Editorial: Albania–Kosovo Relations: the show goes on

Editorial: Albania–Kosovo Relations: the show goes on

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL  Even though the subject of having joint embassies and consular services has been promoted before, this week the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Albania and Kosovo presented with a lot of enthusiasm a mutually signed agreement that

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Editorial: The Albania we (really) want?

Editorial: The Albania we (really) want?

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL The Socialist Party’s now famous slogan “for the Albania we want” seemed initially abstract and almost impossible to read by the majority of the party’s militants, be those officials heading central structures or local governance branches alike;

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President decrees October 13 as new elections date

President decrees October 13 as new elections date

TIRANA, June 27 – Albanian President Ilir Meta decreed on Thursday noon October 13 as the new date for local elections.  Meta stressed at a press conference where he also presented the decree that he hopes the October elections will

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How to read the upcoming boycott

How to read the upcoming boycott

Alba Cela Faced with two political sides that are increasingly starting to resemble boisterous street gangs, Albanians are voicing their decision to stay away from the ballot box on June 30. The opposition has not moved an inch away from

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Editorial: Sham elections: the day after

Editorial: Sham elections: the day after

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL  In the first elections after World War II, precisely on December 2, 1945, ordinary Albanian citizens could cast their vote by inserting beads in a box. They had to hold the bead clenched in their fists and

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Hashim Thaçi: From a Rebellion Leader to President

Hashim Thaçi: From a Rebellion Leader to President

Caroline Fetscher*  The three-meter-high statute of the former US President, Bill Clinton, sculpted with a smile on its face and with his right hand raised, greets the passers-by at the square named after him. It has to be one of

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Editorial: Crime, punishment and violence- this government’s days are done

Editorial: Crime, punishment and violence- this government’s days are done

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL There have been consecutive releases of wire tappings in batches from the German media Bild, demonstrating again and again that starting from the Prime Minister himself Edi Rama and down to former ministers, Damian Gjiknuri and Sajmir

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Editorial: Albania’s crisis: End this battle now to win all future ones

Editorial: Albania’s crisis: End this battle now to win all future ones

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL The wise and often misunderstood Albanian diplomat and politician, Mit’hat Frasheri, wrote confidently almost a hundred years ago that “Albanians will win all the battles that the future holds for them once they are done fighting the

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Albania’s crisis – the way out

Albania’s crisis – the way out

By David L. Phillips   Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama threatened to fire President Ilir Meta for postponing local elections. Meta is justifiably concerned that a ballot in today’s volatile climate could cause violence and further undermine Albania’s EU candidacy.

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Editorial: Organized crime at the heart of the political modus operandi

Editorial: Organized crime at the heart of the political modus operandi

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL The communications interceptions published by the German media Bild shed light over an intricate network of links between organized crime and politics that function with clockwork precision. The flow of the decision making goes back and forth

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL 

Even though the subject of having joint embassies and consular services has been promoted before, this week the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Albania and Kosovo presented with a lot of enthusiasm a mutually signed agreement that puts forward the plan for using shared spaces, exchange of personnel as well as joint cultural diplomacy calendar of events.

Despite the pomp and fanfare that is ever present in these presentations once again it remains unclear what exactly this agreement will achieve for the relations between the citizens, the economies and the cultures of the two countries. A large number of agreements have been signed, most of them during equally spectacular bilateral government meetings. All of them lack teeth: concrete implementation mechanism, responsibilities and budgetary provisions. They resemble shallow Memoranda of Understanding that are usually signed by organizations that implement a modest joint project.

This paper has written before about the façade character being prompted between the two countries where in the background the number of barriers for concrete relations and exchanges is multiplying. The situation is even worse now. There is a silent trade war raging in the background of this glossy shows of brotherly cooperation. Kosovo has threatened to impose the same tariff on Albanian goods as it has done with Serbia. The toll fee in the Highway connection Kosovo to Albania is a permanent pestilence on Kosovar travelers. Recently book publishers who retuned from the Book Fair in Prishtina revealed hefty customs fee sums that they had to pay.

Indeed in addition to several disagreements and the field of economy and culture, the political relations themselves are not blooming. There have been several and repeated tensions between Tirana and Prishtina especially in the realm of key strategic decisions about the potential agreement between Kosovo and Serbia as well as about the nature of the relations between Albania and Serbia.

It is even ironic that these agreements are dubbed by furious politicians in the region then as attempt to create “Greater Albania”. If they only knew the level of seriousness of the walls being reinforced between the two countries: the trade disagreements about all sorts of goods and services, the lack of systematic cultural exchanges and the deep discontent that citizens on both sides of the borders periodically vent off faced with the polices, taxes, tariffs, tolls and all kinds of impediments and costs at every interaction step. ‘Greater Albania’, which is not the case at all anyways, would for sure require a much more systematic and serious effort to be realized than the one we see unfolding in the last two decades.

One can only hope that this recent agreement for cooperation in foreign policy is at least a bit more successful than Albania’s previous repeatedly failed attempts to assist Kosovo in its international efforts. Those failed attempts stand as reminders of mismatched grand ambitions when there is some much more concrete work to be done at home.

A real strategic document for the relations between the two countries outlining priorities and detailing concrete mechanism for implementation is the real starting point that needs to be completed. The agreement signed by the two Ministers of Foreign Affairs cannot take its place.

 

 
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TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL

The Socialist Party’s now famous slogan “for the Albania we want” seemed initially abstract and almost impossible to read by the majority of the party’s militants, be those officials heading central structures or local governance branches alike; virtually everyone but the ‘great Leader’ had trouble comprehending it. Calling the winning party’s central figure ‘the great guy’ or the ‘great leader’ comes from Albania’s years under dictatorship, but is naturally not an Albanian invention. Many oppressed countries and people, statesled by pseudo-democratic regimes, autocracies to dictatorships, be those party-based or personal, as Albania’s case has been time and time again, revolve around the same concept of the “great leader.”

This time around, when Albania’s “big guy” first introduced “the Albania we want” slogan, not a few of his supporters also outside of the Socialist party, but also those who criticized the previous government, were reserved to judge, believing in positive change despite the abstract slogan. Nonetheless, during the last four to five years, the “Albania we want” became more and more concrete - “the Albania we want” became concrete and clear.

“The healthcare” we want,” or the ideal free healthcare. Germany, of course, does not actually offer ‘free’ healthcare, but in Albania as we want it this miracle has easily happened. “The jobs we want” has also been achieved - it can be mainly found in Germany, together with all the students coming from the “education we want.” In Albania as we want it, according to the great leader’s vision and project, the public administration was one of the biggest achievements: during the last five years, the administration we want paid in compensations almost 110 million euros for all those it had unrightfully dismissed. Indeed, “the Albania we want” was no longer abstract, but it doubtfully resembled anyone’s vision.

The same “Albania we want” could not have been complete without the Sunday elections. Actually, after Sunday’s elections, one can surely say we’ve reached the finish line regarding the “Albania we want.”

The “Albania we want” travelled thirty years back in time, holding elections almost identical to those under communism, when 99,99 percent of the votes were immediately given to the party candidate. Actually, truth be told, these elections were even more impeccable, with Socialist candidates in 12 electoral districts, among which the capital and the second biggest city were included, making indestructible wins by 110 to 130 percent, all by citizens happy with the “Albania we want.”

We are now this close to fully achieving the “Albania we want.” Very few things remain to be done - among the most important, the President’s dismissal. This is the last frontier to be crossed, the last castle to be overtaken and the last-standing independent power to be neutralized.

This is better depicted in one of Albania’s own communist movies, when one of the leadership’s most liberal minds reminds his colleagues that the elimination of political opponents is against their own approved rulebook. His colleagues’ reply is immediate: “our own rules will not stop us from fighting class enemies.”

Is this really the Albania we want?

[post_title] => Editorial: The Albania we (really) want? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-the-albania-we-really-want [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-07-05 10:16:52 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-07-05 08:16:52 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142481 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 142421 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-06-28 10:32:53 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-28 08:32:53 [post_content] => TIRANA, June 27 - Albanian President Ilir Meta decreed on Thursday noon October 13 as the new date for local elections.  Meta stressed at a press conference where he also presented the decree that he hopes the October elections will be all inclusive. He made this decision after a series of meetings with political parties, concluding on Thursday morning with opposition’s Democratic Party chairman Lulzim Basha, while Socialist Party leader and Prime Minister Edi Rama did not attend Meta’s meeting. “The new date is an opportunity to conduct democratic elections at the same time as the expected EU decisions to start negotiations with Albania for full membership,” said Meta. He publicly asked Rama to reflect on these conditions as the June 30 elections have been legally canceled, while the October 13 elections should be done correctly, because next year Albania takes over the OSCE's rotating presidency, and should be an example for other states. Rama reacted immediately to the president's decision at the same time as the press conference. He wrote in social networks that June 30 is the only date for local elections. The SP is continuing the electoral campaign, despite the date’s cancelation by the President of the Republic, while the CEC is continuing to prepare these elections and is distributing ballots, lacking the names of opposition candidates.    [post_title] => President decrees October 13 as new elections date [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => president-meta-decrees-october-13-as-new-elections-date [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-07-01 13:36:53 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-07-01 11:36:53 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142421 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 142418 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-06-28 10:18:59 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-28 08:18:59 [post_content] => Alba Cela Faced with two political sides that are increasingly starting to resemble boisterous street gangs, Albanians are voicing their decision to stay away from the ballot box on June 30. The opposition has not moved an inch away from its requests of overthrowing the government. The president maintains that his decision to annul the elections is still valid even after the Electoral College struck it down. The majority is proceeding with its calendar of ‘wedding orchestra fitted’ campaign meetings. Three sides oblivious to each other and to reality. Each of the encouraging instability with a cruel irresponsible wink. “Have we really waded so much in depth of absurdity? ”- citizens ask shrugging in quiet despair. They feel powerless to change the designs and cunning maneuvers of these powerful “political strategists” so they find their only way of responding, of taking agency. Not participating in this process. Now this boycotting decision should be read carefully. The opposition might quickly feel vindicated and celebrate it as a result of their actions. However not going to vote is a refusal of everyone’s actions, extreme positions and unwillingness to compromise. Not going to the ballot boxes does not mean for one moment that most of these people align to the cause of the opposition but rather that they wish for all these endless and relentless political rivalry to end. Many veteran voters, people who have voted regularly all their lives, people who consistently rush to vote as soon as the centers are open at 7 am, are openly saying that this time they won’t go. People that have sympathies for all sides, that have rooted for long for their political positions, at this time feel utterly let down. They feel the stupidity and, the paralyzing enmity, the pointlessness. The overall participation level in this elections, if they still happen after all, is going to be the last resort message that citizens of this country are going to send to the politicians. That they have had just about enough!   [post_title] => How to read the upcoming boycott [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => how-to-read-the-upcoming-boycott [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-06-28 10:18:59 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-06-28 08:18:59 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142418 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 142415 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-06-28 10:11:53 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-28 08:11:53 [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL  In the first elections after World War II, precisely on December 2, 1945, ordinary Albanian citizens could cast their vote by inserting beads in a box. They had to hold the bead clenched in their fists and insert their hand in both ballot boxes and drop it in the box they preferred. They say that the boxes representing the opposition, the side competing with the Communist party, had a metal lining on the bottom which would click therefore revealing the “traitor” that was dropping the bead there. Back then, the Democrats were running with independent candidates and although they managed to win 6.2% of the votes, they did not win any seats in parliament. All 82 were reserved for the Democratic Font, behind which the Communist Party hid. A full three quarters of a century later, Albanian citizens are even more exposed than their grandfathers given away by the click of the bead. On June 30, if they choose to go to the voting centers they will have only one alternative, to vote for the candidates of the majority, of the Socialist Party or to be correct of its ‘Rilindje’ permutation which has delineated a separate profile in the last years.  The polarization between the two political camps has reached the extreme. Despite the recent messages and actions which point at the likelihood of violence abating there are no guarantees that Election Day will not be marred by incidents. However, even if nothing of the sort were to happen on that day, the damage has already been done. The political checks and balance system has fallen and if the majority materializes the removal of President as they have vowed, then the chaotic vicious circle of one party having all powers will be complete.  The international community in Albania has walked away from its usual role of mediator. A single balanced reaction came with the decision of the Local Authorities Commission of the Council of Europe to cancel its observation mission upon grounds that there is no sense observing a one-sided election. The same should have been done long ago by the OSCE/ ODHIR Mission to safeguard its own legitimacy and also to prompt a solution to the crisis. By taking sides, this institution has also played a part in the exacerbation of the polarization on the ground.  The elections on June 30 serve no purpose, no interest and basically no one.  The only elections that could have served to re-establish legitimacy and authority of a normal democratic government would have been snap general elections immediately after the scandals were published by foreign media providing evidence of the solid links between organized crime and the current political majority that served one purpose: to severely manipulate and eventually determine the electoral outcome in at least two regions (Durres, Diber) and most likely in all of them. Those elections, if done by the rules and with the participation of all sides, would have been the way out of the crisis. Now it’s too late. The damage has been done to the country’s governance, future, integration, economy and image. The lack of accountability and responsibility over the electoral crimes increases the likelihood of this damage calcifying into a long term fatal flaw in the system. The lack of willingness to dialogue makes sure that the paths of solution remain blocked. June 30 is a few hours away. On July 1st the country will wake up to a grimmer reality, with the crisis even more pronounced, with the number of businesses and foreign donors packing their bags increasing steadily, with the European governments having one more reason to debate returning the visa regime for Albania.  Given the very few hours remaining it is perhaps futile to make a last call for a solution, for responsibility, for vision. Perhaps the only remaining call ifs for all sides to refrain from violence and avoid embedding the country into an even more disastrous situation which would have no way forward.   [post_title] => Editorial: Sham elections: the day after [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-sham-elections-the-day-after [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-06-28 10:11:53 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-06-28 08:11:53 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142415 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 142293 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-06-21 09:54:15 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-21 07:54:15 [post_content] => Caroline Fetscher*  The three-meter-high statute of the former US President, Bill Clinton, sculpted with a smile on its face and with his right hand raised, greets the passers-by at the square named after him. It has to be one of a kind - on one of the main streets of a predominantly Muslim country, named after an American president. It is a political-cultural signal sent by the capital of Kosovo, Prishtina, sent nine years ago. Thus, the country expressed its gratitude towards the commitment of the US and Europe during 1999, when, in the last war aimed for Yugoslavia dissolution, with the support of NATO and at the initiative of the UN Resolution towards peace, they proved that peace can be achieved. In 2008, the former southern Serbian province, Kosovo, declared its independence. Serbia, Russia and other countries still do not recognize Kosovo's new status, where there is still smoulder from the fire that is burning slowly. To commemorate the tenth anniversary of Kosovo's independence, the editor of The Times, a British newspaper based in London, and former columnist of Des Tagesspiegel, Roger Boyes, together with a British colleague, have published a biography of a modern European hero, being a model of a western democrat. The hero is Hashim Thaçi. During the period 2008-2014, he was assigned as the Prime Minister of the new-established country, and since 2016, he holds the position of the President. The quote of the American politician Bob Dole - "Thaçi's journey represents Kosovo's journey" - implies that he is an optimistic and powerful figure, a synonym of his country. Thaçi was born in April 1968 in the rural and poor region of Drenica valley, which is located in central Kosovo. He majored in History and Philosophy, in Prishtina. Milosevic's Serbia oppressed Kosovo, the then poor country of Yugoslavia, transforming it into an apartheid system. This was a key experience in Thaçi's life. Due to the regime of Milosevic, the civic rights of Kosovo's Albanian were non-existent, their language was forbidden to be spoken and 900.000 Albanian books were unregistered from libraries. Hence, Thaçi joined the insurgent students and was also persecuted and exiled. The then „Gandhi of Kosovo“, Ibrahim Rugova, claimed for peace without violence, but his attempts were unsuccessful. The youth lost their patience, including Thaçi. In 1993, he was one of the founders of KLA guerrillas’ troops - The Kosovo Liberation Army. Despite Thaçi was holding guns in the pictures of that time, Boyes and Jagger do not portray him as “a man of guns”. Does the Clinton monument in Prishtina resemble Hashim Thaçi? Allegations that Hashim Thaçi is involved in weapons transport and corruption have never been proven. This biography about the hero remains blurred regarding the allegations in question. On the other hand, the well-proven merits of the insurgent transformed into the head of the state, into an advocate of the democratic constitution with rights to minorities and clear secular cuts are given. In addition, does the perception deceives or does the memorial of Bill Clinton in Pristina resembles Hashim Thaçi? In the meantime, Kosovo has 46 diplomatic missions around the world, the largest being in Berlin, given there are about 400,000 Albanians living in Germany, while in Kosovo about two million. The Government of Kosovo proved to be tactful when appointing the German-Kosovar writer Beqë Cufaj as the Ambassador of the Republic of Kosovo to Berlin. Cufaj, born in 1970, known with his essays “FAZ” and “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” or novels such as “Shkëlqimi i huaj” or “project@party”, sees himself as an Ambassador of Culture. The motto of a cosmopolitan reader and of a smart democrat is: “Let the people unite so that Kosovo can become part of EU”. While the enthusiasm of Hungary or Poland, being EU members, is fading, there are new friends knocking on EU's door such as Albania or Kosovo. In the country where Hashim Thaçi is from, the word Europe means only one thing: promise. So until this promise is fulfilled, we need to be patient. The text was published in the newspaper with the largest circulation in Berlin, Tagesspiegel   [post_title] => Hashim Thaçi: From a Rebellion Leader to President [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => hashim-thaci-from-a-rebellion-leader-to-president [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-06-21 09:54:15 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-06-21 07:54:15 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142293 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 142276 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-06-21 09:05:28 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-21 07:05:28 [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL There have been consecutive releases of wire tappings in batches from the German media Bild, demonstrating again and again that starting from the Prime Minister himself Edi Rama and down to former ministers, Damian Gjiknuri and Sajmir Tahiri, followed by respective area MPs such as Xhemal Qefalija and Pjerin Ndreu just to mention a few, everyone that matters in the Rilindje version of the Socialist Party was involved in communication with people who manipulated elections. The recently released intercepts reveal that in particular that the heads of police stations and officials from the Ministry of Interior Affairs and the regional Department of Education have been systematically instructed to exert pressure, use threats about employment and offer money in exchange for votes. The case in question is that of the Dibra local elections, which in the past had been a bastion of the DP and last time were curiously won by the SP with an incredible margin. It is exactly this margin and the methods used to acquire it that the criminals and the politicians are celebrating with boastfulness and crudity in these phone calls. First of all it is now clear that this government is not legitimate anymore and has lost all credibility and morality. It should not stand. The Prime Minister should resign. The publication of these intercepts in any other normal democratic and responsible country would have brought the government down more than once. It has been showed with clarity that the electoral process has been deformed beyond any recognition. Second, the stealth alliance between politics and organized crime need to be dismantled once and for all in order to avoid the cyclical crisis pattern that is not allowing Albania to take even the smallest step forward as a democracy, as a country that wants to join the EU and as a normal place where citizens can build functional lives. A particularly sad thing to notice also in these communication is the banal language filled with obscenities that all these high ranking figures use in their phone calls. This kind of crude language has become a particular and revealing trademark of the alliance between the “Rilindje organization” (that has devoured the Socialist Party) and the organized crime syndicates. It is revelatory of the scary abyss where the values and role models have fallen. The lack of legitimacy and the degree of crime that this intercepts have highlighted are not the only reason why this government should go. The last week has shown an alarming increase in the level of violence in almost all the municipalities of the country. The local institutions run by the opposition have acknowledged the presidential decree of annulling the elections and are taking steps to dismantle the electoral infrastructure. This has put them on a collision course with the state police. Confrontations have escalated into arson and beatings. Many arrests have been made. The situation is tense and ripe for more concerning clashes. There are no guarantees in place for the safety and security of citizens, businesses and institutions. Albanians are pitted against Albanians in yet another absurd politician run drama. All stakeholders need to step back and reflect on the need to avoid violence including the international ones. The President of the Republic has taken a step to officially communicate with the OSCE-ODHIR mission in Albania about his decision to annul the elections exactly for the reason of avoiding confrontation and instability.  The OSCE presence in Albania is increasingly being evaluated as a partial and biased actor and that is irreparably damaging its credibility as a necessary referee of elections. They, alongside other international actors who seem oblivious to the coming deluge, should adjust their course as soon as possible. A few days are left to take the right decision that would dissipate the tension and open the path to a necessary dialogue and solution. It can and it should start with a simple step. This government should take the responsibility to account for its wrongful and illegal actions. [post_title] => Editorial: Crime, punishment and violence- this government’s days are done [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-crime-punishment-and-violence-this-governments-days-are-done [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-06-23 09:24:22 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-06-23 07:24:22 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142276 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 142148 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-06-14 09:40:20 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-14 07:40:20 [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL The wise and often misunderstood Albanian diplomat and politician, Mit’hat Frasheri, wrote confidently almost a hundred years ago that “Albanians will win all the battles that the future holds for them once they are done fighting the battle within themselves.”’ This rings painfully true a century later, as the fragile and toddler-like Albanian democracy is still miserably faltering in its steps. In the last week, the political crisis that has engulfed the country has escalated furiously and the lookout for it seems bleak. The President of the Republic, Ilir Meta, in a self-declared attempt to diffuse the growing tension annulled his decree for the elections date of June 30. The majority cried constitutional foul and vowed to bring the president down but since there is no Constitutional Court to evaluate the validity of this decision, the matter was brought to the Central Election Committee (CEC) which voted to go on with the prior set date. That the CEC can validate the presidential decrees is just another proof that the situation has gone way beyond the checks and balances dysfunction into a complete obliteration of the constitutional system. The CEC is made up at present only of four members, all from the majority side therefore it’s just another fully controlled institution by one side. Vesting them with extraordinary powers that would belong only to a Constitutional Court is a serious breach of democracy. Meanwhile, the political sides have entrenched even further in their positions and have made their steps even more aggressive. The opposition has declared the formation of an Alliance for the Protection of Democracy active in all the 61 voting districts, something reminiscent of the year 1997. The majority in its absurd “sleepwalking to disaster” mode is set to initiate the procedures for the removal of the president and to go on with printing the ballot papers. Some form of civil clash seems imminent. No matter its scale, even if it is confined to some episodes, the consequences for Albania will be very dire. As it’s common in these cases, Albanian leaders look out to the international community for some solution. Like a toddler that seeks the hand to lean on in order to walk. However Albanian democracy is not a toddler but the destiny of all Albanian citizens. The action line of the majority and the Prime Minister who after Meta’s decision convened the ambassadors in Albania and then departed to Brussels to gather support for his actions, is clearly not the right strategy.  The golden lapsus of outgoing EU Commissioner Juncker who mistakenly thought elections were set for April (not clear even if he meant the next one!) is a clear and loud indication that Albania matters so very little on the community’s agenda. It is up to the domestic political class to find a solution to this crisis, to dare to take its steps confidently and alone. It is only the domestic actors who are fully aware and knowledgeable about the inside out details of the context in Albania, about the enormous risks that instability due to lack of real elections with real alternatives can bring. International institutions and actors, used to their different context, may rightfully in their mindset insist on following the procedures of democracy. However Albanians know they should seek a solution that is in line with the essence of democracy. It is clear by now that the European perspective of Albania alongside every perspective of stability, prosperity and progress is very much at stake. As the old wise Frasheri said, we should end this battle to win the future ones.      [post_title] => Editorial: Albania’s crisis: End this battle now to win all future ones [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albanias-crisis-end-this-battle-now-to-win-all-future-ones [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-06-14 09:45:27 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-06-14 07:45:27 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142148 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 142163 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-06-13 10:30:48 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-13 08:30:48 [post_content] => By David L. Phillips   Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama threatened to fire President Ilir Meta for postponing local elections. Meta is justifiably concerned that a ballot in today’s volatile climate could cause violence and further undermine Albania’s EU candidacy. Moreover, Meta was exercising his legal authority pursuant to article 92 of the constitution, which empowers the President with the authority to determine the date of elections for parliament and local government. Rather than brinkmanship, Albania needs dialogue and a transition plan to strengthen democracy. What motivates Edi Rama? Rama’s attack on Meta has little to do with the electoral process. His confrontational approach is a blatant bid to consolidate power by marginalizing opponents who demand good government and accountability for corruption. Hundreds of thousands of Albanians protested over the weekend. They believe Rama stole national elections in June 2017, and demanded his resignation. Protesters also demand accountability for corruption. The Voice of America recently published an expose of Rama’s efforts to manipulate hiring in the prison system. A leaked transcript revealed collusion between the former director of Albania’s penitentiary system and parliamentarians in Rama’s Socialist Party (SP). If Washington supports justice reform, it should distance itself from Albanian politicians like Rama who act more like gangsters than statesmen. Rama has become a national embarrassment. It is time for him to go. Rama’s departure from politics should be part of the following plan to stabilize Albania:
  1.      Rama would immediately resign as prime minister. He would receive immunity from criminal prosecution in exchange for a pledge to disassociate from politics now and in the future.
  2.      An interim multi-party technocratic government would be established to manage. Albania’s political and economic affairs. Individuals with integrity would be tasked with ensuring accountability and guiding the country.
  3.      Albania’s Central Election Commission (CEC) would be reconstituted with participation by experts from the UN Office of Electoral Assistance and the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
  4.      The revamped CEC would hold concurrent local and national elections on June 30, 2020. Domestic and international election monitors would work to ensure that the ballot is free and fair.
This plan can only work with support from the United States. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Matthew A. Palmer maintains that the U.S. is committed to using all the tools that we have to support the fight against organized [crime], to support the fight against corruption, to support accountability, transparency and good governance.”Sounds good, but talk is cheap. The United States, which has always supported democracy and the rule of law in Albania, is on the wrong side of Albania’s domestic debate. The State Department blames the opposition for exercising its freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. Instead, US officials should hold Rama accountable for ordering the security services to use tear gas and truncheons on peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators in Skanderbeg Square over the weekend. Why does the US stand by Rama when he is so clearly a part of the problem?Rama’s demeanor brings shame to honorable Albanians. His trash-talking uses language unbecoming a gentleman, no less a head of government. Rama recklessly denigrated Voice of America, saying its reporting comes from the “trash bin.” Rama endorsed legislation restricting media freedoms, which was condemned by the European Federation of Journalists, European Centre for Press & Media Freedom, PEN International and Reporters Without Borders. SPmedia legislation is a Trojan Horse for censorship, which violates the constitution and threatens freedom of expression. Albania’s institutions are in disarray. It has not had a functional Constitutional Court for more than a year. Problems with the rule of law are aggravated by non-functionality of the High Court. Bild, the reputable German publication, recently published an investigative piece documenting how the mafia manipulates elections in Albania. Narcotics revenue is widely rumored to support the SP. Rama’s departure would enhance democracy, creating space for young leadership in the SP and other parties to more fully emerge. I have nothing against Edi Rama personally. Simply put, I have worked on Albanian issues for 30 years and love Albania. Rama is a dinosaur who has outlived his usefulness. Rama should go into exile. After leaving Albania, Rama can go to Antalya and grow old with his friend and autocratic ally, Tayyip Erdogan.   *The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Tirana Times and its editorial staff.   *Mr. Phillips is Director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights. He served as a Senior Adviser and Foreign Affairs Expert at the US Department of State during the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations. He is the author of Liberating Kosovo: Coercive Diplomacy and US Intervention (Harvard’s Kennedy School).   [post_title] => Albania’s crisis - the way out [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albanias-crisis-the-way-out [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-06-14 10:32:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-06-14 08:32:39 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142163 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 142052 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-06-07 07:43:30 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-07 05:43:30 [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL The communications interceptions published by the German media Bild shed light over an intricate network of links between organized crime and politics that function with clockwork precision. The flow of the decision making goes back and forth between the gang masters who point out who should hold office, work to make it happen via all the illicit ways and then reap the rewards. The local politicians under the supervision and guidance and approval of their masters keep an ongoing communication intertwined with ghastly pet name calling and affection displays. The intercepts are very clear: the Avdylaj mafia clan active in the entire Durres region have chosen their man, Ilir Ndraxhi, to be a member of parliament under the SP logo and have used intimidation methods and illicit money to make him win. The fact is that Ndraxhi is in the parliament to the present day and nothing has ever been heard from him until these articles were made public. The list of MPs of the Rilindje group coming directly from organized crime syndicates and representing their interests therefore increases by at least one verified name.   In the Albanian electoral system the responsibility for choosing the candidates and their places in the running lists rests with one person only: the head of the party currently the Prime Minister. These intercepts deliver a hard blow on the legitimacy of the government itself. Durres, a highly prized constituency for its national port, a documented hub of narco-trafficking, is certainly not the only place where this kind of mafia dynamics is in place. After the first mandate Rilindje under the guise of the Socialist Party won 74 mandates. It is clear now that their decisive difference which gave them the mandate was made up with the names chosen by organized crime. Some of them, directly implicated in crimes, have been forced to resign with the decriminalization law. Some like Ndraxhi still stand. In subsequent calls we understand how hardcore criminals, sentenced for the harshest crimes wield decisive influence on the drafting and ranks of the electoral lists, threaten and manipulate voters in order to generate specific outcomes, boast about it to party heads, have full information on the agenda of local and national politicians and finally have at their disposal all the public institutions to deal with them at their hearts’ content. The entire array of institutions and their heads: property registration offices, aqueduct management companies, municipalities mentioned in these communications are the fabric of whole communities. The calls indicate the pressure on the lower employees to vote in exchange for keeping their jobs, the pressure on mayors and property offices to deliver for the gangsters, to change their agendas, to walk the line. And then Election Day is just Show Time. This is not the first time this scheme is put under the limelight. Not the first time its actors shrug off these allegations as being routine conversations with their constituents.   However this does seem like the straw that breaks the camel back. In the midst of this political crisis whose core nexus is about the freedom and legitimacy of elections, in the midst of the indifference and inertia that the international community present in Albania is showing, in expectance of a major decision about the EU integration path of the country, this publication is the last chance to serve as a wakeup call. However the standing majority is more concerned about the leaks as a break in the procedure of conserving the investigation privacy than about the evidencing of the crime itself. The leak that identifies and sheds lights over these links between crime and politics is in the interest of the public and therefore cannot be intimidated with the rhetoric of punishing those who made it happen. The intricate and almost organic links that have grown between crime and politics and that stem from the nefarious pact between the two around Election Day should be severed. This linkage is the original sin and the genesis of evil and renouncing it will be difficult and painful. However as long as it stands put there is no chance that the pattern of political conflict, large scale corruption and democratic degradation can ever be reversed.   [post_title] => Editorial: Organized crime at the heart of the political modus operandi [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-organized-crime-at-the-heart-of-the-political-modus-operandi [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-06-10 11:08:49 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-06-10 09:08:49 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142052 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 142612 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-07-11 18:27:57 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-07-11 16:27:57 [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL  Even though the subject of having joint embassies and consular services has been promoted before, this week the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Albania and Kosovo presented with a lot of enthusiasm a mutually signed agreement that puts forward the plan for using shared spaces, exchange of personnel as well as joint cultural diplomacy calendar of events. Despite the pomp and fanfare that is ever present in these presentations once again it remains unclear what exactly this agreement will achieve for the relations between the citizens, the economies and the cultures of the two countries. A large number of agreements have been signed, most of them during equally spectacular bilateral government meetings. All of them lack teeth: concrete implementation mechanism, responsibilities and budgetary provisions. They resemble shallow Memoranda of Understanding that are usually signed by organizations that implement a modest joint project. This paper has written before about the façade character being prompted between the two countries where in the background the number of barriers for concrete relations and exchanges is multiplying. The situation is even worse now. There is a silent trade war raging in the background of this glossy shows of brotherly cooperation. Kosovo has threatened to impose the same tariff on Albanian goods as it has done with Serbia. The toll fee in the Highway connection Kosovo to Albania is a permanent pestilence on Kosovar travelers. Recently book publishers who retuned from the Book Fair in Prishtina revealed hefty customs fee sums that they had to pay. Indeed in addition to several disagreements and the field of economy and culture, the political relations themselves are not blooming. There have been several and repeated tensions between Tirana and Prishtina especially in the realm of key strategic decisions about the potential agreement between Kosovo and Serbia as well as about the nature of the relations between Albania and Serbia. It is even ironic that these agreements are dubbed by furious politicians in the region then as attempt to create “Greater Albania”. If they only knew the level of seriousness of the walls being reinforced between the two countries: the trade disagreements about all sorts of goods and services, the lack of systematic cultural exchanges and the deep discontent that citizens on both sides of the borders periodically vent off faced with the polices, taxes, tariffs, tolls and all kinds of impediments and costs at every interaction step. ‘Greater Albania’, which is not the case at all anyways, would for sure require a much more systematic and serious effort to be realized than the one we see unfolding in the last two decades. One can only hope that this recent agreement for cooperation in foreign policy is at least a bit more successful than Albania’s previous repeatedly failed attempts to assist Kosovo in its international efforts. Those failed attempts stand as reminders of mismatched grand ambitions when there is some much more concrete work to be done at home. A real strategic document for the relations between the two countries outlining priorities and detailing concrete mechanism for implementation is the real starting point that needs to be completed. The agreement signed by the two Ministers of Foreign Affairs cannot take its place.     [post_title] => Editorial: Albania–Kosovo Relations: the show goes on [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-albania-kosovo-relations-the-show-goes-on [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-07-11 18:27:57 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-07-11 16:27:57 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142612 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [queried_object] => stdClass Object ( [term_id] => 52 [name] => Premium [slug] => premium [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 52 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Please subscribe to have access to articles in our premium section. 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