Editorial: A solution rooted in legitimacy

Editorial: A solution rooted in legitimacy

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL Democratic systems do not rule out crises. They have mechanisms to solve them. Every solution is based first and foremost in legitimacy since fair representation is at the core of the functionality of democracy. The situation in

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Democracy, kidnapped by an illegitimate minority

Democracy, kidnapped by an illegitimate minority

By Ilir Meta  At the heart of democracy is the vote, the right of every citizen to be elected and to be elected, political pluralism. Democracy means that every citizen decides for their own future. That every citizen has confidence

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Editorial: President  hearings and the depth of the constitutional crisis

Editorial: President hearings and the depth of the constitutional crisis

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL Things will get worse before they get better. The political, institutional and even constitutional crisis in the country continues to be in full swing. This week the parliament opened the Meta hearings which are supposed to conclude

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Beauty is relative, evaluation reports…are not!

By Sidonja Manushi  Some of the upsides of being governed by a painter in profession and an artist at heart are the capital buildings’ colorful facades and the Prime Minister’s own sense of fashion, which often makes headlines for its

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A paradox from Tirana: Failed coup d’etat in Turkey, memorial in Albania

A paradox from Tirana: Failed coup d’etat in Turkey, memorial in Albania

By Alfonc Rakaj A memorial built in Tirana’s central park for the fallen of the failed Turkish coup in 2016 has been publicly shunned. Turkey’s assertive foreign policy toward the region, and Rama’s close personal relationship with Erdogan has many

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Editorial: Going beyond the farce of June 30

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL The recent complete report of the OSCE Elections Observing Mission on the Electoral process of June 30 is being depicted as not surprising. All the inconsistencies, irregularities and breaches of law that the report lists and describes

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Missing in Action: Albania’s voice nowhere near key events discussing integration

Missing in Action: Albania’s voice nowhere near key events discussing integration

TIRANA TIMES OP-ED The Bled Strategic Forum, a regional activity that gathers the “who is who” of regional politics and a variety of international actors who are relevant to the Western’s Balkans fate wrapped up its works this week. The

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“September 1939 – Poland caught in War with the svastika and the hammer and sickle”

“September 1939 – Poland caught in War with the svastika and the hammer and sickle”

By Karol Bachura* World War II, the bloodiest world war, which the humanity has ever known, started in September 1939 with the German (Sept. 1) and Soviet (Sept. 17) invasion of Poland. The Poles were not assisted and were therefore

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Albania, the controversial media law

Albania, the controversial media law

By Matteo Trevisan  According to the main advocacy organisations, the reform – promoted by Prime Minister Edi Rama since October 2018 to counter the spread of fake news – would include a series of alarming provisions that could jeopardise not

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Chronicles and Fragments

Chronicles and Fragments

The novels of Ismail Kadare. By James Wood  Like Trieste or Lvov, the medieval city of Gjirokastër, in southern Albania, has passed its history beneath a sign perpetually rewritten, in different hands, but always with the same words: “Under New Management.”

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL

Democratic systems do not rule out crises. They have mechanisms to solve them. Every solution is based first and foremost in legitimacy since fair representation is at the core of the functionality of democracy.

The situation in Albania is overdue for a solution now that all the sides have laid down their ‘revolutionary’ claims and there seems to be a temporary lull with a potential to seek an agreement. In full tranquility and normalcy they can and they should move towards a new seeking of legitimacy. The existing parliament of Albania is not legitimate. It has neither the quantity nor the quality of a normal assembly. The so called opposition taking the seats there is neither complete nor voted in. They do not have any mandate to go forward approving strategic reforms or even basic laws for the future of the country.

The way out of this is a round of general elections to reestablish the stakeholders’ standpoints, reinvigorate the institutions with new democratic mandates and reposition the political forces in a course that is more in line with the priority of European integration. General elections should no longer be feared as a major disruption. They happen routinely in all functioning democracies whenever a prolonged crisis fails to resolve by other means. The majority does not have anything to lose or to fear. It should welcome the chance to understand whether the voters still stands for them. It has a lot to gain showing a spirit of compromise and vision for the whole country.

The majority can seek the help of the institution of the President in this enterprise instead of fighting him in an absurd battle that undermines even further the already distraught system of checks and balances.

There is only one condition for this mechanism to work. Elections should be preceded by the Electoral Reform whose first and most important priority should be the decoupling of politics from organized crime. The Electoral Reform sought after with much dedication nowadays even by the international community should be have the full engagement and agreement of the real stakeholders.

The opposition should reconsider its refusal to sit at the table of the electoral reform especially if the signals of compromise materialize even further. One of them is the potential replacement of the current SP Commission Chair who offered to resign in order to aid the dialogue. The Electoral Reform should be used creatively to put in place a number of safeguards that would shield the electoral process in its wholesomeness from criminal and political interference.

Make no mistake about the apparent temporary calm: the crisis is continuing to rage silently and erode the democracy, economy and hope of Albanian young people. The need for a turning point is as immediate as in the days of violent protests if not even more so.

General elections have the potential to open up new dialogue and cooperation paths also for changes in the local government which is now deprived of any control with the lack of opposition mayors or even council members.  As the well-known religious figure, father Gjergj Meta, simultaneously a social issues promoter, encapsulates in his excellent quote: “During all these years municipalities and municipal councils in Albania despite being governed autocratically were at least pluralistic in composition. From now on they are not, not even formally. Within themselves and throughout the Albanian territory they are run by a monist system. This cannot be called a democracy not even formally.”

A solution rooted in legitimacy is what the crisis needs. Most importantly it can signal that Albania, now so close to the milestone of opening accession negotiations to the European Union, has the capacity to uphold the European standards of democracy.
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                    [post_content] => By Ilir Meta 

At the heart of democracy is the vote, the right of every citizen to be elected and to be elected, political pluralism.

Democracy means that every citizen decides for their own future. That every citizen has confidence in their role in democracy. That every citizen has the opportunity to influence decision-making. To make it transparent, through accountability at every local and national level.

Democracy means that every citizen is equal before the law.

Unfortunately, many of these principles and values, which are the pillars and heart of the democratic world, have been belittled in our country

The frustration is huge. Not regarding the democracy we brought in December '90, but regarding the ugly form it took in 30 years. 

Albania's dramatic depopulation and loss of hope, especially among the younger generation, is the most painful and unfortunate indicator. Look where we are today: the latest in the region at the door of the EU. And yet no one bears responsibility, on the contrary. Lawlessness is reaching new depths. 

The dangerous phenomenon of the parallel state of propaganda and PPPs, and the underground agendas that have seized Albania's throats, is nothing more than a conspiracy against democracy, its value and principle, against the sovereignty of all citizens who want a true European and Western democracy.

So today we have a common historical mission: to save democracy from the hostage-taking of an irresponsible and illegitimate minority.

Time does not wait!

This is our battle! Of the free, honest and hardworking people of our wonderful youth! And of all of us who love Albania with our hearts and souls! And I'm more determined than ever!

For a democratic Albania, like all Europe!

Because freedom, democracy and human dignity are non-negotiable!

Protecting democracy today is a patriotic task to restore the confidence of every citizen and every young person that the best future is only here and that requires everyone's contribution to change.

The solution is not removal, but awakening and change!

Let's give Albania back to Albanians and only to them! Because our youth can find everything they lack here today, but they will never find Homeland!

The dictatorship was many times more difficult than the oligarchs’ regime to overthrow!

The solution is not infant attraction and excuses, but confronting evil and wickedness!

It is now or never. 

*Ilir Meta is the President of the Republic of Albania
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL

Things will get worse before they get better. The political, institutional and even constitutional crisis in the country continues to be in full swing. This week the parliament opened the Meta hearings which are supposed to conclude whether the President committed constitutional foul with his annulment of elections , which was not implemented anyways) and with his new decree of elections in October, which are all but guaranteed not to happen.

In addition the majority has invited an outside body, the Venice Commission to perform their own evaluation about Meta’s potential infringement upon the Constitution. Ironically the Venice Commission delegates had to meet with the sole standing member judge of the Constitutional Court which is dysfunctional due to the Justice reform.

The depths of the current crisis are now getting lost on almost all actors. It seems that there is a willingness to go forward beyond all what has happened.

However nothing can go on unless the seriousness and absurdity of this crisis is fully addressed. The Parliament continues to be an institution where about 20 MPs are missing and the rest of the so called new position do not represent anyone politically or otherwise.

The local elections were heavily criticized by the ODHIR observation mission for serious breaches in law in addition to the already grave fact that there was no pluralistic choice to be made whatsoever. The Socialist Party candidate for the municipality of Shkodra had to retreat even before assuming office given his unearthed criminal past.

The High Court is still not working and the brunt of the vetting process implications is starting to slowly show on first instance courts as well.

In the midst of all the huge systemic problems, Albania has the audacity to hope even for a positive move from the European Union regarding the opening of accession negotiations. And the course of action taken by the majority in the most challenging of times is to go after the institution of the President. This might be their last obstacle before assuming and centralizing all powers. However President Meta presents a quite formidable challenge. Perhaps the most enduring political figure he has weathered much worse storms. He has outmaneuvered time and time again his opponents. The outstandingly friendly demeanor of the hearing commission of the majority is evidence to another game.

Otherwise said these hearings might be the best option to divert attention. Nothing masks better the economic stagnation, increasing negative image and creeping outward migration than a well thought political showdown in front of the cameras between old foes who happen to be in a long term love-hate relationship. It stands for excellent drama. And for very poor consideration of the public good.

The Constitutional order is all but dead. The show must go on.

 
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                    [post_content] => By Sidonja Manushi 

Some of the upsides of being governed by a painter in profession and an artist at heart are the capital buildings’ colorful facades and the Prime Minister’s own sense of fashion, which often makes headlines for its oddity, but is always entertaining to see.

A big downside, we are coming to realize, is his conviction that, just like in art, everything is open to interpretation - a belief under which the entire Socialist Party is being indoctrinated. 

Rama has played the game of personal interpretations many times in the past. The most noteworthy must have been when he tried to convince Albanians that the European Union refusing to open accession negotiations last year and postponing the decision this year was actually a positive thing. 

Meanwhile, he had been boasting there was no reason for negotiations not to open, as “Albania had done all its homework right.”

At the time, Rama used the European Commission’s positive recommendation towards EU member states as an indicator of the government’s well-done homework, forgetting it is actually the EU member states who decide whether candidate countries are ready to open accession negotiations. 

And of course, the signs were clear. Weeks before the negative decision was taken, a Dutch delegation came to Tirana and clearly said Albania still lags behind in the rule of law and punishment of high-end officials, and yet the Socialist Head of the Foreign Affairs Parliamentary Commission at the time Mimi Kodheli said the SP’s meeting with the delegation was “fruitful.”

Incidentally, the Netherlands is one of the main countries constantly denying Albania’s opening of negotiations due to the country’s internal issues.

Much of the same thing happened this week, but with a much more debated topic - that of the June 30 local elections. 

The final ODIHR elections’ final monitoring report described the June 30 elections taking place “in a climate of stagnation and political polarization, where voters were not able to choose among several political options.”

Furthermore, it highlighted the elections were not held with much regard for the electorate’s interest, while adding that “citizens, especially those working for public administration, faced direct and indirect pressure to express their political preferences.”

Observers claimed the election campaigning was nonexistent; other than posters on voter education, the ODIHR only noticed a small number of posters and other signs pointing to elections coming close.

And this is the tip of the iceberg.

On its part, however, the government said the report simply confirmed the June 30 elections as legitimate, while on social networks Rama wrote that “the next elections are not far from the time needed to address the recommendations in the function of the electoral reform.” 

Following Rama’s tactics, acting Foreign Minister Gent Cakaj also reacted to the report by saying it was mostly critical towards the opposition.

“The Albanian electoral process is free, democratic and recognized internationally. The ODIHR report evaluates the DP and LSI behavior in regards to attacking institutions as violent. We have been exposed to vandalistic violence before and after the election process. This is what the report says. There have even been attempts to block Albania's EU integration process,” Cakaj said.

As I stand inclined to believe this game of interpretations is a joke, it actually isn’t. And, jokes and interpretations aside, anyone who can read, see and think critically, leaving political poles aside, knows the Albanian electoral process was everything but free, or democratic. Both sides have been criticized for caring little to at-all for the people, while attempts to jeopardize Albania’s EU integration have come from both sides reckless political decisions. 

Art is always political, but in Albania politics are rarely artistic. 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-09-09 14:34:50
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                    [post_content] => By Alfonc Rakaj

A memorial built in Tirana’s central park for the fallen of the failed Turkish coup in 2016 has been publicly shunned. Turkey’s assertive foreign policy toward the region, and Rama’s close personal relationship with Erdogan has many worried about Ankara’s malign influence in Albania.

Politics of Space

Turkey and Albania enjoy a strong bilateral relationship. For decades these ties have been bolstered by increased trade, people to people exchanges and aid. Yet, the formers association with the Ottoman period is often contentious in Albania. Its neo-ottoman approach to Albania in particular and Albanians in general continues to cast doubts over Turkey’s influence, as in the case of the monument.

The monument was built by the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) to mark the third anniversary of the failed coup, an event which has by enlarge defined Turkey’s domestic politics ever since. Its ramifications are being felt by small Balkan countries as Ankara seeks to diminish the influence of Fethullah Gülen and his FETO organization which Turkey blames for the coup.

FETO has a strong presence in Albania through its educational institutions, considered the best of the country, where children of the country’s elite are educated. The influence of the Gülen movement on the next generation of Albanian leader is seen as a threat to the Turkish government. As a result, Turkey’s efforts to undermine the organization and its representatives have been multidimensional and assertive.

In 2016, the Turkish embassy in Tirana submitted a request to local authorities through which it sought to ban FETO schools from using Turkish symbols such as the flag or being identified with the country. To curb their influence, Ankara has deployed Maarif Foundation, a state organization created in the aftermath of the coup, to challenge FETO’s educational presence in the world. Three years since and Maarif has vastly expanded its presence in Southeast Europe, and Albania in particular. Through a series of acquisitions, among which Tirana’s highly regarded University of New York, Ankara is seeking to outmuscle and undermine FETO’s reputation and influence.

In addition, for over three years, Turkey has pressured Balkan governments, including Albania, to extradite designated FETO representatives whom it dubs dangerous to both Turkey and host countries, and holds them responsible for playing their part in the coup. Last year, six designated representatives of the organization were forcefully deported through questionable coordinated action by Kosovo by the Turkish and Kosovar intelligence services. A parliamentary investigation conducted in its aftermath found that 31 laws and procedures were breached in the process. Kosovo’s Prime Minister claimed to have not been informed.

What happened in Kosovo should serve Albania and other countries as a warning sign of Turkey’s intent to bully allies, export its domestic problems and undermine local laws. Instead, ever since, the government of Albania led by Edi Rama has forged a closer alliance, both at the institutional and personal level. Until now, Tirana has not complied with the request, but recent developments point to a change of approach.

Recently, Rama paid an unexpected visit to Turkey where he met with the Turkish president at his residence in Marmaris. Days afterward, the Interior Minister of Turkey paid a visit to Albania and was received by both Rama and Sander Lleshaj, Albania’s Minister of Interior. The Turkish minister gave a carefully planned interview for Turkish media. Standing tall in front of the monument, inaugurated weeks before by the local Turkish ambassador following a “Triumph of Democracy March” from Tirana’s main boulevard, he noted that his counterparts’ approach toward the Gülen Movement, pleased Turkey and him personally.

Locals, largely deprived of information on the matter, were left wondering if this marked a new beginning in the government’s approach toward FETO. Others were infuriated by the lack of transparency and institutional consideration due to the missing significance of the event or the victims to Albania. Notably, the Municipal Council had not discussed, nor approved its construction.

This usurpation of public space for a monument with no connection to Tirana or Albanian citizens is telling for two reasons. First, the lack of consideration for due processes by local authorities demonstrates how disturbingly unaccountable and weak they could be. The construction of the monument is important for another reason; it exposes Turkey’s intent to export its internal political problems abroad. More worryingly, it shows Ankara’s ability to impose its own agenda in Albania.

Unanswered Questions

The government of Albania has provided no public justification for the construction. Instead, it has resorted to silence typically used for publicly unpopular matters. Tirana municipality has been equally non-transparent. The only reaction to date has come from the mayor who sufficed to say, “Tirana has enough space for all.” This intentional avoidance of accountability is telling for the nature of bilateral relations between Turkey and Albania.

Given the monuments lack of connection with Albania, both the local and the central government were susceptible to public backlash its construction would ignite. This explains the governments missing justification and its attempt to keep a low profile. This is the reason government officials, including the media savvy Mayor of Tirana sought to avoid appearing at the ceremony.

Following strong reactions against its construction in social media, the municipality has provided guarded the monument from potential vandalism. A video of an elderly gentlemen challenging the guards was captured by the media and went viral for its content. In the video, he dubbed the monument an attempt to export Turkey’s problems to Albania by Erdogan. An anonymous letter left at the monument captured the essence of objection, noting: “Respect for those who don’t live anymore, but this monument does not belong to us, it belongs to our former occupiers.”

To such reactions, some locals who seemed unbothered by the presence of the monument, refuted these claims and added that such language and opposition is indicative of the Turkophobia or Islamophobia that exists among Albanians. Yet, the gentleman whose video went viral specifically disclosed he is a practicing Muslim and his last name was Islam. An Imam based in New York reacted by saying that such “Islamists” were confusing a stance against Erdogan as a stance against Turkey or Islam, the religion.

Days later, news broke out that the monument had been vandalized. Press reactions were more composed while neither the municipality nor the embassy have publicly reacted to the act. Even the state police, which daily releases a composed list of police operations has not reported on the act. A few days after the incident, a blurred picture of a middle-aged man extracted from CCTV cameras was circulated in local media channels. Yet, to date, the identity of the author or authors remain unknown.

The incident adds more to the mystery surrounding the construction of the monument. Its vandalism contributes to the list of questions that remain unanswered. It is unclear whether Turkish authorities will seek an explanation for the vandalism and ask for its reconstruction. Either way, the public has had its say by shunning the monument prior to vandalism. What remains to be seen is whether local authorities and the embassy have received the memo.

Turkish – Albanian or Rama – Erdogan Cooperation? 

The impact of the personal, be it of attitude, character or skill is unavoidable in international affairs. Yet, in terms of Albania’s bilateral relations with Turkey, it is becoming increasingly difficult to draw the line between Turkish and Albanian institutional relations, and personal ties of Mr. Rama and Mr. Erdogan.

While this may be indicative of the nature of governance in both countries where institutions are bent to the will of their leaders, this is hardly a sustainable approach for bilateral relations. This should serve as a warning to Albania and other Western Balkan countries that avoiding institutional accountability and cozying up with authoritarian leaning regimes has its drawbacks. It is for this reason they must be mindful of the nature of cooperation they seek with such partners.

After all, bilateral relations between Turkey and Albania cannot evolve solely on the merits of the relationship between their respective leaders. Even more importantly, cooperation between Ankara and Tirana must first and foremost reflect public interest on both countries. Undermining accountability is hardly the way to reflect this, nor a good foundation on which to build a sustainable partnership. And when governments, including municipalities shun scrutiny and criticism on affairs such as the construction of the monument, the public is right to believe its leaders are susceptible to unsolicited foreign influence.
                    [post_title] => A paradox from Tirana: Failed coup d'etat in Turkey, memorial in Albania
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                    [post_date] => 2019-09-09 14:30:35
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-09-09 12:30:35
                    [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL

The recent complete report of the OSCE Elections Observing Mission on the Electoral process of June 30 is being depicted as not surprising. All the inconsistencies, irregularities and breaches of law that the report lists and describes meticulously are called as public secrets, very well known by all citizens. However this report is indeed a novelty because it goes against the presumed international community’s previous acquittal of this electoral process. The alibi of the majority so far has been that our partners, our donors and supporters have subscribed to the normalcy of this democratic process. The report tells a different story. It turns out that they haven’t.

The report with its clear outline of each institution’s weakness and abuses and with the richness of its details and understanding that goes beyond the Albanian politics is a clam but serious denunciation of the situation that has been created in Albania.

The report gives the due share of responsibility to the Central Election Commission, the prosecutor’s office, to the public administration and even to the Albanian media which is portrayed as entirely captured and biased. All this however combine into the umbrella of one majority that exerts pressure on the all to behave according to its interest.

Hence these problems paint a very dark picture to the already existing gloom that hovered over the fact that this were the only elections in pro-Communist Albania when citizens did not have a real choice due to the opposition’s boycott. The outline of a looming centralized, noon democratic system captured by clientelism, crime and a total disregard for truth is depicted in all its shame and horror.

The key question is what happens now that the internationally recognized and authoritative institution regarding elections has spoken clearly? What is the way forward? Some stakeholders, both internally and from outside, have placed the bulk of hope on the upcoming electoral reform. However experts have been adamant that changing the procedures of the Electoral Law does little or nothing to do away with the intent of manipulation, vote buying and even the presence of crime in politics. The Electoral Reform per se is one right step but not the holistic approach to a solution.

There is an immediate, urgent need to restore the checks and balance system, to uphold the genuine democratic process and the rule of law and to severe the ties of crime with decision makers. None of this can be done by prompting fake oppositions or closing the eyes to the truth.

Albania is slowly but definitely transforming into a silent swamp where the waters are smelling fouler by the day. If people keep seeking ways to leave soon the majority will be left with only the oldest and the poorest. So far it seemed the international community was content with the relative tranquility of the wetland. The report perhaps is a signal of difference.
                    [post_title] => Editorial: Going beyond the farce of June 30 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-09-04 15:27:42
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-09-04 13:27:42
                    [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES OP-ED

The Bled Strategic Forum, a regional activity that gathers the “who is who” of regional politics and a variety of international actors who are relevant to the Western’s Balkans fate wrapped up its works this week. The Forum is being organized in the idyllic setting of lake Bled Slovenia since more than a decade.

This year, the key forum that got all the public and media attention. The featured the recently appointed US Special Envoy for the WB Mathew Palmer, RCC Director Majlinda Bregu and all the Ministers of Foreign Affairs form the regions countries, all except Albania.

Albania’s absence from this table was clearly a mistake. All the other ministers used the platform, the visibility and the attention of key stakeholders to present visions, request and even changing attitudes relevant to the interest of their country. Ivica Dacic played the reborn moderate card. Nikola Dimitrov took another swing at advocating once again for accession negotiations by saying that integration might stem brain drain from the region. Behgjet Pacolli rekindled talk of Kosovo in UNESCO. Everyone had a clear plan and objective and tried to achieve it. Albania simply did not show up.

The reason of Albania’s absence are not known at least not in public. It is hard to fathom any other more important event to be represented at during those days. This is a clear signal that sheds light again on the lack of priorities and overall chaos that reigns in foreign policy arm of the Albanian government. Whereas Albanians diplomacy never spares a chance to pronounce itself upon matters of global impact such as nuclear deals, Iran, North Korea etc. it is sadly absent from the tables where the very future of the region in which it partakes is being discussed. The regional focus especially in the context of the European perspective is the clear and sole focus that foreign policy needs to have.
                    [post_title] => Missing in Action: Albania’s voice nowhere near key events discussing integration
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                    [post_date] => 2019-08-29 13:40:46
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                    [post_content] => By Karol Bachura*

World War II, the bloodiest world war, which the humanity has ever known, started in September 1939 with the German (Sept. 1) and Soviet (Sept. 17) invasion of Poland. The Poles were not assisted and were therefore defetated but not conquered. The countrie’s authorities and the army were re-constructed in exile. On the Polish territories the underground state and the Home Army operated throughout the war. In the final years of the war Poland fell victim of yet more aggression depicted in the Wasaw Uprising of 1944. Despite enormous war-time efforts and massive material and human losses (over 6 million Poles dead), Poland could not fully enjoy victory although it suffered the greatest human and material losses. Half of the pre-war territories were annexed to the USSR, while after the war the rest was totally controlled by the Soviet communist divctatorship for the next 45 years.

Mapa_2

 

Roots/allied enemies/consequences

It is said that history is yesterday's politics while politics is today's history. To be able to understand  the pre-war surrounding more clearly one should dig deeper into historical facts. After World War I, Poland took its legal place on the map of Europe following 123 years of political absence. The country was rewon after more than 100 years of war, not only in two national uprisings, but also with the participation of the Poles in other peoples' struggle for self-determination in line with the slogan: "Your freedom is also our freedom", helped also by the weakening of the power of the then conquerors – the empires of Prussia, Russia and Austro-Hungary. The fight for freedom constitues one of Polish national prides whether we talk about 1919-1920, 1939-1945 or 1989. After World War I, in 1918, Poland regained independence, and in the following year, 1919, the Polish-Bolshevik war began.

On August 15, we commemorated the anniversary of the so-called "Miracle of the Vistula", a battle that stopped the Bolshevik army from marching westward and is considered by some as one of the most important battles in the world history. If in 1920 the Bolshevik soldats, "through the corpse of Poland” (as stated by Soviet army commander, Tukhachevsky), would lead to global revolution in Western Europe, the history of the continent and the world would have been much different.

After the Treaty of Versailles (1919) due to its western territorial benefits Poland was considered by Germany as a "parasite state", and with the passing of time Third Reich saw it as a space for "planned occupation". After the defeat of the Bolshevik army in 1920 for Soviet Russia Poland had been a first-rate enemy, a barrier to exporting Boshevik revolution to the West. Until 1939, both of the aggressive totalitarian states surrounded Poland with an almost closed cordon, but yet Poland did not give in. In summer 1939, Hitler and Stalin decided on a military alliance whose main target would be Poland. The Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, signed on August 23, 1939, in its secret annex decided on the full partition of the Polish territory between the two totalitarian allies. The united forces of those totalitarian powers were to make Poland powerless. Although preparations for war had been underway, Poland's potential in face of its ideologically and militarily strong neighbors could give it no chance in direct confrontation. On September 1, the  Nazi Germany army attacked Poland, and on September 17, the Polish Eastern border was invaded by the Soviet army.

Poland fought alone against the two totalitarian powers and was the first country to openly resist Hitler's destructive intentions. Great Britain and France, led by obligations towards Poland, declared war on the Third Reich already on September 3, but in the early weeks there were just empty statements. Having no military support, the Polish units could not stop the invaders' attacks though they showed unprecedented bravery. For 35 days Poland was fighting on its  own and with sheer determination facing simultaneously two totalitarian neighbors – the Third Reich and the Soviet Union. It was defeated and occupied, but never capitulated. The Poles have never agreed to the occupation. They created a unique “Underground State”, which operated secretly  against the Geman Nazis. For the Poles the fight for freedom has always been above personal life and material goods. Two and a half weeks after Hitler’s aggression, on September 17, contrary to the agreements signed, Poland was attacked by the Soviet army. Despite the supremacy of Nazi and Soviet forces combined, the resistance of the Poles lasted until October 6, while the general resistance to the enemies continued until the end of the war.

Bringing back to mind the time of 80 years ago, we are all  fully aware that World War II has brought countless victims and suffering to the peoples of Europe and the world. By various accounts, around 6 million Poles died during the war and in percentage this has been the largest loss among  the war participating states. Of those 6 million Poles, 3 million were Polish Jewish. Given the highest number of citizens of Jewish descent living in pre-war Poland  since many centuries, Hitler  decided to build camps and ghettos in the occupied territory of Poland, such as the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau camp.

Therefore it is shocking for Poles to listen to claims that Poland is  the one who started World War II, as well as it outrageous to hear about Holocaust denial. Mistakenly some circles try to put an equation mark between the executioner and the victim. Facts speak on their own - the number of Polish victims was 6 million. It might be interesting to known the fact that there were 35 million inhabitants in Poland before the outbreak of the Second World War, while after its end only 23 million people were living in the country boundries (6 million perished and the other 6 million Poles were dispersed around the globe).

Mapa_1

Uncompensated losses 

The World War II, which raged through Poland from September 1939 to 1945, constitutes catastrophy in every aspect because it destroyed the country, its people and elites,  shifted borders, partly into a new region which was also a dilapidated area, brought death and pain to almost every Polish family and brought about the extermination of Polish Jews. It destroyed relationship between the Poles and neighboring peoples, turned coexistence into hostility, and then imposed communism for 45 years. In the aftermath of war Poland suffered inappropriate loss: over 30% of population - only by 1978 the Poles managed to reach the level of pre-war 35 million inhabitants, furthermore over 60 % of lawyers, 40 % of doctors, 30 % of scientists and 30% of priests lost ther lives during the war. More than 40 % of the countries national property was destroyed, cities demolished – some like Warsaw alost in full, 20 % of pre-war territory lost.

As the consequences of the Potsdam Conference today's territory of Poland has shrunk by about 80 thousand km2 in comparison with the pre-war area (that is almost 3 times the territory of todays Albania). It is hard to say exactly how many Polish citizens remained in the East. It is known, however, that a massacre of Polish intelligentsia and officers took place in the Katyn forest in 1940. Over 20 thousand officers and Prisoners of War were annihilated by Soviet NKVD on direct order of Stalin. Tens of thousands of the Poles were shifted by the Soviet regime from pre-war Polish territories to Kazakhstan, Siberia and other parts of USSR. Some became part of the first Polish armed forces in the territory of the Soviet Union  created in 1941 (the year the German-Soviet war began), which left USSR via Middle East to fight in the Western front. The number of Poles in the USSR was so massive that it allowed the formation of a second Polish Army – this time communist based, which accompanied the Soviets on their road to Berlin in 1944 and served as the base for formation of the Polish Peoples Army after Poland was placed in the Soviet sphere of influence.

One cannot forget to mention the Warsaw Uprising - the biggest armed resistance in German occupied Europe and the last struggle for Poland’s full independence. Under the command of the underground  Home Army  the uprising began on August 1, 1944 and lasted 63 days. The insurgents testified during those days that their freedom was priceless. Third Reich's interior minister, Heinrich Himmler, reported on September 21 that "this was the fiercest battle we have waged since the beginning of the war. It was comparable only to the house-to-house fighting in Stalingrad”. The Warsaw Uprising was militarily against the Germans who held the city under occupation, while politically it was against the USSR and Polish Communist puppets. The aim of the uprising was to liberate the capital before the Red Army entered,  show nationalist empowerment of the Government of the Republic of Poland in exile (based in London), and the restraint of the vassalization and sovietization project of Poland. The plan and goals did not succeed. The uprising units, which were left at the mercy of fate, waged a lonely and unequal war for more than two months.

Losses among insurgents - often juveniles and young - accounted for more than 16,000 killed. Human casualties in geeneral of the uprising along with the majority of civilian population of Warsaw are estimated at nearly 200,000. After the fall of the uprising some 550,000 people were expelled from the capital, of whom about 150,000 were sent to forced labor or concentration camps. Due to war and insurgent fighting as well as the systematic destruction of the city by the German army more than 85 % of Warsaw was left in ruins. Poland irreversibly lost a great part of its national heritage. The Warsaw Uprising was an echo of a fight for  human dignity, the symbol of revolt against humiliation and abasement. Warsaw became the city that actually saw war and managed to survive its own death.

Poles started the process of caluculating the material damage caused by the war and the agression and occupation. The damage was huge and it will be difficult to put in numbers. Hoiwever one must focus only on  material damage, as one cannot put a price tag on human life, be it one life or six million lives.

tirana times

“Your freedom is also our freedom”

 During the war years, Poles scattered throughout Europe constituted the fifth largest army in World War II. The Polish Army played an essential role in the liberation of Italy, France, Belgium and the Netherlands in 1944-1945 period. Among the famous battles that were won is that of Monte Cassino, which paved the way for the Allies to Rome. The Polish Army had taken part in the liberation of a dozens of Italian cities, including Ancona and Bologna. In the North of France it contributed significantly to the battle of Falaise Gap opening the way to Paris. It later liberated Ypres and Ghent in Belgium as well as Breda in the Netherlands. The Polish air fleet had extraordinary merits in the Battle of London. The Polish navy, on the other hand, fought at Narvik, on the Atlantic, in the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas. The soldiers who fought on the western fronts remained there, as did the government in exile in London up until 1990 when Lech Walesa – the former “Soldarity” trade unions and communist opposition leader was voted president following free presidential elections. Official state insignia were then handed over to him by the last president of Poland in exile thus ending the history of the Polish Government in  Exile which started in 1939.

 

Reconcilliation – forgive but not forget

According to the Christian spirit one should forgive. In 1965, twenty years after the end of WW II, the Polish Catholic bishops wrote a pastoral letter of reconcilliation to their German brothers, in which they declared: "We forgive and ask for forgiveness". Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, but without pardoning it is difficult to build a common future.

When it comes to our Eastern partner, the situation is more complicated and sensitive. The Russian side's views on the common historical issues do not coincide with those of the Polish side as for example, among other things, the case of admitting that the Katyn massacre was genocide or the Soviet aggression against Poland on September 17, 1939 plus many more  open issues. We hope that the Russian side will eventually choose the path of merit based discussions on historical issues for the benefit of good bilateral relations. From our side, we adhere firmly to the attitude of building good relationship based on truth and facts.

 

Today’s Poland – a strong NATO ally

 When we speak about 80 years since World War II, we are actually talking about some dates and anniversaries that are inseparably linked to the history of Poland in the last centennial. This year, Poland commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, the 30th anniversary of the first free elections, the 20th anniversary in NATO membership and the 15th anniversary of joining the EU. The Euro-Atlantic anchors make Poland a strong nad realiable ally in Europe and globally.

 

Albanian accents to commemoration 

Just recently published book in Albanian language - “Poland-Victim of World War II”, written by  prof. S.V. Mehilli gives a lot more insight on the above subject. On 17 September the National Museum in Tirana, in collaboration with the Embassy of the Republic of Poland will open an exhibition devoted to the 80 Anniversary of the outbreak of WWII as well as the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.

 

*Karol Bachura is the Ambassador of Poland to Albania 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-08-19 14:34:54
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                    [post_content] => By Matteo Trevisan 

According to the main advocacy organisations, the reform – promoted by Prime Minister Edi Rama since October 2018 to counter the spread of fake news – would include a series of alarming provisions that could jeopardise not only the independence, but survival itself of many Albanian media.

The green light on July 3rd from the Council of Ministers – which furthermore came following the "most serious political and institutional crisis of the last 29 years of democracy" – has stirred, as expected, firm condemnation by Albanian civil society associations  , that regard the amendments presented as "against international best practices that aim the self-regulation of online media and not its regulation by the state, through administrative censorship bodies".

Concerns have also been expressed at the international level, on the occasion of a mission last June  , during which Article 19, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists – CPJ, and the Federation of European Journalists – EFJ met to verify the compliance of the previous draft of the package with the standards defined by the Albanian law and by instruments such as the European Convention on Human Rights.

More recent is the declaration of the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom – ECPMF, which joined Reporters without Borders – RSF, the International Press Institute – IPI, Article 19, and the Media Organization of South-Eastern Europe – SEEMO in "calling the Albanian government to withdraw the two bills". As we read in the joint statement, "instead of seeking further administrative regulations on defamation, the government should seek its complete decriminalization, as suggested by international best practices".

A "cosmetic" operation

The bills were presented in several versions, making it difficult to identify improvements or issues. If the main concerns over the first version involved the "controversial provisions regarding domain name registration and blocking", in the last draft  – according to experts – this draconian mechanism was eliminated, making seemingly less coercive the nature of amendments that would otherwise have allowed real "state control over the content of online media". Seemingly because, although these changes have been welcomed by the legal review by OSCE Representative  on media freedom Harlem Désir, many provisions remain that seem to herald a true censorship plan disguised as a reform. Specifically, the amendments target the law No. 97/2013 on Audiovisual Media and the Law No. 9918 on Electronic Communications in the Republic of Albania, raising strong concerns about the independence of the Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA) and the possibility of excessive penalties that would compromise the survival of many portals. Moreover, too many provisions remain vague and subject to interpretation, which would enable the government to abuse the law extensively. For example, paragraph 3 of article 132 of the Audiovisual Media Act would refer to the possibility of blocking Internet access "in cases when electronic media services 'may abet' criminal offenses of child pornography, encouragement of terrorist acts or national security breach". At this juncture, in addition to the obvious terminological approximation, the problem would derive from the fact that the reference to the "temporary" nature of the block would have been eliminated, paving the way for the interdiction "during an unlimited or not pre-determined period of time". And this would be dangerously linked to the subordination of the Audiovisual Media Authority to the will of the parties. Indeed, according to the legal review by the OSCE Representative, the new provisions proposed for the articles 132/1, 33/1, 55/1, and 53/1 of Law No. 97/2013 would grant the AMA the power to adopt particularly restrictive measures, including the forced removal of contents. A serious problem, since, as highlighted by Besar Likmeta, journalist of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, the AMA would not be "an independent institution, but rather a state body where the chairman and majority of the board are elected by the ruling majority in parliament. The board changes every time the government changes and the same can be said for its rulings and bias to power". Likmeta's opinion finds confirmation in the statement recently published by  ten Albanian human rights organisations, accusing the reform of empowering “a state administrative body to regulate the content of online media outlets, while at the same time [it does] not address the widespread problem of hidden propaganda and disinformation, sponsored by the government, local government units, and political parties", thereby effectively contravening international standards and the principles enshrined in the Constitution. As for the sanctions, Likmeta says, these can range between € 820 and € 8,200 "for the poorly worded and vague infraction of breaching the 'dignity and privacy' of citizens", up to € 820,000 in the event that a person refuses to "abide by AKEP rulings/orders that relate to the acts and decisions of the Complaints Council of AMA, or any other body with legal competences in this field", as stated in the associations' declaration. In practice, as denounced by various stakeholders, the excessive amount of these sanctions may be interpreted as an indirect attempt to threaten the survival of many electronic communications providers, as most of them could not bear the burden of such fines.

Between oligopolies and intimidation

The concerning provisions contained in the anti-defamation package would therefore further complicate the already disastrous situation faced by the Albanian media. Not only because the country's media market is highly concentrated in the hands of potentates with strong political ties – which, according to the Media Ownership Monitor, would control much of the audience and market share – but above all due to the tendency of politicians to attack, verbally and legally, independent media and journalists. Among these is Prime Minister Edi Rama, who recently promised  to sue German investigative journalist Peter Tiede following the disclosure of some wiretaps, which would show several cases of abuse of office by some Socialist Party officials during the 2016 local elections in the municipality of Dibra. Another case  brought to public attention by journalist Artur Cani, concerns Ylli Rakipi and Blendi Fezviu, whose dismissal was allegedly requested directly by the Prime Minister in a meeting with the owners of two television stations. Rakipi, an investigative journalist known for his critical positions towards the government (and subject, among other things, to death threats after the exposure of a corruption case related to the tender of the Outer Ring Road in Tirana), had already been sued for defamation by Rama in January for calling the prime minister "a clown", a "madman", and a man with "below average intelligence".

An ending already written?

Given the solid majority that the Prime Minister has in Parliament, it is not difficult to imagine that the package of amendments will be approved without too many complications. As if that were not enough, someone has raised the danger of a backlash by the government, which would see the introduction of new restrictive clauses linked to the registration of online media before the passage in Parliament scheduled for September. For their part, the associations committed to the defense of freedom of expression have already tuned in to oppose a reform that would not only aggravate the critical situation of the Albanian media, but that would hinder the country's process of integration into the European Union. Significant, therefore, the words that had been addressed by them to Rama last January to request the withdrawal of the bills: "In democratic countries, the aim of the law is to protect citizens from the government and not to protect the government from the citizens". *This publication has been produced within the project European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, co-funded by the European Commission. [post_title] => Albania, the controversial media law [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albania-the-controversial-media-law [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-08-20 22:39:29 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-20 20:39:29 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142916 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 142889 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-08-13 16:33:18 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-13 14:33:18 [post_content] => The novels of Ismail Kadare. By James Wood  Like Trieste or Lvov, the medieval city of Gjirokastër, in southern Albania, has passed its history beneath a sign perpetually rewritten, in different hands, but always with the same words: “Under New Management.” It enters the historical record in 1336, as a Byzantine possession, but in 1418 was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire. The Greeks occupied it in 1912, yet a year later it became part of the newly independent Albania. During the Second World War, it was taken by the Italians, taken back by the Greeks, and, finally, seized by the Germans: “At dusk the city, which through the centuries had appeared on maps as a possession of the Romans, the Normans, the Byzantines, the Turks, the Greeks and the Italians, now watched darkness fall as a part of the German empire. Utterly exhausted, dazed by the battle, it showed no sign of life.” The novelist Ismail Kadare was born in Gjirokastër in 1936, and those words are from the great novel that he drew out of his boyhood experiences of the war, “Chronicle in Stone,” which was published in Albanian in 1971 and in English in 1987. (This kind of lag between Kadare’s Albanian and English-language publications is not uncommon, partly because most of his work has been translated first into French and then turned into English, often by the distinguished scholar David Bellos, who is well known as a translator of Georges Perec.)  Despite the many horrors it describes, “Chronicle in Stone” is a joyful, often comic piece of work, in which the concentrated irony for which Kadare became famous—most notably in his later political parables and allegories of Communism, like “The Concert” and “The Successor”—is already visible. In this early novel, the irony has a more generous warmth. A young boy narrates the events, at once wide-eyed and sophisticated. War arrives, in the form of Italian bombing, British bombing, and, finally, the dark rondo whereby Greek and Italian occupiers arrive and depart from the stage like vicars in an English farce: “At ten in the morning on Thursday the Italians came back, marching in under freezing rain. They stayed only thirty hours. Six hours later the Greeks were back. The same thing happened all over again in the second week of November.” But Kadare is more interested in the kinds of stories that the town might have thrown up at any time in the past thousand years. Townspeople talk of spells, witches, ghosts, and legends. The young narrator discovers “Macbeth,” and reads it obsessively, seeing parallels between medieval Scotland and modern Gjirokastër. A group of old women discuss a neighbor’s son, who has started wearing spectacles, an occurrence that is treated superstitiously, as an omen of disaster. One of the women, Xhexho, says, “How I kept from bursting into tears, I’m sure I don’t know. He walked over to the cabinet, flipped through a few books, then went over to the window, stopped, and took off his glasses. . . . I reached out, picked up the glasses, and put them on. What can I tell you, my friends? My head was spinning. These glasses must be cursed. The world whirled like the circles of hell. Everything shook, rolled, and swayed as if possessed by the devil.” Her interlocutors all agree that a terrible fate has befallen the family of the bespectacled boy. Throughout the novel, these and other neighbors and relatives comment on ordinary events, and this forms a stubborn resistance to the novelty of the occupation. As a mark of how beautifully Kadare blends this atmosphere of the city’s traditional antiquity with the rapidity of wartime development, consider something this same woman, Xhexho, says, when she hears an air-raid siren for the first time: “Now we have a mourner who will wail for us all.” And yet, in an emphasis characteristic of Kadare’s wit, the memory of the past is regularly burlesqued, too:
I had heard that the First Crusade had passed this way a thousand years before. Old Xixo Gavo, they said, had related this in his chronicle. The crusaders had marched down the road in an endless stream, brandishing their arms and crosses and ceaselessly asking, “Where is the Holy Sepulchre?” They had pressed on south in search of that tomb without stopping in the city, fading away in the same direction the military convoys were now taking.
  There is something Monty Python-ish about the Crusaders, miles off course, demanding to see the Holy Sepulchre; and the link to the hopelessness of the modern soldiers is deftly made. The city stands stonily against the new invaders, as it always has: that is Kadare’s own “chronicle in stone.”   As the novel’s co-translator, David Bellos, points out in his introduction, this early book contains many of the elements and motifs that Kadare would work and rework in later fiction. Kadare uses the conventions of realistic storytelling, while feeling free to depart from conventionality whenever necessary; he likes to make use of the premodern liberties of Balkan legend, and deals straightforwardly and practically with such incursions into the texts as ghosts, fables, the living presence of the dead, magical occurrences, and the like. (In this, he sometimes resembles the late José Saramago, another postmodern traditionalist.) The books are formally playful, and often try out different styles of narration so as to find multiple paths to the same material. For instance, “Chronicle in Stone” is frequently interrupted by brief, abbreviated sections, entitled “Fragment of a Chronicle,” which read like newspaper reports, or diaries. In one of these, the author’s family name is fleetingly encountered: “Those killed in the latest bombing include: L.Tashi, L. Kadare. . . .”   Another name found in the novel has even greater resonance than Kadare’s. One day, a notice is posted on a ruined house: “Wanted: the dangerous Communist Enver Hoxha. Aged about 30.” Enver Hoxha, the Communist leader who kept a ruthless and paranoid grip on Albania for forty years, until his death, in 1985, was also born in Gjirokastër, in 1908. The novel does not mention Hoxha again, but his shadow, and the shadow of the regime that he built after the war, darkens the last eighty pages of the book. In one scene, some of the townspeople are deported by the Italians. As a crowd watches, a passerby asks what they have done. Someone else replies, “They spoke against.” “What does that mean? Against what?” the passerby asks. “I’m telling you, they spoke against.” The suppressed referent—“Against what?”—is garish in its silence, and Kadare became a master analyst of this sinister logic of lunacy, in its Communist totalitarian form. Later, Communist partisans start rounding people up. One of them shoots a girl by mistake, and is sentenced to death by fellow-partisans for “the misuse of revolutionary violence.” Just before he is executed, he raises his arm and cries, “Long live Communism!” Though “Chronicle in Stone” ends with the German occupation of the city, it gapes, forebodingly, at the postwar Albanian world.   At the end of the war, though, the nine-year-old Ismail Kadare and the thirty-six-year-old Hoxha were approaching each other like two dark dots on a snowy landscape, still miles apart but steadily converging on the same frozen lake. “Chronicle in Stone” represents an act of political resistance, of the cunning, subtle kind that allowed Kadare to survive Hoxha’s regime, even as some of his books were banned. “The Palace of Dreams,” published in 1981, and more obviously antagonistic, is one of those censored novels. (Although, in an absurdist twist, the book was banned two weeks after its publication, by which time it had sold out.) Like many of Kadare’s books, it is set in an imprecise past shaded by myth, but lit by the glare of totalitarian thought control. The Palace of Dreams is the most important government ministry in the Ottoman Empire, where bureaucrats sift and decode the dreams of the empire’s citizens, all of them working to find the Master Dreams that will help the Sultan in his rule. The novel’s hero, who comes from a prominent political family, rises through the ranks of the ministry; yet he cannot save his own family from political persecution—indeed, he unwittingly precipitates it. Enver Hoxha’s censors must have known at once that this surreal dystopia vividly conjured up, in carefully deflected form, the secret-police apparatus of modern Albania.   The suppression of “The Palace of Dreams” seems to have pushed Kadare beyond the boundaries of suggestion, allegory, implication, and indirection. Certainly, the novella “Agamemnon’s Daughter,” which Kadare wrote in the mid-nineteen-eighties, around the time of Hoxha’s death, is laceratingly direct. It is perhaps his greatest book, and, along with its sequel, “The Successor” (2003), surely one of the most devastating accounts ever written of the mental and spiritual contamination wreaked on the individual by the totalitarian state. Kadare’s French publisher, Claude Durand, has told of how Kadare smuggled some of his writings out of Albania, in 1986, and handed them to Durand, camouflaging them by changing Albanian names and places to German and Austrian ones, and attributing the writing to the West German novelist Siegfried Lenz. Durand collected the rest of this work, on two trips to Tirana, and the manuscripts were deposited in a safe at a Paris bank. As unaware as anyone else that Albanian Communism had only five years left to run, Kadare envisaged this deposit as a sort of insurance policy. In the event of his death, by natural or unnatural causes, the publication of these works would make it “harder,” in Durand’s words, “for the Communist propaganda machine to bend Kadare’s work and posthumous image to its own ends.”
That is a considerable understatement. I’m not sure that any regime could bend “Agamemnon’s Daughter” to its own ends. This is a terrifying work, relentless in its critique. It is set in Tirana in the early nineteen-eighties, during the May Day Parade. The narrator is a young man who works in television, and has unexpectedly been invited to attend the festivities from inside the Party grandstand. The formal invitation is unexpected because the narrator is a passionate liberal, strongly (though privately) opposed to the regime, and because he has recently survived a purge at his television station, resulting in the relegation of two colleagues. On the day of the parade, he cannot stop thinking about his lover, Suzana, who has broken off their relationship because her father is about to be chosen as the supreme leader’s designated successor and has asked his daughter not to jeopardize his career by consorting with an unsuitable man. Chillingly, she tells her lover that when her father explained the situation to her she “saw his point of view.” The novella confines itself to the day of the parade, and is essentially a portfolio of sketches of human ruination—a brief Inferno, in which victims of the regime are serially encountered by our narrator as he walks to the stands and takes his seat. There is the neighbor who watches him from his balcony, “looking as sickly as ever. . . . He was reputed to have laughed out loud on the day Stalin died, which brought his career as a brilliant young scientist to a shuddering halt.” There is Leka B., a theatre director who displeased the authorities and was transferred to the provinces, to run amateur productions. He tells the narrator that he had put on a play that turned out to have “no less than thirty-two ideological errors!” The narrator’s comment is withering: “It was as if he were delighted with the whole business and held it in secret admiration.” There is G.Z., a former colleague, who has survived a purge, though no one knows quite how: “His whole personality and history corresponded in sum to what in relatively polite language is called a pile of shit.” He is likened to the Bald Man in an Albanian folktale, who is rescued from Hell by an eagle—“but on one condition. Throughout the flight, the raptor would need to consume raw meat.” Eventually, since the journey takes several days, the Bald Man has to offer his own flesh to feed the bird, and by the time he makes it to the upper world he is little more than a bag of bones. At the center of “Agamemnon’s Daughter” is an icy reinterpretation of the Iphigenia story. The narrator reflects on Euripides’ play, and on Iphigenia’s apparently willing self-sacrifice, in order to help her father’s military ambitions. He turns the Greek tale around in his mind, and blends it with the remembered pain of Suzana’s departure. Hadn’t Stalin, he thinks, sacrificed his son Yakov, so that he could claim that he was sharing in the common lot of the Russian soldier? But what if the story of Agamemnon is really the story of Comrade Agamemnon—the first great account of absolute political tyranny? What if Agamemnon, in “a tyrant’s cynical ploy,” had merely used his daughter to legitimate warfare? Surely Yakov, “may he rest in peace, had not been sacrificed so as to suffer the same fate as any other Russian soldier, as the dictator had claimed, but to give Stalin the right to demand the life of anyone else.” The narrator realizes, as he watches Suzana’s father standing next to the Supreme Guide on the grandstand, that the Supreme Guide must have asked his deputy to initiate his daughter’s sacrifice. “Agamemnon’s Daughter” ends with this dark, spare, aphoristically alert declamation: “Nothing now stands in the way of the final shrivelling of our lives.” Kadare is inevitably likened to Orwell and Kundera, but he is a far deeper ironist than the first, and a better storyteller than the second. He is a compellingly ironic storyteller because he so brilliantly summons details that explode with symbolic reality. No one who has read “The Successor” (2003) can forget the moment when the Hoxha figure, called simply the Guide, visits the newly renovated home of his designated successor. The Successor’s wife offers to show the Guide around, despite the anxiety felt by others that the lavishness of the renovation may have been a huge political blunder. The Guide stops to examine a new living-room light switch, a dimmer that is the first of its kind in the country:
Silence had fallen all around, but when he managed to turn on the light and make it brighter, he laughed out loud. He turned the switch further, until the light was at maximum strength, then laughed again, ha-ha-ha, as if he’d just found a toy that pleased him. Everyone laughed with him, and the game went on until he began to turn the dimmer down. As the brightness dwindled, little by little everything began to freeze, to go lifeless, until all the many lamps in the room went dark.
In its concentrated ferocity, this has the feel of something very ancient: we might be reading Tacitus on Tiberius.
Alas, there is nothing of quite that high order in Kadare’s most recent novel, “The Accident,” translated from the Albanian by John Hodgson (Grove; $24). The new book is spare and often powerful, but it is a bit too spare, so that the ribs of allegory show through, in painful obviousness. Many of Kadare’s familiar procedures and themes are in evidence, beginning with the positing of an enigma that needs decoding. One morning in Vienna, sometime not long after the end of the war in Kosovo, a young Albanian couple are killed in a car accident. The taxi that had been taking them from their hotel to the airport suddenly veers off the Autobahn and crashes. The taxi-driver survives, but he can give no reasonable account of why he left the road, except to say that he had been looking in his rearview mirror at the couple, who had been “trying to kiss,” when a bright light distracted him. The accident is suspicious enough to attract various investigators, not least the intelligence services of Serbia, Montenegro, and Albania. The dead man, known as Besfort Y., appears to have been an Albanian diplomat, working at the Council of Europe, and may have been involved in nato’s decision to bomb Serbia. Perhaps the woman who died in the car, who was Besfort’s girlfriend, and is known in the reports as Rovena St., knew too much, and Besfort tried to kill her, in a botched plan. But why did Besfort refer to Rovena as “a call girl”? A few months before the accident, he had taken her to an Albanian motel and she had been “frightened for her life.” So a friend of hers tells investigators. Rovena, says the friend, “knew the most appalling things. . . . She knew the precise hour when Yugoslavia would be bombed, days in advance.” The security services give up, in the face of the usual Balkan incomprehensibility, and a mysterious, nameless “researcher” takes over. This authorial stand-in, who works “without funds or resources or powers of constraint,” decides to reconstruct the last forty weeks of the couple’s lives, using diaries, letters, phone calls, and the testimonies of friends:
Everywhere in the world events flow noisily on the surface, while their deep currents pull silently, but nowhere is this contrast so striking as in the Balkans. Gales sweep the mountains, lashing the tall firs and mighty oaks, and the whole peninsula appears demented.
Kadare feeds off this Balkan incomprehensibility: he likes to tease it and tease at it, while simultaneously making fun of people who talk about “Balkan incomprehensibility.” He is deeply interested in misreading, yet his prose has a classical clarity, so that much of his power as a storyteller has to do with his ability to provide an extraordinarily lucid analysis of incomprehensibility. This analysis moves between the comic and the tragic, and never finally settles in one mode. (His amiable and funny novel “The File on H.” reads like an Albanian Evelyn Waugh.) In both the new novel and “The Successor,” we begin with an apparent accident—in the earlier novel, the country’s designated successor has been found in his bedroom, shot dead—that allows Kadare to work through rival explanations. (“The Successor” is based on the “mysterious” death, reported as suicide, of the Albanian Prime Minister, Mehmet Shehu, in 1981. He had been Hoxha’s closest political ally for decades, but after his death he was denounced as a traitor and an enemy of the people, and his family arrested and imprisoned.) The question that haunts both novels is: When did it begin? When, in other words, did “the accident” become inevitable? When did the tide first turn against the Successor? Was it when the Guide failed to come to the Successor’s birthday party, for instance? The blackly surreal answer is, of course, that it has always begun; the tide was turning against the Successor even as he rose through the Party ranks. Likewise, in “The Accident,” one can see that Besfort and Rovena were always doomed, and that the reason, as in “The Successor,” is murkily ideological. The nameless “researcher” discovers that Besfort and Rovena have been together for twelve years. Rovena was a student when she met Besfort, who was older than she, and had come to the university at Tirana to teach international law. From the start, the relationship appears to have been electrically erotic, with Besfort as the seducer and the dominant partner. The novel hints at very rough sex. They agree to part, but soon reunite. The couple meet in various European cities and expensive hotels, exercising a freedom that was unthinkable before the collapse of Communism, their itinerary largely determined by Besfort’s diplomatic travel (where “diplomat” probably also means “spy”). But in Graz, for the first time, Rovena feels that Besfort is suffocating her, a feeling that will mount as the relationship progresses. “You’re preventing me from living,” she tells him, and elsewhere she complains that “he has me in chains . . . he is the prince and I am only a slave,” that “he wanted her entirely for himself, like every tyrant.” To these charges, he replies, “You took this yoke up yourself, and now you blame me?” He had been her liberator, Kadare writes, “but this is not the first time in history that a liberator had been taken for a tyrant, just as many a tyrant had been taken for a liberator.” Partly as a game, and partly as an admission of the terminality of their relationship, the couple begin speaking of themselves as client and call girl. Besfort considers killing her. “The Accident” is a difficult novel. It has a very interrupted form, continually looping back on itself, so that dates and place names seem almost scrambled and the reader must work a kind of hermeneutic espionage on the text. Unlike “Agamemnon’s Daughter” and “The Successor,” the analysis of incomprehensibility here seems quite opaque. Yet, at the same time, the symbolic pressure is a little too transparent. One gathers that Kadare is presenting a kind of allegory about the lures and imprisonments of the new post-Communist tyranny, liberty, and he has Besfort bang home this decoding: “Until yesterday,” he tells Rovena, “you were complaining that it was my fault that you aren’t free. And now you say you have too much freedom. But somehow it’s always my fault.” Besfort is the new liberty that Rovena cannot do without, and to which she is willing to be enslaved, and this freedom is dangerous and frequently squalid. “The Accident” thus offers an interesting reply to the question with which Kadare closes “Agamemnon’s Daughter.” At the end of that novella, the young narrator thinks of the Communist slogan “Let us revolutionize everything,” and asks, rhetorically, “How the hell can you revolutionize a woman’s sex? That’s where you’d have to start if you were going to tackle the basics—you had to start with the source of life. You would have to correct its appearance, the black triangle above it, and the glistening line of the labia.” He means that totalitarianism will always be thwarted by some non-ideological privacy, or surplus, beyond its reach. Kundera has repeatedly explored the same question, with regard to a libidinous erotics of resistance. Yet “The Accident” grimly suggests that it is indeed possible to “revolutionize” a woman’s sex, and that capitalism may be able to do this more easily than Communism. After all, the point about Besfort and Rovena is that their relationship is thoroughly contaminated by ideology and politics; their very postures of submission and domination are overdetermined. In a long speech that is surely at the emotional and ideological heart of the book, Besfort tells Rovena, who was only thirteen at the end of the dictatorship, about the kind of madness that prevailed under Hoxha. He describes a world of crazy inversion, reminiscent of Dostoyevsky’s universe, in which citizens willingly pretended to be conspirators, in order to confess their love for the leader while being simultaneously punished for crimes they had not committed. Each plotter, says Besfort, turned out to be more abject than the last:
The conspirators’ letters from prison became more and more ingratiating. Some requested Albanian dictionaries, because they were stuck for words to express their adoration of the leader. Others complained of not being tortured properly. The protocols sent back from firing squads on the barren sandbank by the river told the same story: their victims shouted, “Long live our leader!,” and as they conveyed their last wishes some felt such a burden of guilt that they asked to be killed not by the usual weapons but by anti-tank guns or flamethrowers. Others asked to be bombarded from the air, so that no trace of them would remain. . . . Nobody could distinguish truth from fiction in these reports, just as it was impossible to discern what the purpose of the conspirators, or even the leader himself, might be. Sometimes the leader’s mind was easier to read. He had enslaved the entire nation, and now the adoration of the conspirators would crown his triumph. Some people guessed that he was sated with the love of his loyal followers, and that he now wanted something new and apparently impossible—the love of traitors.
We are back in the world of Leka B., who was oddly proud of his thirty-two ideological errors, and of the partisan in “A Chronicle of Stone” who dies shouting, “Long live Communism!” Kadare also subtly suggests that this dense, overwrought speech might itself be evidence that Besfort is a victim of the totalitarianism that he so despises—that he cannot escape its deformations, its legacies, the memory of its hysteria. But a melancholy thought also casts its shadow. Might this be true of Kadare, too? It is poignant that the most powerful section in the novel returns to old ground and old obsessions, and it is poignant, too, that this allegory of the tyranny of liberty is less effective, as a novel, than Kadare’s earlier allegories of the tyranny of tyranny. Back when he worked within and against totalitarianism, he had the advantage of being sustained by the great subject of the Hoxha regime, like a man sitting on a huge statue. Perhaps it is in the nature of freedom—still, after all, a transitional event in the history of postwar Albania—that a novelist even of Kadare’s great powers will seem, when trying to allegorize it, to stab at clouds. Kadare would not be the only novelist who has found, with the collapse of Communism, that his world has disappeared, however much he longed for the destruction of that world. These are early days yet. ♦ This article appeared on the print edition of the New Yorker. 
[post_title] => Chronicles and Fragments [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => chronicles-and-fragments [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-08-13 16:33:18 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-13 14:33:18 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142889 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 143084 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-09-20 09:21:57 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-09-20 07:21:57 [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL Democratic systems do not rule out crises. They have mechanisms to solve them. Every solution is based first and foremost in legitimacy since fair representation is at the core of the functionality of democracy. The situation in Albania is overdue for a solution now that all the sides have laid down their ‘revolutionary’ claims and there seems to be a temporary lull with a potential to seek an agreement. In full tranquility and normalcy they can and they should move towards a new seeking of legitimacy. The existing parliament of Albania is not legitimate. It has neither the quantity nor the quality of a normal assembly. The so called opposition taking the seats there is neither complete nor voted in. They do not have any mandate to go forward approving strategic reforms or even basic laws for the future of the country. The way out of this is a round of general elections to reestablish the stakeholders’ standpoints, reinvigorate the institutions with new democratic mandates and reposition the political forces in a course that is more in line with the priority of European integration. General elections should no longer be feared as a major disruption. They happen routinely in all functioning democracies whenever a prolonged crisis fails to resolve by other means. The majority does not have anything to lose or to fear. It should welcome the chance to understand whether the voters still stands for them. It has a lot to gain showing a spirit of compromise and vision for the whole country. The majority can seek the help of the institution of the President in this enterprise instead of fighting him in an absurd battle that undermines even further the already distraught system of checks and balances. There is only one condition for this mechanism to work. Elections should be preceded by the Electoral Reform whose first and most important priority should be the decoupling of politics from organized crime. The Electoral Reform sought after with much dedication nowadays even by the international community should be have the full engagement and agreement of the real stakeholders. The opposition should reconsider its refusal to sit at the table of the electoral reform especially if the signals of compromise materialize even further. One of them is the potential replacement of the current SP Commission Chair who offered to resign in order to aid the dialogue. The Electoral Reform should be used creatively to put in place a number of safeguards that would shield the electoral process in its wholesomeness from criminal and political interference. Make no mistake about the apparent temporary calm: the crisis is continuing to rage silently and erode the democracy, economy and hope of Albanian young people. The need for a turning point is as immediate as in the days of violent protests if not even more so. General elections have the potential to open up new dialogue and cooperation paths also for changes in the local government which is now deprived of any control with the lack of opposition mayors or even council members.  As the well-known religious figure, father Gjergj Meta, simultaneously a social issues promoter, encapsulates in his excellent quote: “During all these years municipalities and municipal councils in Albania despite being governed autocratically were at least pluralistic in composition. From now on they are not, not even formally. Within themselves and throughout the Albanian territory they are run by a monist system. This cannot be called a democracy not even formally.” A solution rooted in legitimacy is what the crisis needs. Most importantly it can signal that Albania, now so close to the milestone of opening accession negotiations to the European Union, has the capacity to uphold the European standards of democracy. 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