Editorial: In parliament, new season, old divisions

Editorial: In parliament, new season, old divisions

It’s a new parliamentary season in Albania, but the same old story of deep political divisions continues. And in the process, it is creating a negative climate that focuses on narrow interests of the elite, and places public interest in

Read Full Article
Beware of Serbia’s gift

Beware of Serbia’s gift

By Arian Koci  When after ten years of war and constant siege against Troy, the ancient Greek army retreated leaving a wooden horse behind as a gift to gods, a Trojan priest called Laocoon is said to have told his

Read Full Article
Why China-Albania relationship is warming up again

Why China-Albania relationship is warming up again

By Simon Shen* Ever since the outbreak of the Greek debt crisis, the ports of Greece have become beachheads for China to advance into Europe under its “One Belt, One Road” initiative. Meanwhile, Albania, which was once China’s closest friend,

Read Full Article
Perils of Balkan partition

Perils of Balkan partition

By Janusz Bugajski After several provocative statements by Serbian and Kosovar politicians and in the midst of relative silence from Washington and Brussels, suppositions are growing that a territorial exchange is being planned between Belgrade and Pristina. Kosovo’s President Hashim

Read Full Article
Border conflicts in the Balkans

Border conflicts in the Balkans

By Prof. Dr. Blerim Reka  Almost three decades after Yugoslavia’s dissolution, the new borders of the Balkans are still not fixed and will likely remain so for the next decade. Only a few bilateral demarcation agreements between the former federal

Read Full Article
Border corrections are Balkan recipe for disaster, Washington Post writes

Border corrections are Balkan recipe for disaster, Washington Post writes

TIRANA, Aug. 11 – An opinion published at the globally renowned Washington Post on Thursday said that proposing new divisions in the region as a solution for the future of the Balkans in general, and the Euro-Atlantic integration of Serbia

Read Full Article
Editorial: US report on Albania economic climate should serve as a wake up call

Editorial: US report on Albania economic climate should serve as a wake up call

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL If Albania’s government was looking for good news on the economic front, this wasn’t a good week. Despite much touted official numbers showing steady economic growth and lower unemployment, a US report out this week shows what

Read Full Article
Editorial: Back to the future: The return of borders and migrants

Editorial: Back to the future: The return of borders and migrants

Increasingly, when it comes to borders, Europe appears to be going back to the future. A decade after most countries under the EU banner shed barriers dividing them to allow the free movement of people and goods within the bloc,

Read Full Article
Editorial: From the fall of the justice system to the fall of justice in Albania

Editorial: From the fall of the justice system to the fall of justice in Albania

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL For all intents and purposes, day after day, we are currently witnessing the fall of the justice system in Albania. This is happening through the removal from office of the majority of officials in key judicial institutions

Read Full Article
Editorial: The problem with newsless summits

Editorial: The problem with newsless summits

It has been a week of important international summits for Albania on paper. First, Western Balkan leaders met with key EU counterparts in London to discuss the region’s EU future as part of the Berlin Process. Then, NATO held its

Read Full Article
WP_Query Object
(
    [query_vars] => Array
        (
            [cat] => 30
            [paged] => 2
            [error] => 
            [m] => 
            [p] => 0
            [post_parent] => 
            [subpost] => 
            [subpost_id] => 
            [attachment] => 
            [attachment_id] => 0
            [name] => 
            [static] => 
            [pagename] => 
            [page_id] => 0
            [second] => 
            [minute] => 
            [hour] => 
            [day] => 0
            [monthnum] => 0
            [year] => 0
            [w] => 0
            [category_name] => op-ed
            [tag] => 
            [tag_id] => 
            [author] => 
            [author_name] => 
            [feed] => 
            [tb] => 
            [comments_popup] => 
            [meta_key] => 
            [meta_value] => 
            [preview] => 
            [s] => 
            [sentence] => 
            [fields] => 
            [menu_order] => 
            [category__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [category__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [category__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [post__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag_slug__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag_slug__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_parent__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_parent__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [author__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [author__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [ignore_sticky_posts] => 
            [suppress_filters] => 
            [cache_results] => 1
            [update_post_term_cache] => 1
            [update_post_meta_cache] => 1
            [post_type] => 
            [posts_per_page] => 10
            [nopaging] => 
            [comments_per_page] => 50
            [no_found_rows] => 
            [order] => DESC
        )

    [tax_query] => WP_Tax_Query Object
        (
            [queries] => Array
                (
                    [0] => Array
                        (
                            [taxonomy] => category
                            [terms] => Array
                                (
                                    [0] => 30
                                )

                            [include_children] => 1
                            [field] => term_id
                            [operator] => IN
                        )

                )

            [relation] => AND
        )

    [meta_query] => WP_Meta_Query Object
        (
            [queries] => Array
                (
                )

            [relation] => 
        )

    [date_query] => 
    [post_count] => 10
    [current_post] => -1
    [in_the_loop] => 
    [comment_count] => 0
    [current_comment] => -1
    [found_posts] => 785
    [max_num_pages] => 79
    [max_num_comment_pages] => 0
    [is_single] => 
    [is_preview] => 
    [is_page] => 
    [is_archive] => 1
    [is_date] => 
    [is_year] => 
    [is_month] => 
    [is_day] => 
    [is_time] => 
    [is_author] => 
    [is_category] => 1
    [is_tag] => 
    [is_tax] => 
    [is_search] => 
    [is_feed] => 
    [is_comment_feed] => 
    [is_trackback] => 
    [is_home] => 
    [is_404] => 
    [is_comments_popup] => 
    [is_paged] => 1
    [is_admin] => 
    [is_attachment] => 
    [is_singular] => 
    [is_robots] => 
    [is_posts_page] => 
    [is_post_type_archive] => 
    [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => a0ad0b22f05d2f4fdacc4dc7c0ac86a8
    [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => 
    [thumbnails_cached] => 1
    [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => 
    [query] => Array
        (
            [cat] => 30
            [paged] => 2
        )

    [request] => SELECT SQL_CALC_FOUND_ROWS  wp_posts.ID FROM wp_posts  INNER JOIN wp_term_relationships ON (wp_posts.ID = wp_term_relationships.object_id) WHERE 1=1  AND ( wp_term_relationships.term_taxonomy_id IN (30) ) AND wp_posts.post_type = 'post' AND (wp_posts.post_status = 'publish') GROUP BY wp_posts.ID ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC LIMIT 10, 10
    [posts] => Array
        (
            [0] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 138395
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2018-09-07 10:03:57
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-09-07 08:03:57
                    [post_content] => It’s a new parliamentary season in Albania, but the same old story of deep political divisions continues. And in the process, it is creating a negative climate that focuses on narrow interests of the elite, and places public interest in the back seat.

The ruling Socialist Party has again expressed its determination to move forward with plans to override presidential vetoes on controversial laws like the one that would see the old National Theatre Building demolished and replaced with a complex built under a public-private partnership. It is being done through a first ever law in Albania that actually mentions the selected company by name, dropping any pretence of fair competition mandated under Albania’s domestic and international legal obligations. 

It is no wonder then that the opposition calls it corrupt and unconstitutional, as do many civil society activists.

But the new new flagship opposition program deals with fighting crime, after a wave of mafia-style violence in several Albanian cities.  

On Tuesday, a united opposition gathered in Shkodra in what it called an extraordinary session to send a message of resistance to the recent crimes that have occured in the city. On Thursday, it followed the same tactic, gathering in Elbasan -- which the head of the opposition, Lulzim Basha, calls the epicenter of organized crime.

The government has countered with accusations that the opposition is trying to destroy the image of Albania, an old and tired PR tactic that does not address the core of the issue -- the rapid criminalization of Albanian society in recent years. 

The judicial reform, which has left the country bare of courts and judges and the electoral reform, another EU condition for Albania to open accession negotiations within 2019, remain other points of contention that require the two sides to work together, cooperation that sees to be missing from any short-term forecast.   

All this, of course, makes for an unhealthy situation for Albania, its people and the ability to of the country to attracts investments and grow the economy, steps needed stop the out-flow of people, so alarming that according the recent studies could see Albania with less than a million people after two decades. 

More than 5 years after it first came to power, the Socialist government of Edi Rama is starting to show the strain of power. It can now choose to reflect and have a more tolerant approach to the opposition and the hot issues it has sought to address or continue under the current path of what it calls -- governing with the people -- which is anything but. The current model has produced growth and a better life for the few, to the detriment of the many. Delegitimizing the valid concerns of the opposition and civil society through the tools given by political and economic power can only go so far. 

A first step is sitting down and creating more political consensus so that political parties can move beyond their narrow interests and actually fulfill their mandate to work for the good of the Albanian people. 

 
                    [post_title] => Editorial: In parliament, new season, old divisions 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => editorial-in-parliament-new-season-old-divisions
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-09-07 10:03:57
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-09-07 08:03:57
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=138395
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [1] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 138318
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2018-08-30 11:09:09
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-08-30 09:09:09
                    [post_content] => By Arian Koci 

When after ten years of war and constant siege against Troy, the ancient Greek army retreated leaving a wooden horse behind as a gift to gods, a Trojan priest called Laocoon is said to have told his people to ‘burn the horse, as I fear the Greeks even when bringing gifts’. Most Trojans, tired of war, ignored the warning and dragged it inside the city walls as a victory trophy.  That fatal night after much celebration, as Troy slept in a drunken stupor, a group of elite Greek soldiers climbed out from inside the belly of the wooden horse and opened the gates letting in the Greek army that had returned.  Troy was burned and pillaged and the Trojan horse forever became a symbol of trickery and a warning to future generations to always be on guard of the foe’s intentions. Virgil’s line in his epic poem Aedeid, ‘Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes’, has often been quoted in English as ‘beware of the Greeks bearing gifts’, or in other words, watch your back even when your enemy is making a peace offering.  Kosovo leaders need to pay attention to this lesson from history and beware of the ‘Serbian gift’ of territorial exchange.

It was no surprise that when the idea was first floated in Belgrade a few weeks ago, it caused a stir and strong reaction in the Balkans and further afield. The United States and European Union, with the exception of Germany, have supported it.  What was surprising was the Kosovo president Hashim Thaçi’s endorsement of the plan. Regional reactions have been mostly negative, because of the fear of the domino effect it might cause in other disputed and ethnically mixed areas of the Balkans.

This concern has dominated the western discourse  and so far little attention has been paid to Albanian concerns.  In Kosovo, despite Mr Thaçi’s euphemistic efforts to minimise it effect by calling it ‘border correction’, the proposal has been met with shock and panic and the opposition has put forward a parliamentary motion to adopt a resolution affirming the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country.  Many in Kosovo openly question President Thaçi’s right or his power to negotiate a territorial exchange with Serbia.

The idea of ending the conflict in Kosovo through a land swap with Serbia is not new.  It has been mooted several years earlier by the Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, but has, until now, been dismissed as naiive at best and dangerous at worst.  Its supporters argue that the agreement would enhance regional peace and security and unlock Serbia’s European integration impasse.  Many in Belgrade also hope it will provide a much needed precedent for any future negotiation of absorbing Republika Serbska within Serbia. Kosovo’s benefits from the process are much less clear.

Supporters of the deal in western media prefer to point out that it provides land exchange parity through a straight swap of Serb-majority municipalities in the north where the Kosovo government exercises no authority, for those in Presevo Valley in southern Serbia with a mainly Albanian population.  Crucially, the argument goes, the deal will open the way for Kosovo’s membership to the UN and eventually the EU.  However, these are untested assumptions and even if the deal removes Serbia’s intransigence, it is no guarantee of Kosovo’s membership to these organizations. UN membership is conditional on the Russian and Chinese veto and despite Moscow’s indications that it will go along with any deal acceptable to Belgrade, this is not guaranteed.  Neither is China’s attitude or those of the five EU countries. They have refused to recognize Kosovo out of concerns for their own domestic situation rather than in sympathy to the Serbian plight.  Also, the proposals provide no territorial exchange parity.  By losing its northern municipalities, Kosovo is denied access to two of its most valuable natural resources, the large industrial complex in Trepça and the Gazivoda Lake which provides most of drinking water. In return, it would receive a few impoverished half empty villages.  Why is then president Thaçi going along with this Serbian proposal?

Perhaps, like the ancient Trojans, he is tired of the ‘frozen conflict’ as he described it recently.  He failed to mention that the current state of affairs owes much to Serbia’s efforts to ‘freeze’ any progress in Kosovo.  If this is the case, Mr Thaçi, could always exercise his right to step aside and allow a more energetic skipper to take the helm.  He should not be tempted to find short cuts and steer Kosovo is dark and unchartered waters just because he is running out of steam.  His legacy in Kosovo’s history is secure - he won the war and has not yet lost the peace.  Kosovo already has a plan to integrate the northern municipalities through the implementation of the Association Agreement in accordance with its constitution.  If Serbia is stonewalling it, that should be to Serbia’s detriment, not Kosovo’s.  Hashim Thaçi has a strong card in hand, Serbia’s desperation to move forward in its EU path which cannot be achieved without a deal with Kosovo.  Lack of progress so far is not entirely Kosovo’s fault and that’s why Ivica Dacic and Aleksandar Vucic are pushing forward the territorial exchange plan.  This is the more reason for Hashim Thaçi to listen to Berlin, which opposes Belgrade’s plan and holds its key to EU integration.  He should ignore Belgrade’s pleas and promises, or those coming from mediocre politicians in Brussels who change long standing policies on a whim with no regard for the consequences on the ground.

The nativist winds blowing in Washington are an anomaly and no indication of the long-term American interests in the Balkans.  John Bolton and Jared Kushner, as the main supporters of the Serbian proposal, have neither the knowledge nor the inclination to find a long-term solution for Kosovo.  If Thaçi is truly a ‘snake’, as his nom-de-guerre suggests, he should know how to prolong the negotiations till there are favourable winds in Washington, and he may not have to wait as long as the Serbs had to.

Ivica Dacic and his boss, President Aleksandar Vucic speak of the need to recognize a new political reality which they themselves have meticulously created. The Serbian policy towards Kosovo has not changed, no has its main diplomatic drive, it’s the world that has moved on.  In these negotiations with Serbia, Kosovo will not be an equal and will not start from a position of strength.  When the weak are tempted to take politically realistic decisions, they should first consider another lesson from history.  ‘Right, as the world goes’, says Thucydides in his seminal work the ‘Peloponnesian War’, ‘is only a question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must’.
                    [post_title] => Beware of Serbia's gift 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => beware-of-serbias-gift
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-08-30 11:24:53
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-08-30 09:24:53
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=138318
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [2] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 138273
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2018-08-22 10:33:31
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-08-22 08:33:31
                    [post_content] => By Simon Shen*

Ever since the outbreak of the Greek debt crisis, the ports of Greece have become beachheads for China to advance into Europe under its “One Belt, One Road” initiative.

Meanwhile, Albania, which was once China’s closest friend, may also enter into an economic honeymoon period with Beijing.

Mainlanders of the previous generation must be very familiar with Albania.

During the years of the Cultural Revolution, when China was at odds with both the United States and the Soviet Union, Albania was chairman Mao Zedong’s only foreign ally.

And in order to express its deep gratitude to Albania for its steadfast friendship and loyalty, China, which was itself extremely impoverished in those days, provided tens of thousands of tons of food and billions of dollars in foreign aid for its European friend, which Mao referred to as the “true socialist lighthouse of Europe”.

However, the “romantic” relations between Beijing and Tirana ground to a sudden halt in the early 1980s when Enver Hoxha, the former political strongman of Albania, strongly criticized his Chinese counterpart Deng Xiaoping for “taking the revisionist path”.

Since then Sino-Albanian relations had remained at rock bottom for decades, until the dawn of the “One Belt One Road” era, when China began to “rediscover” the strategic and geopolitical value of Albania.

Earlier on, China has concluded the so-called “16+1” agreement with Eastern European countries. And Albania, which is regarded by Beijing as its strategic outpost in the Balkans, has once again become its partner under the “One Belt One Road” strategy.

Apart from being able to serve as a bridge between China and Europe, Albania is also of great value to Beijing in other respects: its rich natural resources, oil, and minerals such as chromite are extremely attractive as well.

In 2016, the Geo-Jade Petroleum Corporation of China acquired the Bankers Petroleum, which was formerly known as the Albanian National Oil Company.

As far as Albania is concerned, Chinese investments and capital are also key to resuscitating its economy.

In fact, over the years, Albania has remained one of the poorest countries in Europe, thanks to its decades-long policy of seclusion.

Even though the Albanian government has carried out numerous reform initiatives in recent years, and the national economy has been slowly recovering, the country’s infrastructure and railway system have remained very poor and unreliable.

For instance, currently the only decent highway across the entire Albania is the one that links the capital city Tirana and the second largest city Durrës, not to mention that the country only has one international airport.

Even Tirana, Albania’s capital, is probably the most run-down city across the Balkans, and is at best comparable with third-tier cities in China in terms of the overall level of development.

Worse still, at present the unemployment rate in Albania stands at 17 percent, and the poor economic environment has driven many Albanians out of the country in a desperate bid to seek a better life abroad.

That probably explains why the Albanian government is so eagerly looking to Chinese investors to come to its rescue by providing jobs and rebuilding the country’s infrastructure.

However, although Tirana needs Chinese capital so badly, China and Albania are unlikely to become as close as they used to be in the coming days.

After all, Albania has already joined the NATO and has become a candidate for future European Union membership.

Given that, while Tirana is eager to develop closer economic ties with Beijing, it’d rather keep the latter at arm’s length politically.

Besides, Albania is apparently well aware of the potential risk of having all of its eggs in one basket. It is working aggressively to make good use of its own Islamic background and draw investments from other Muslim countries such as Turkey, Qatar and Iran.

Simply put, Albania will no longer “lean to one side” in its foreign policy because it has learnt the historical lesson the hard way.

 

*Simon Shen is an associate professor and director of Global Studies Programme, Faculty of Social Science, at the Chinese University of Hong Kong; Lead Writer (Global) at the Hong Kong Economic Journal

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug. 9

 
                    [post_title] => Why China-Albania relationship is warming up again
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => why-china-albania-relationship-is-warming-up-again
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-08-22 10:33:31
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-08-22 08:33:31
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=138273
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [3] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 138250
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2018-08-17 09:52:30
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-08-17 07:52:30
                    [post_content] => By Janusz Bugajski 

After several provocative statements by Serbian and Kosovar politicians and in the midst of relative silence from Washington and Brussels, suppositions are growing that a territorial exchange is being planned between Belgrade and Pristina.

Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci has asserted that the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue will include talks on “border corrections” – a term that implies the exchange of territory and not simply demarcation agreements as recently concluded between Kosovo and Montenegro. Some Serbian officials have repeatedly put forward the territorial option to normalize relations between the two states but thus far the issue has not been seriously considered.

In a move that inflamed rumors of secret exchanges, Thaci stated that talks with Belgrade should consider the unification with Kosova of the Presevo Valley, a part of southern Serbia with a majority Albanian population. Thaci clearly wants to bring Presevo into the discussion and not be faced with a unilateral surrender of northern Kosovo, in which Serbs form majorities in four municipalities.

The United States and the EU have consistently opposed any border changes, viewing such moves as dangerous in a still volatile region. But rumors are now swirling that Washington and Brussels may seek to resolve the Serbia-Kosovo dispute through a territorial option and have launched a trial balloon to see what Belgrade and Pristina can agree on without direct international mediation.

In recent media statements, the U.S. ambassador to Kosovo and a spokesman for the European Commission did not rule out territorial revisions, simply asserting that Belgrade and Pristina needed to reach a solution. At the same time, Serbia’s Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, claimed that he had discussed a possible partition during a visit to Washington. Only German Chancellor Angela Merkel has openly rejected any border changes during a recent meeting in Berlin with the Bosnian Prime Minister.

Historically, partitions are nothing new, whether through post-war adjustments by the victorious parties or on the basis of democratic plebiscites or inter-governmental agreements. While Yugoslavia was dismembered through wars and elections, Moscow was unable to hold the Soviet Union together by force, and Czechoslovakia was amicably divided by Prague and Bratislava. In each case, however, the new countries were former federal subjects possessing clear administrative borders and elected governments. The potential division of Kosovo would legitimize a new principle – the partition of states that emerged from the defunct communist federations.

Such a process would require at least four conditions to be realized peacefully. First, because only sovereign states can exchange territory, Serbia and Kosovo would need to recognize each other as independent countries and not block entry into international institutions. Second, popular approval in both countries would need to be secured either through parliament or a public referendum. Third, international mediation would be essential to implement any territorial agreements. And fourth, the citizens affected by the land swaps would have to be assisted in relocating to the state of their choice.

But even if all these conditions were met, border changes in the Western Balkans are fraught with perils and would be interpreted throughout the region as legitimizing national homogenization. With the principle of multi-ethnicity evidently jettisoned, demands for mono-ethnicity would escalate and potentially unravel several countries. Western institutions and NATO forces may find themselves woefully unprepared for the wave of instability that could subsequently engulf the region.

In Kosovo itself, the Serbian Orthodox Church vehemently opposes any loss of territory especially as most Serb religious sites and over 60% of the Serbian population are not located in the northern municipalities. Radicalized Serbs and Albanians could incite violent protests in order to expel the other ethnicity from their assigned territories. And a similar process can be envisaged in the Presevo valley if a land swap is agreed.

The territorial revisions would also raise support in Kosovo for unification with Albania. Such momentum could rapidly spread to Macedonia where at least a quarter of the population is Albanian. Threats to Macedonia’s territorial integrity would intensify ethno-nationalism, potentially scuttle the name deal with Greece, and bring both Bulgaria and Albania into an expanding conflict.

Meanwhile, the Serb entity in Bosnia-Herzegovina could demand the application of the Kosovo precedent in order to join Serbia; the Croat population may petition for western Herzegovina to be absorbed by Croatia; and the Bosnian population could campaign for Serbia’s Muslim-majority Sandjak region to unite with Bosnia. Montenegro would also be caught in the middle of this maelstrom, with Bosniaks, Serbs, and Albanians all demanding slithers of the country in which they form local majorities. And all this is unlikely to occur in a peaceful political and political climate but may be peppered with violent incidents to prove that separation was necessary.

Although such a scenario sounds like a Balkan bonanza for the Kremlin and could contribute to justifying its partition of Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova, it would be premature for Moscow to celebrate the division of any Balkan state. Such developments would underscore that the Russian Federation itself, containing 85 federal units, may also be territorially divided according to ethnic, religious, or regional principles. Paradoxically, the partition of Kosovo or Bosnia could serve as a prototype for Russia’s future dissolution.

 

*This article was initially published at the online journal Europe’s Edge

 
                    [post_title] => Perils of Balkan partition 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => perils-of-balkan-partition
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-08-17 09:52:30
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-08-17 07:52:30
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=138250
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [4] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 138230
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2018-08-13 11:16:02
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-08-13 09:16:02
                    [post_content] => By Prof. Dr. Blerim Reka 

Almost three decades after Yugoslavia’s dissolution, the new borders of the Balkans are still not fixed and will likely remain so for the next decade. Only a few bilateral demarcation agreements between the former federal units have been signed, and each of the countries has unresolved boundary issues that may remain open for years to come.

These territorial disputes will most likely lead to a delayed stabilization of the Balkans. As German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said, there is still a “fragile peace” in the region. Less likely, the EU and NATO may accept new member states from the Balkans despite the border issues.

Historically, borders in the Balkans have been drawn and redrawn many times, from the Berlin Congress in 1878 to conferences in London (1913), Versailles (1919) and Paris (1945). Border issues in the Balkans have generally been reopened by wars and closed by diplomacy. In 1975, the parties at the Helsinki Conference promulgated a key principle of maintaining the territorial status quo at the time, but once the Cold War ended, the borders were again changed. Through it all, the region’s boundaries have always been drawn in pen but backed up by bullets.

Eight open disputes 

In November 1991, at the commission advising on legal questions regarding the breakup of the republics, President of the International Peace Conference on Yugoslavia Lord Carrington asked whether the internal boundaries between Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina could be considered borders under international law. In its report, the commission replied that as Yugoslavia was in the process of dissolution, the former internal boundaries should become frontiers protected by international law unless otherwise agreed.

It was expected that this interpretation would be respected by all the former Yugoslav republics. But 27 years later, the new states have not resolved all of their border disputes. Only this April, Montenegro and Kosovo ratified the Demarcation Treaty (it was signed in 2015), just as Macedonia and Kosovo did in 2008.
Unresolved border issues may have serious consequences for EU candidate countries.
Eight border disputes remain unresolved, involving new Balkan states that emerged from Yugoslavia, existing EU and NATO member states, and several Balkan countries that are currently candidates for entry into the EU. The consequences of unresolved border disputes may be especially significant for those candidates’ chances at integration. Alliance members clashing  Slovenia and Croatia, both NATO and EU members, are fighting over 670 kilometers of sea borders in Piran Bay. Though both governments signed the Drnovsek-Racan Agreement in July 2001, it has only been ratified by Slovenia, not Croatia. An arbitration agreement was signed in November 2009, and a court ruling decided in 2017 on the final demarcation between the two states. That decision has still not been accepted. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has called for an “urgent bilateral solution,” warning that such disputes will not be tolerated of new EU member states. In June 2018, Slovenia decided to take Croatia to court for non-implementation of the arbitration ruling. On its border with Montenegro, also a NATO member, Croatia faces a dispute over the Prevlaka peninsula, in the Adriatic Sea. In practice, under a 2002 interim regime with a land border in Konfin, the disputed land is Croatian and the sea a “mixed zone.” It is unlikely that the Montenegro-Croatia dispute will harm bilateral relations between the two countries. Not going away  Many of Serbia’s borders are at least somewhat contested, and the country is involved in two of the region’s thorniest border disputes, which are likely to remain unresolved for at least another decade: with Kosovo and with Croatia. The dispute between Serbia and Kosovo will be the hardest border dispute in the region. Due to a lack of bilateral diplomatic relations, resolving it will likely take years. To fix interstate borders, both countries should mutually recognize each other, but that is unlikely in the medium term.
Serbia is involved in two of the region's thorniest border issues, likely to remain unresolved for at least a decade.
Serbia insists that Kosovo is an “integral part” of its territory and treats Kosovo’s borders as “administrative.” For Kosovo, its borders are international. Kosovo made official its demarcation agreements with Macedonia and Montenegro, in 2008 and 2018 respectively, and maintains an international border with Albania. Only its Serbian border dispute remains unresolved. Having officially established several of its international borders, Serbia is not likely to convince Kosovo of a different border regime than it has with its other neighbors. But for Serbia, not fixing the dispute with Kosovo will have political and technical consequences. Insisting that Kosovo should be part of Serbia – even though realistically, Belgrade has no sovereignty there – will remain the main obstacle when it opens the EU’s Chapter 35 on resolving “other issues” before integration. As Chancellor Merkel made clear to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic during his visit to Berlin in April 2018, new EU members should not have open territorial issues. That same line has been repeated in Washington and by the NATO Quint (an informal decision-making group consisting of the United States, France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom). Abroad, Mr. Vucic is seeking support from Russian President Vladimir Putin. But inside the country, only 46 percent of Serbians consider Kosovo a top priority, and it is unlikely that Belgrade will ignore this kind of “advice” from the West. One scenario is that Serbia will recognize the Republic of Kosovo unconditionally, and then ask for compensation in the form of Northern Kosovo – a so-called “Serbian secret plan.” Most likely, Kosovo would not accept the loss of its territory, but it would be possible (though unlikely) that the international community would allow the change. If they do, the only realistic outcome would be a territorial swap based on ethnic criteria: Northern Kosovo (majority Serb) for Southern Serbia (majority Albanian). The idea became a top media theme this summer after a Brussels meeting between Mr. Vucic and Kosovar President Hashim Thaci. Surrounded by uncertainty  Serbia is engaged in further disputes on three other borders. After the war, both Serbia and Croatia have tried since 2003 to resolve their border dispute along the Danube River at a point near the town of Backa Palanka. Croatia insists on 11,500 hectares on the eastern side of the Danube, while Serbia, based on a law passed by the Vojvodina Assembly of 1946, is asking for 900 hectares on the west side of the river. In February 2018, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and Serbian President Vucic declared that border negotiations would not start for at least two years. Recent tensions between the two countries will most likely delay any further attempts at a resolution. The dispute will probably postpone Serbia’s integration into the EU, as Croatia is already a member state. Another hot issue for Belgrade is its border with Bosnia and Herzegovina. In a somewhat unlikely scenario, three difficult border disputes may be resolved in the coming years: Ruda, in southern Bosnia; the hydroelectric area by the River Drina; and 12 km of Bosnian territory that Serbia wants for a railway to Montenegro. Other than these three areas, the hardest issue that will threaten the countries’ future relations will be Republika Srpska, the Serb-dominated entity in Bosnia.
Another summit on the Balkans is wishful thinking, particularly given President Putin's resurgent Russia.
Finally, for Serbia, while its border with Macedonia near the Prohor Pcinjski Monastery is unresolved, it is unlikely that this low-level dispute will present serious problems. The monastery, built in the 11th century and reconstructed by Serbian kings, has religious importance for Serbia. But Macedonians hold it dear for political reasons; in 1944, it hosted the first session of the Anti-Fascist Assembly for the National Liberation of Macedonia (ASNOM), an early foundation stone of the state. Rich waters  Another regional dispute concerns Croatia and Bosnia, though not very significantly. The countries share a 1,000 km border and both signed the Tudjman-Izetbegovic Agreement, which was ratified by Bosnia but not Croatia. The main remaining problem is the seaport of Neum, which is Bosnia’s only access to the Adriatic Sea. The city may also have energy importance, after recently-discussed plans for a possible liquefied natural gas port there. It is unlikely that this dispute will heighten tensions between the two countries. Lastly, the region’s eighth dispute divides Greece, a member of the EU and NATO, and Albania, a NATO member that is on the path to EU integration. The conflict has two dimensions. Technically, the two countries are still at war due to Greece’s “Law on War” with Albania (1940), which has never been abrogated. Based on that law, the Cham Albanian population was expelled from its native territory on the coast of the Ionian Sea, with their land sequestered by the Greeks. More than 1,800 such land cases belonging to Cham Albanians have been noted, but Athens refuses to return their property. In 2008, Greece raised another dispute with Albania over the Ionian Sea, for economic reasons. These borders have been decided by many acts of international law, from the London Conference of 1913 through a 1925 agreement and the Final Act on the delimitation of Albanian borders (1926). Although Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias recognized the 1926 agreement, Athens has requested a new border drawing.
Mutual enmity persists in the Balkans, and thousands of people are still missing from the last wars.
The foreign ministers from both countries signed a bilateral agreement in April 2009 but it was not enforced after a legal ruling in Albania over the loss of six miles of Albanian waters. This contested area is rich with resources, including 4 billion cubic meters of oil and 1.5 billion square meters of gas; together, it could be worth $20 billion in the next two decades. In 2013, the new Albanian government abolished that agreement and in 2015 Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama declared that he will protect the territorial integrity of the country. New bilateral negotiations started in 2017, but before it was expected to be concluded by the visit of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, it was canceled in the last moment and postponed for June 2018; now, the negotiations are continuing. Three scenarios  There are three possible scenarios. The most likely is that the border disputes in the Balkans will not be resolved for at least another decade, due to lack of political will on behalf of the former enemies of the Balkan wars. If soft demarcation cases that were actually resolved took three years to conclude, the harder border cases will take longer. For example, the case of Serbia-Croatia may be solved in the next five years, but not the Kosovo-Serbia dispute, which will not even see the end of five years of “Brussels Dialogue” until 2019. Only after a normalization of their bilateral relations – which would likely be concluded in 2020 by a legally binding agreement – can their issues be solved. Under this scenario, a final map of the Balkans would not come before 2025, which coincides with the timeframe announced by Mr. Juncker of a new EU member state possibly joining the club. It is likely that Serbia will continue to receive support from Russia, and likewise Croatia and Kosovo from the West. Alternatively, though less likely, Serbia may ignore “advice” from Washington and Brussels on EU membership, expecting a veto in the EU Council regardless from Croatia. As far as the case of Albania and Greece, a resolution would require involvement not only of big powers, but also regional factors. If Athens insists on new border lines in the Ionian Sea, it will push Albania toward Turkey, which itself has a history of territorial tension with Greece over Cyprus and the Aegean Islands. The recent Turkish plan to build Albania’s second airport in Vlore, a city near the contested coastal border, is one example. And NATO recently decided to build an air base in Kucove, Albania, which would be its first in the Western Balkans. Eight border disputes in the Balkans 
  • Piran Bay, a sea border between Slovenia and Croatia
  • The Prevlaka peninsula, contested by Croatia and Montenegro
  • Kosovo’s border with Serbia, which still claims the state as its own territory
  • Backa Palanka, near an area claimed by both Croatia and Serbia
  • Three contested siteson the Bosnian-Serbian border
  • The Prohor Pcinjski Monasteryclaimed by both Serbia and Macedonia
  • Neum, a Bosnian port on the Adriatic Sea with areas contested by Croatia
  • The maritime border between Albania and Greece
Another scenario is that the border disputes, instead of being fixed bilaterally, may be resolved by a new multilateral territorial exchange package. Here, again, the hard bargaining would be between Serbia and Kosovo. If it is not able to take northern Kosovo, Serbia will ask for Republika Srpska; Kosovo, for its part, would ask for the Presevo Valley, which controls Corridor 8 and the Belgrade-Athens highway. That scenario would work only with significant international involvement, and with other crises raging in places like Syria, Iran and Ukraine, such an effort is not likely to happen in the short term. Another Balkans conference after the one in 1991 is wishful thinking, particularly when one compares President Vladimir Putin’s resurgent Russia with Boris Yeltsin’s version. The least likely scenario is a quick resolution of all border issues – a desirable but unrealistic outcome. Mutual enmity persists, and thousands of people are still missing from the last wars. One hundred thousand people were victims of those wars and another 100,000 were displaced, not to mention the approximately 500,000 who emigrated. In these conditions, conflicts cannot be solved quickly. In the Balkans, an objective problem (the borders) has a subjective component: the victims. Without real reconciliation, it is hard to expect a prompt solution to any territorial disputes. *This report was initally published at gisreportsonline.com  [post_title] => Border conflicts in the Balkans [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => border-conflicts-in-the-balkans [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-08-13 11:16:02 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-08-13 09:16:02 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=138230 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 138222 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2018-08-11 13:14:47 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-08-11 11:14:47 [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 11 - An opinion published at the globally renowned Washington Post on Thursday said that proposing new divisions in the region as a solution for the future of the Balkans in general, and the Euro-Atlantic integration of Serbia and Kosovo in particular, is actually “a recipe for geopolitical instability.” The opinion, written by Carl Bildt, comes after almost two weeks of ongoing debate in the region, stemming from Kosovo President Hashim Thaci’s idea to “correct” Kosovo borders in the context of EU-mediated talks on normalizing relations between Kosovo and Serbia. Although it was Thaci who first spoke of the idea of border correction, translated by a number of analysts and experts into Kosovo’s territorial division, Bildt says that “discreetly, Serb and Albanian political leaders have been exploring the possibility of sorting out their differences using territorial swaps.” The idea of sorting out territorial disputes by exchanging territories is not foreign for Belgrade’s political circles, however it lately seems to have also gained momentum in Albania as well. Theoretically, this “correction” would include the separation of the Serb-inhabited North, and also the possible exchange of the North of Kosovo for the Presevo Valley, an Albanian-majority region south of Serbia. “The idea is certainly not new, but it was dangerous in the past and it remains so in the present. Serbia’s strongman Slobodan Milosevic and Croatia’s leader Franjo Tudjman conspired in the early 1990's to divide up Bosnia between them. But the international reaction put a stop to these plans,” Bildt writes. So far, the EU and US policy has been stated clearly: preserve the borders that were in old Yugoslavia and seek solutions within them. More specifically, the European Commission issued a statement on Friday, saying that Serbian President Aleksander Vucic and Thaci have had “intensive and productive talks in the context of the deal to fully normalize relations and that they have agreed to intensify the work done,” while adding that a permanent solution implies a realistic, stable and possible solution in agreement with international law and with both Kosovo and Serbia. Under the assumption that Kosovo is now warming up to Serbian claims for this particular solution between the countries, Bildt writes that “to further Balkanize the Balkans is to open the region for further conflict and bloodshed.” In Bildt’s account, Vucic has been actively toying with the idea, which has lately, according to his sources, also made Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama receptive to it. On Thursday, Vucic said said he is engaged to separate Serbians and Albanians in Kosovo. “I am in favor, and this is my policy, to separate from Albanians, because having a territory that we don’t know who is in charge of and who it belongs to is a constant source of conflict,” Vucic said, while adding this deal can only be successful if accepted by the Serbian people and beyond, as “it takes two to tango.” Bildt, however, echoing the concerns of a number of local and international analysts, firstly lists the opposition coming from the Serbian Orthodox Church and its leadership in Kosovo. “They argue that a division of this sort will be a betrayal of the Serbs living in Kosovo south of the river Ibar and in all probability will lead to a complete ethnic cleansing of the area, with threats also to the historic Orthodox monuments in the area. A territorial swap would likely be followed by a population swap to create ethnically homogeneous territories. While some claim that this might pave the way for more stability, eventually including a greater union between and coming together of Albania and Kosovo, this is hardly likely,” Bildt writes. In addition, considering the region’s wider conflictual context, this deal between Serbia and Kosovo could also risk opening up a Pandora’s Box over the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina - “an opportunity hardliner Bosnian Serb leaders will certainly welcome.” Lastly, Bildt lists the issue of Macedonia - another country where Albanians are a substantial part of the population. “If the Albanian areas of the wider region start coming together also through a process of territorial swaps, there will certainly be those asking why this should not apply to Macedonia as well. That would seriously be playing with fire,” Bildt argues. In the face of the international good-will to further the Euro-Atlantic aspirations of both countries, Bildt writes that a compromise should certainly be found between Prishtina and Belgrade - “a compromise which might well include a greater degree of decentralization to Serb parts of Kosovo and could mean admitting Kosovo into the United Nations as well” but should in no way toy with borders and divisions in the Balkans that were dangerous back in the 1990's and which remain dangerous to this day.   [post_title] => Border corrections are Balkan recipe for disaster, Washington Post writes [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => border-corrections-are-balkan-recipe-for-disaster-washington-post-writes [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-08-15 16:56:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-08-15 14:56:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=138222 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 138185 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2018-08-02 19:53:46 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-08-02 17:53:46 [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL If Albania’s government was looking for good news on the economic front, this wasn’t a good week. Despite much touted official numbers showing steady economic growth and lower unemployment, a US report out this week shows what many feel on the ground in Albania: the business climate is not healthy and things are getting worse, not better, as major investors and skilled workers are forced to leave. In its 2018 investment climate statement for Albania, the US State Department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs says foreign investors cite corruption, particularly in the judiciary, lack of transparency in public procurement and poor enforcement of contracts as continuing problems in Albania. With the judicial reform ongoing and the entire system in disarray, hopefully there will be improvements in the mid to long term in the judiciary once the dust settles, but the report makes it clear that many of the issues making Albania inhospitable to investors are political and government-related. For example, the US report notes that major foreign investors in Albania report pressure to hire specific, politically-connected subcontractors. This naturally raises red flags for US companies that have to be accountable to their country's own rule of law, as in compliance with the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Political pressures have other ways to manifest themselves. For example, public private partnership, which are commonly being awarded through unsolicited proposals favoring proposing companies through bonuses that make them eventual winners in tenders. These are  also cited as a concern in the American report. That’s the case because they narrow the opportunities for competition, including by foreign investors, in infrastructure and other sectors. The US Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs also expresses concern over the long-standing issue of unclear property titles and uneven enforcement of legislation as barriers to doing business in the country. The high tax burden, government bureaucracy and monopoly and unfair competition have been the main barriers to doing business in the country for the past few years, according to annual surveys conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Albania representing some of the key foreign and local investors in the country. It is no wonder then, that at least two major investors with US ties have actually left Albania after having operations here, as the report notes. And an untold number might have simply been too afraid to enter the market. The problem is by no means limited to US investors and the report is not saying anything that tens of other similar international and domestic reports have not already said. But it is coming after the government started to pat itself in the back for “reviving Albania’s economy,” and, as such, it should serve as a wake up call for the Albanian political leaders to stop drinking their own kool aid and address the concerns faced by businesses. This week’s report by the US State Department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs shows Albania’s government is failing to create a better business climate. As such, it must be a sobering read for officials.   [post_title] => Editorial: US report on Albania economic climate should serve as a wake up call [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-us-report-on-albania-economic-climate-should-serve-as-a-wake-up-call [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-08-02 19:59:13 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-08-02 17:59:13 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=138185 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 138082 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2018-07-27 09:59:55 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-07-27 07:59:55 [post_content] => Increasingly, when it comes to borders, Europe appears to be going back to the future. A decade after most countries under the EU banner shed barriers dividing them to allow the free movement of people and goods within the bloc, borders and ad hoc barrier fences are popping up everywhere. These are a response to the wave of non-European migrants and refugees in recent years and these fences are coming up from north to south and vice versa. Even though the flow of migrants has ebbed, concern across Europe is high with populist parties benefiting from some legitimate fears of uncontrolled migration. As the momentum of anti-migration sentiment carries forward, the walls and fences have slowly encircled the Western Balkans, a non-EU enclave of the European Union -- and are now scheduled to come up at Albania’s doorstep as Montenegro is looking to build a fence on the border with Albania to cut off what increasingly has become the Adriatic route of migrants trying to get from Greece to Western Europe, transiting through Albania. They are forced to do so since all other land routes had been cut off by fences and walls long ago. Albania had enough mountains to be considered too much of a hassle to get through, but as desperation of migrants stuck in Greece grows and trafficking groups become more inventive, Albania is back on the board, and trickle of migrants arrives every week. Some ask for asylum in Albania, which of course is not their desired final destination, as it is a poor country with little ability to host a migrant population. This fact is well known to the Albanian government, which nonetheless keeps flirting with the idea that it can turn this country into a non-EU way station to help EU countries stem the flow in return for possible benefits Albania’s own relationship with the EU. Simply put, borders and fences are no solutions to these problems. Addressing the war and poverty driving these refugees and migrants away from their homelands would solve the issue, but that won’t happen any time soon. So dealing with the issue in the most dignified way for all concerns is the way forward we now. Albania should help, but proportional to its size and ability, no more no less. And Albania should work with the neighbors and the EU states to manage the migrants arriving at its borders, as the it is clear Albania is not a desired final destination, rather seen as a transit country. The Albanian people are sympathetic to the plight of these refugees and migrants fleeing war and poverty. That’s because the Albanian people are not strangers to borders. For more than 100 years they were unwillingly split by hard borders in different countries by decisions made by the Great Powers of the time. For 47 years the communist regime created an almost hermetical border for Albania. And when that communist regime fell, the Albanians began to leave the country in droves, becoming a nation of migrants, with a third to half of its people having migrated to other developed countries. And they know about European walls too -- having been forced behind a visa wall for two decades. (The Albanians in Kosovo are still waiting for that wall to fall.) As Albania looks to get entry into the EU in the next decade or so, looking to get its own taste of full free movement of people and goods within the bloc, what it finds when it actually becomes a member, might be something very different from the union it applied to join several years go.   [post_title] => Editorial: Back to the future: The return of borders and migrants [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => back-to-the-future-the-return-of-borders-and-migrants [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-07-27 10:04:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-07-27 08:04:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=138082 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 138007 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2018-07-20 12:26:49 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-07-20 10:26:49 [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL For all intents and purposes, day after day, we are currently witnessing the fall of the justice system in Albania. This is happening through the removal from office of the majority of officials in key judicial institutions as the vetting process, part of justice reform, goes on. And it appears there is no plan to quickly replace the many judges and prosecutors being kicked out the system. The Constitutional Court, a key pillar of the state, has been virtually emptied of justices. The High Court appears to be next. Of the 19 judges it had before the reform, there are now only five left. It will likely go on with the appeals courts and others. The main issue is that many judges and prosecutors are failing to prove the sources of their wealth. This is, of course, disgraceful for a poor country. Indeed, in the short-term, perhaps even in the mid-term, the justice reform's vetting will inflict greats costs to the justice system. As such, it wouldn't be unfair to say that it can lead to a complete fall of the system, which means a consequent fall of justice itself in Albania The justice reform's positive outcomes and benefits for the people of Albania are expected in the mid to long term, but what we are seeing so far are the negative implications, and there are many of them. It appears at this time that the reform’s proponents and organizers did not properly predict the vacuum being created in the justice system by the vetting process, and thus, they did not create a mechanism to quickly deal with the matter. The other underlying problem that may have serious implications is that, according to the experts, we are also seeing a double-standards policy. Local but also foreign experts have noted that different standards are applied depending on the person being vetted. For example, the same criteria or reasons used to dismiss one justice official are not applied on the same situation faced by the next. The famous saying from George Orwell's book “Animal Farm” rings true at this time: All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others. Last, but not least, the opposition claims that in addition to creating a powerless judiciary to keep the government in check in the short to medium term, a longer term danger looms -- that the current government is trying to capture the judiciary through both the vacuum and the people that will replace the sacked judges. For a republic like Albania to work well, a strong and independent judiciary is needed to keep the other branches of the government in check. Thus a political capture of the courts is something Albania should avoid at all costs.   [post_title] => Editorial: From the fall of the justice system to the fall of justice in Albania [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-from-the-fall-of-the-justice-system-to-the-fall-of-justice-in-albania [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-07-23 09:28:26 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-07-23 07:28:26 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=138007 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 137866 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-07-13 10:06:56 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-07-13 08:06:56 [post_content] => It has been a week of important international summits for Albania on paper. First, Western Balkan leaders met with key EU counterparts in London to discuss the region’s EU future as part of the Berlin Process. Then, NATO held its major annual gathering in Brussels. Both summits were attended by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama with a group of accompanying officials. The outcome of both were a lot of photos and statements repeated year over year of the importance of the region’s EU future of the transformative role of being under NATO’s security umbrella, etc. Important as these things might be, there has been little substantial news for Albania at both summits. In an age of short attention spans and sensationalism, some might see appearing on the BBC social media for wearing tennis shoes at a formal group photo as news -- an old and tired tactic of an attention-seeking small country prime minister. No publicity is bad publicity after all. But in terms of what Albania got out of the Berlin Process summit in London, there is nothing substantial. In fact, the summit was a major dud. Germany’s public broadcaster, DW, went so far as to call it “grotesque.” The very organizer and host, the British foreign minister, Boris Johnson, could not be at the opening ceremony because he had just resigned over Britain not getting enough of a clean break from the European Union, the very body the Berlin Process aims to promote in the Western Balkans. The NATO Summit is important for Albania, because as an alliance member for a decade, the country has both rights and responsibilities, like increasing its military spending to meet NATO expectations, for example. Instead, the news related to Albania was the typical the assortment of handshake photos of Albania’s prime minister with the likes of US President Donald Trump or German Chancellor Angela Merkel. There was even a viral video of Rama peeking over Merkel and UK Prime Minister Theresa May watching Croatia beat England in the World Cup semi final.  Like Albanian leaders before (and those likely to follow), the head of the Albanian government has the bad habit of seeking to legitimize his rule at home through photo ops abroad. We suspect the readers of this newspaper know better. For Albanian leaders, who are willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to lobbyists during campaigns to secure a photo with the US President it, be it Barack Obama once or Trump today, such summits must seem like a golden opportunity for these photos. (Think of all the funding that could be going to schools and hospitals instead of campaign photo ops more associated with third-world leaders than European ones.) The NATO Summit is not there to take pictures and create political propaganda for domestic consumption. It is there so Albania can play a role, no matter how small, to help the alliance in which it is a full member. In perhaps what could be the best source for domestic news, on the sidelines of these summits, Albanian and Greek leaders met to discuss the strategic new maritime border deal. Here too, photos and empty words were distributed, and again, the Albanian public received no substantial information. And, if the summits to the West were not enough, there was one to East too, in Bulgaria, were the 16 Plus One initiative members met to discuss cooperation with China and its Silk Road trade initiative. Again a lot of photos, no substantial news on new tangible projects related to Albania. The axiom that no news is good news, does not stand in this case. To the Albanian public, newsless summits are useless summits.   [post_title] => Editorial: The problem with newsless summits [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-the-problem-with-newsless-summits [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-07-13 10:06:56 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-07-13 08:06:56 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=137866 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 138395 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-09-07 10:03:57 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-09-07 08:03:57 [post_content] => It’s a new parliamentary season in Albania, but the same old story of deep political divisions continues. And in the process, it is creating a negative climate that focuses on narrow interests of the elite, and places public interest in the back seat. The ruling Socialist Party has again expressed its determination to move forward with plans to override presidential vetoes on controversial laws like the one that would see the old National Theatre Building demolished and replaced with a complex built under a public-private partnership. It is being done through a first ever law in Albania that actually mentions the selected company by name, dropping any pretence of fair competition mandated under Albania’s domestic and international legal obligations. It is no wonder then that the opposition calls it corrupt and unconstitutional, as do many civil society activists. But the new new flagship opposition program deals with fighting crime, after a wave of mafia-style violence in several Albanian cities.   On Tuesday, a united opposition gathered in Shkodra in what it called an extraordinary session to send a message of resistance to the recent crimes that have occured in the city. On Thursday, it followed the same tactic, gathering in Elbasan -- which the head of the opposition, Lulzim Basha, calls the epicenter of organized crime. The government has countered with accusations that the opposition is trying to destroy the image of Albania, an old and tired PR tactic that does not address the core of the issue -- the rapid criminalization of Albanian society in recent years. The judicial reform, which has left the country bare of courts and judges and the electoral reform, another EU condition for Albania to open accession negotiations within 2019, remain other points of contention that require the two sides to work together, cooperation that sees to be missing from any short-term forecast.    All this, of course, makes for an unhealthy situation for Albania, its people and the ability to of the country to attracts investments and grow the economy, steps needed stop the out-flow of people, so alarming that according the recent studies could see Albania with less than a million people after two decades. More than 5 years after it first came to power, the Socialist government of Edi Rama is starting to show the strain of power. It can now choose to reflect and have a more tolerant approach to the opposition and the hot issues it has sought to address or continue under the current path of what it calls -- governing with the people -- which is anything but. The current model has produced growth and a better life for the few, to the detriment of the many. Delegitimizing the valid concerns of the opposition and civil society through the tools given by political and economic power can only go so far. A first step is sitting down and creating more political consensus so that political parties can move beyond their narrow interests and actually fulfill their mandate to work for the good of the Albanian people.   [post_title] => Editorial: In parliament, new season, old divisions [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-in-parliament-new-season-old-divisions [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-09-07 10:03:57 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-09-07 08:03:57 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=138395 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [queried_object] => stdClass Object ( [term_id] => 30 [name] => Op-Ed [slug] => op-ed [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 30 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 785 [filter] => raw [cat_ID] => 30 [category_count] => 785 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Op-Ed [category_nicename] => op-ed [category_parent] => 0 ) [queried_object_id] => 30 [post__not_in] => Array ( ) )

Latest News

Read More