long roster of large business owners, most of which have now been kicked out of parliament due to criminal pasts or criminal ties.

The rich and the powerful – the tough guys with muscles too – have been part of Albanian politics for 25 years, but the Socialists were the first to bring convicted criminals into parliament as MPs. The situation got so bad, a Decriminalization Law had to be passed by parliament to clean itself up. The law passed, but its implementation is facing resistance and party leaders are reluctant to completely sever ties with the criminal underworld they see as a potential ally to win the upcoming elections.

While it will be difficult for people with shady backgrounds to enter parliament again, it is entirely possible – the sign is on the wall – that the Socialist-led government will use assistance from the same type of shady crowd to get elected to a second term. It needs to do so, because its performance so far has been dim, and the numbers of distrust in government in polls show it.

Perhaps the most flagrant case of how how dirty money and criminal muscles can be used to win elections was how the Socialists won the 2016 municipal byelection in Dibra, a Democratic Party stronghold until 2015. International observers found no violations of voting procedures and the day was quiet, but the results were fixed, and according to local observers, several million euros exchanged hands to bring in a result in which Socialists won ten times more votes than they did in the 2015 elections, when a narrow victory of 300 votes became possible only through the disunity in the local Democratic Party branch, where an independent candidate split the vote. Dibra's Socialist mayor was fired over a sexual scandal, and yet his party won again. What happened in Dibra was a shameful example of how dirty money and criminal ties can buy and intimidate voters to make an election look fair when it is everything but.

The Democrats now believe the June 18 elections will be Dibra brought to a national scale. The program has already started: 1 billion dollars of for private-public investments and amnesties are already rolling for huge tax dodgers, electricity thieves, illegal constructions – and even convicted criminals in prison. This from a government who has been preaching rule of law for three years, punishing the weakest in society while coddling the powerful.

If one needs to look for proof in state power in rigging elections, let international observers from the OSCE-ODIHR send a mission to see how prisoners vote in any election. More than likely, 100 percent of the Albanian prisoners votes go to whatever party holds Ministry of Justice, in charge of prisons.

Today, Democratic Party and Socialist Party governments, in association with the Socialist Movement for Integration, are all responsible for the destruction of past electoral processes. Which is why something must be done to prevent the political establishment from rigging the upcoming elections.

Supporting the creation of a caretaker government staffed by technocrats to run the elections might seem at first glance like support for the opposition alone. That is not the case. A caretaker government is in the interest of Albanian democracy and a democratic future, of the stability and security of the country.

A caretaker government can not deprive Edi Rama from winning a second – or even a third – term, if Albanians chose to elect him free of the assistance of people with criminal ties in parliament and outside it.

Tirana Times supports the idea that a caretaker government be allowed to run all elections, as it does in some other democracies, and such move must be enshrined in the constitution to make sure state power is not used by those in power to manipulate elections and so that the votes – and the dignity – of Albanians can not be bought and sold.

Changes should also be made to the current legislation to severely punish individuals who are engaged in vote-buying.

No other reform is more important than having free and fair elections. Saving free and fair elections is a call that must also be heard by the international community representatives, in whom the Albanian people have not lost faith. Deadlines are not important. It is important to have a legitimate election. Albania's constitution has been amended in the past to expand the power of political leaders. It can now be amended to ensure ensure a free voting process.
                    [post_title] => Editorial: Caretaker governments are needed to protect all elections
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            [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_131755" align="alignright" width="300"]gabriel Sigmar Gabriel, Germany's Federal Foreign Minister[/caption]

By Sigmar Gabriel

It’s your birthday, Europe! Sixty years ago, on 25 March 1957, the founding members of the European Union signed the Treaties of Rome. This date is a major crossroads for the most successful project for freedom, peace and prosperity that the world has ever known.

This gives us cause for celebration.

After 60 years of Europe, we are standing at a crossroads once again, however. The financial crisis and our efforts to deal with the refugee movements have ruthlessly exposed the weaknesses of the European integration project. The UK will provide notification of its desire to leave the European Union in a few days’ time. This is a wakeup call. We must reach an understanding on what Europe means to us, where we want to go with the Union and what we are prepared to do to achieve this.

This is the actual significance of this anniversary of the Treaties of Rome.

The European integration project is under greater attack today than at any time in the past, from within and from without, by populists who claim to have simple solutions and by autocrats who loathe our values. They are all out to dismantle or even destroy Europe.

For me, it is clear that the path of European integration is both the right and the only path to take. Let us not deceive ourselves. In this world stricken by crises in which so many certainties have fallen by the wayside, the countries of Europe can only successfully defend their interests and values when they speak with one voice. No European country, not even Germany, can do this on their own any more. Together, we are so much more and so much stronger than the sum of all of our individual nations. We must close ranks in order to do this.

This 60th anniversary must therefore stand as a beacon of hope and as a call to fight for Europe. We must not remain silent when voices clamour for an end to European integration.

Fighting for Europe means defending our common, i.e. our European, values. We want to make the EU, which has brought us decades of freedom and stability, fit for the future. The rule of law and democracy, solidarity with one another and diversity among our member states are the building blocks of the European project. We must stand up for this both on the international and domestic stage.

Fighting for Europe also means standing up for what we have accomplished. Dismantling our integration will not help us. We overcame the sovereign debt crisis together. We are working to ensure that everyone in the eurozone is able to look ahead with confidence, that there is a return to growth across the board and that new prospects are generated with more jobs. We will need to further deepen economic and monetary union to achieve this – not in order to set ourselves apart from the others, but because we are more closely linked than ever before thanks to our common currency.

Our work goes beyond this, however. The historic task that we now face is to create a better and stronger Europe. We must invest together in the European Union and make the most important project for peace and prosperity of our age fit for the future.

Firstly, in European foreign and security policy. It is time to do away with the perception that we are not responsible for our own security. It is true that Europe must finally come of age. Our partnership with the USA and NATO are the cornerstones of the transatlantic community. However, the European Union must be able to cope with crises and conflicts in its neighbourhood by itself. Initial steps have been taken and further measures must follow.

Secondly, we need protection of Europe’s external borders that is genuinely worthy of the name. Borders have lost much of their significance within Europe. That is an amazing achievement – but strong external borders are equally important. Amidst the crises in our neighbourhood and the refugee flows, we can see how important effective protection of our borders is. Anyone who holds Schengen dear must also value the protection of our external borders. While a number of measures have got off the ground, we must do more. This is a European task that applies to us all, and not to only those of us who are most affected.

Thirdly, Europe must raise its game with respect to domestic security. The fight against terrorism is a common effort. We must do better in this area, through improved cooperation and better communication. People in Europe should not have to live in fear – be it in Brussels, Paris, Berlin or elsewhere. Freedom and security are two sides of the same coin.

Fourthly, we must be far more mindful of the fact that part of the European project’s allure always was to do with the promise of prosperity. The single market brought prosperity to most of us, and over a long period of time. However, too many people in Europe feel that they no longer benefit from a common Europe, but have been left behind. We have to appreciate and take steps to counter this. For me, fighting for Europe therefore means strengthening the single market and taking the social dimension of the European project seriously. We need new conditions for growth and prosperity. This includes European investments in digital infrastructure, as well as in education and research. If we manage to deploy our resources better and, at the same time, if everyone is willing to tackle the necessary reforms to preserve their competitiveness, then we will not be net contributors and net recipients, but all net beneficiaries of Europe.

We want to stand together in order to send a message from Rome that we Europeans are getting our act together and standing up for Europe and that we want to do a better job! We will succeed if we do not allow ourselves to be guided by our fears and if we revitalise the European spirit with courage and self-confidence and if we take everyone on board and challenge certain national sensitivities.

Germany is prepared to do just that.
            [post_title] => Fighting for a stronger Europe!
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