EU-Albania: the winners and losers of June 28!

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 26, 2018 12:00

EU-Albania:  the winners and losers of June 28!

Story Highlights

  • Albania has 1001 problems, Macedonia probably as much, but their solution is in the EU. (And only the EU has the power to transform the region, despite temptations and interests of other global and regional actors).

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By Lufti Dervishi 

48 hours prior, and yet no one can say for sure what the decision of the European Council regarding the possibility of opening the negotiations for Albania and Macedonia will be.

To date, at least 3 stances have been delineated: A) France, which places the EU’s internal reform first and has nothing “personal” with Albania and Macedonia. B) The Netherlands, which thinks that Albania and Macedonia are not yet ready to open the negotiations. C) Germany, which seems to be in favor, BUT…

In the middle of the three positions stands the European Commission, which has recommended the opening of negotiations without any conditions. The Council has granted the Commission the authority to be the “priest”, but it seems that this time it is also trying to “shave” its beard.

This spring, the Commission also published the EU 2025 Strategy for the Region; a strategy that reaffirmed the Union’s commitment, just like it did 15 years ago, – at the Thessaloniki Summit of 2003 – that the future of the region is in the EU.

It is thus very difficult to understand in Tirana or Skopje the “problem” of opening the negotiations in relation with the EU’s internal reforming. From the opening of negotiations to taking a decision about membership it will take at least one decade (based on experience). Each EU Member State has endless possibilities to block / require the candidate countries to go 350 times deeper into each of the 35 Chapters.

Albania has 1001 problems, Macedonia probably as much, but their solution is in the EU. (And only the EU has the power to transform the region, despite temptations and interests of other global and regional actors).

Only connecting and working with each of the 35 Chapters will mark the beginning of a radical transformation for Albania and lead to a qualitative improvement of life for every Albanian.

Historically, in every decade of its life, the EU has walked and has “grown up” amidst the most unimaginable problems. Brexit and current problems with immigration, terrorism and economy are not issues that are solved in one or ten years. They will be here for a long time.

Also, the Balkans will not move (at least geographically). The region has been here and it is here where it will stay. The genetic lottery has located the Balkan people within the EU, not in the northern borders of Africa or in the Middle East, but in Europe.

A promise was made to the Balkans – it’s time to keep the word.

Another opinion that has recently circulated is that (North) Macedonia will be granted the negotiations based on conditions. As for any other decision, there is no shortage of arguments: changing the regime and putting the 25-year old dispute with Greece into the rails of a solution.

In this version of the story, Albania remains the black sheep of the region. The Slavic neighbors (Montenegro, Serbia, and Macedonia) continue their approximation process with the EU. Albania? Albania will take a “No”, but the wording can be as beautiful as the Macedonian “Yes” will look way too poor.

Albanians, and not only in Albania, will feel excluded and like they are treated unfairly. The mantra “We will join Brussels” – used by all the political elites in Tirana – would take the overtones of a joke and political forces in both Kosovo and Albania that see Brussels as a problem rather than as a solution will certainly gain more space. Tirana has been constantly congratulated for its constructive role in the region. What role will Tirana play in the region if Albanians alone will feel themselves excluded, while Kosovo’s population is the only people in the region excluded from the visa-free regime?

The loss of the EU perspective will do what the Albanians have been doing for 3 decades – individually demand EU membership. So far, 1/3 of the population currently living in the EU member states has done it (Albania is the second country in the world for the largest number of emigrants produced in the last 3 decades).

A “No” or a postponement of the decision to open negotiations until the Greek calends shall mean a loss for the Albanians. And any loss faces the winners. The big winners will be the politicians and the authoritarian leaders that will do whatever they like. The problem in Tirana, Skopje, or in the capitals of the region is that if you ask: Where the power lies, the answer will be the same: the Prime Minister. The age of the leaders is greater than the age of the new institutions; the transition from strong leaders to institutions is only made possible with the EU and on the road to the EU. The rule of law, the market economy, media independence, independent institutions and competition will get no support, but perhaps receive a blow because the so much desired reforms will no longer be led by Brussels’ complicated machinery, but by the will of the populist leaders of the region.

A “No” from the EU PMs is not without consequences for the individuals and the populations. The vision, the perspective of people, the purpose and the focus of the reforms will be questioned. There is nothing more dramatic than human beings without purpose, without vision and without focus; the same goes for nations.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 26, 2018 12:00