Woulda, coulda, shoulda*

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 24, 2019 23:06

Story Highlights

  • The European perspective does not belong to political sides, but to the Albanian people - treating it as such only deepens the already-rooted tendency to think in two-party terms here and in lack of an alternative, which could be a caretaker government, a government of experts, political scientists, activists, civil society members, etc. In reality, reforms are not tied to any political side, but are only a logical outcome of Albania’s long transition into a functioning democracy, as is its European path.

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By Sidonja Manushi

 

Last week, France and its President Emmanuel Macron vetoed against Albania and Northern Macedonia – two of the Western Balkan candidate countries still to open accession negotiations – receiving a green light to their European path. 

Following this decision, which many analysts and experts ‘blamed’ on France alone, Macron gave a statement saying the majority of EU member states favored the opening of talks with Northern Macedonia, believing in the credibility of its reforms much more than Albania’s.

According to Reuters, Macron said that “opening negotiations with Northern Macedonia, while having to leave Albania outside, would be a fatal mistake for the region.” 

Contrarily to what one might have expected to happen following Macron’s words, it was Northern Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev who proposed his own resignation under snap elections and the establishment of a caretaker government on Friday after Brussels decision, while Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama did the exact opposite, blaming the rejection on internal EU issues alone and categorically refusing any resignation talk. 

“We have not firmly promised that negotiations will open. This is the first factor. The responsibility levels facing internal opinion are completely different. The second factor is structural, as in Albania there is no place for resignation. In Bundestag’s stand, Albania is obliged to address ODIHR recommendations for electoral reform, which is ongoing. Albania cannot hold electoral elections while the reform is still under process. We are at a situation where we don’t have a functional Constitutional Court,” said Gent Cakaj, the acting Albanian foreign minister, a day after the country failed to open negotiations yet again.

The underlying paradox in this situation is blatant, to say the least. 

Although EU member states have continued being critical towards N. Macedonia’s reforms, which also still have a long way to go, none has argued against the weight of the reforms undertaken, or the leadership of Zaev, who was reportedly even nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize with his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras for ratifying the Prespa agreement and reaching a consensus on the name change. 

For Albania, in addition to France, other EU member states have constantly urged further progress in ongoing reforms, while, recently, the German Bundestag agreed on conditionally granting Albania the green light – adding solving the political crisis and punishing high-ranking corruption and vote rigging in the long list of things to be figured out by the government and the opposition. 

In this context, saying Albania’s fate was sealed by internal EU issues alone is looking at the world through pink colored glasses. But assuming that N. Macedonia got the short end of the stick in this entire situation is good intuition and the political reactions in each respective country only testify to this fact. 

However, what might be the worst in this situation, is Cakaj’s statement that the Socialist Party did not make any specific promises to open negotiations (although the government’s foreign policy mantra has been EU membership since the start), followed by arguing it can nevertheless not resign, because then reforms would halt. 

Although sidetracking is possible, Cakaj’s words bear a bigger danger – that of tying up the European perspective with one party. 

The European perspective does not belong to political sides, but to the Albanian people – treating it as such only deepens the already-rooted tendency to think in two-party terms here and in lack of an alternative, which could be a caretaker government, a government of experts, political scientists, activists, civil society members, etc. In reality, reforms are not tied to any political side, but are only a logical outcome of Albania’s long transition into a functioning democracy, as is its European path.

Preferring to go down this path by turning a blind eye to issues is harmful, just as much as being happy with receiving a ‘yes’ even if we all know Albania will still need years to actually become an EU member state after opening negotiations. 

In doing so, the morale is fed with lies, issues are not truly resolved and the opportunity for choosing an alternative on how to reach the citizen’s European future will get buried under the stash of increasing homework for Albania, which will probably continue to accumulate through the years. 

*An expression of dismissiveness or disappointment concerning a statement, question, explanation, course of action, or occurrence involving hypothetical possibilities, uncertain facts, or missed opportunities.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 24, 2019 23:06