Now that the meeting of the European Council that will decide on the opening of accession negotiations with Albania is only two weeks away, Prime Minister Edi Rama has once again warned for the threat of radical Islam should the EU refuse to open its doors to the Western Balkan states.
According to Reuters, Rama stated in an interview with the German daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung:
If we want to have a secure and stable European Union and with it a secure Europe, it’s not good if there are holes.
In addition, we shouldn’t forget that there are also other, third, actors, who are playing their game and who could profit if the EU leaves a vacuum there.
I’m talking about Russia, but I’m also talking about radical Islam.
This is not the first time that Prime Minister Rama uses the supposed spread radical Islam as an argument for EU enlargement. He used a similar argument in July 2015, in an interview with the Financial Times:
In a warning about the potential risk of radical Islam spreading into the Balkans, [Edi Rama] said: “A young person in Tunis or Tobruk feels he has no future. But in Albania the star in the sky is Europe. If the EU is not able to show up in the way that is expected, there will be a huge space for radical Islam.”
This argument, which is also a warning or perhaps a threat – considering that Albania is the only Muslim-majority country in Europe – always comes up at the moment any position argument in favor Albania’s membership seems to be lacking. It is, in other words, an argument of last resort.
When we look at Rama’s actual policy as regards this alleged danger of radical Islam, it appears to be incoherent to say the least.
If indeed he fears radical Islam’s influence in the Balkans so much, how come his government took in several thousand militants of the Mojahedin-e-Khalq, a militant Muslim movement from Iran?
And what about his personal ties with the regime of the de facto dictator of Turkey, President Recep Erdoğan, who is widely considered to be a sponsor of the radical Islamism that Prime Minister Rama warns the EU against?
Rama was not only was a personal witness at the marriage of President Erdoǧan’s daughter Sümeyye, but also recently gave in to pressure from the Turkish government to censor any Turkish names and flags on schools allegedly linked to the movement of Abdullah Gülen; a severe gesture of aggression against the freedom of expression that is certainly not up to EU standards.
In other words, Rama doesn’t appear to heed his own “warning” about radical Islam taking over the Balkans, and there is no reason to assume that other EU countries will. What they will look at is judicial reform, fair elections, freedom of speech, and a serious fight against corruption and organized crime.