Monday

28th Sep 2020

Opinion

See no evil - EU approach is failing the Albanian people

They say his "emergency" luggage was packed.

Someone from enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele's close entourage remarked that if he had gone to Tirana the next day as planned he would have yelled at Prime Minister Sali Berisha: "Enough - you have to retreat!"

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Albanian protests - four people were shot dead. Nobody has been found guilty from the government side (Photo: Nikolaj Nielsen)

It was 21 January 2011 and the republican guard had just shot dead on live TV four unarmed protesters in an anti-government and anti-corruption rally in the capital city of Albania.

Fuele never took that flight. Instead Catherine Ashton, in need of some kind of success for her newborn European External Action Service, sent her special envoy Miroslav Lajcak.

The Albanian leader, in his first meeting with the Slovak former foreign minister said "Please tell me what to do and I will do as you say." But Lajcak, during three rounds of talks, said nothing and did nothing of substance and went home.

He returned to Brussels with the same idea that eurocrats had about Albania all along - that both Berisha and the leader of the opposition, Edi Rama, are not credible and that the EU should leave them to it.

Or, as Fuele recently said in the EU parliament: "The door remains open ... It is your choice. It is absolutely your choice. It is not me who wants to enter the EU."

What is the current political situation in Albania like? A few examples tell the story.

In 2008, 26 people died in a blast at an ammunition depot. After three years of work, a judicial enquiry has not found anybody guilty. The then minister of defence, responsible for military facilities, is now minister of environment.

A few weeks before the 21 January shootings, our deputy prime minister was captured on camera offering €700,000 in a dodgy deal to our minister of economy.

The minister of interior - in office at the time of the killings and implicated in the vanishing of €220 million back when he was minister of transport - is the new mayor of Tirana. Just one person - a protestor - has so far been found guilty for his part in the events. The international community has long forgotten about calls for justice.

And the election? The incumbent stole Rama's narrow victory - in full sight of the EU and the US.

There is more to Albania than this - just look at the European Commission's progress reports on the massive change taking place here in the past few years.

But during this whole turbulent period the only things to come out of the EU institutions are "we have taken note" and "we are following closely ... [sometimes] with concern".

I hope never again to hear these expressions.

Brussels still has time to speak the truth on Albania and to put pressure on the ruling elite to do its job.

Nobody is asking for French jets to fire missiles at Berisha's degraded regime. But - and I choose my words carefully - we should not let him become a mini-Gaddafi in Europe by closing our eyes to abuses in the name of fake stability.

A regime which shoots protesters, rigs elections, neglects reforms and allows politicians to merrily steal the country's money is not in our national interest and not in the EU's interest either.

It is a regime destined to create a black hole in the western Balkans and to leave the people of Albania on the crossroads of EU integration for decades to come.

The author is the Brussels correspondent for Albanian and Macedonian national TV, Alsat M

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

The protracted death of democratic Albania

How have Albania been allowed to deteriorate so far? The answer lies primarily with the country’s politicians, in particular Prime Minister Sali Berisha and opposition leader Edi Rama, who together have done more to destroy their country’s progress than any other post-Communist leaders in Europe, argues Dimitar Bechev.

EU commission to confront Turkey on free press

The European Commission in its 2011 enlargement report will tell Turkey to stop attacking investigative journalists and mark "limited progress" on pro-EU reforms in many Western Balkan countries.

Now's the time to give QMV a chance in EU foreign policy

The loudest applause from MEPs during Ursula von der Leyen's State of the Union speech came for her call to move to Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) in foreign policy - at least on human rights and sanctions implementation.

European hiccups on the way to West Africa

The EU is expected to soon, perhaps this week, to release its renewed Sahel strategy, which was in dire need of a revamp and which will no doubt reflect some of the words of foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell.

Why no EU progress on Black Lives Matter?

Months after Black Lives Matter erupted, for many EU decision-makers the problems of racism in policing and criminal legal systems - the issues that sparked the George Floyd protests - are still 'over there', across the Atlantic.

How EU can help end Uighur forced labour

A recent report noted apparel and footwear as the leading exports from the Uighur region - with a combined value of $6.3bn [€5.3bn] representing over 35 percent of total exports.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  3. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID-19 halts the 72nd Session of the Nordic Council in Iceland
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCivil society a key player in integration
  6. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular

Latest News

  1. Caucasus warfare prompts EU alarm
  2. Summit reloaded and last Brexit round This WEEK
  3. EU denies 'clandestine' mission on Venezuela election date
  4. Between the lines, Europe's new Moria unfolds
  5. Now's the time to give QMV a chance in EU foreign policy
  6. European hiccups on the way to West Africa
  7. Berlin repeats support for EU human rights sanctions
  8. China's carbon pledge at UN sends 'clear message' to US

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  2. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  4. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  6. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us