How Long Will the EU Stay Silent about Rama’s “Administrative Reform”?

By Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei,
How Long Will the EU Stay Silent about Rama’s “Administrative Reform”?
The corner of "fletë-rrufe," on which public denunciations were posted with the blessing of the dictator.

Only two weeks ago, EU Ambassador Romana Vlahutin for the first time publicly endorsed the “five key priorities” that are necessary for the opening of EU accession negotiations, urged on by a similar statement made ahead of the parliamentary elections by the US and EU countries.

Yesterday, EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn stated that accession negotiations for the moment will only be held with Serbia and Montenegro, while “the others” (including Albania) should wait. And today, MEP McAllister, one of the chief negotiators of the pre-electoral McAllister+ agreement between Prime Minister Edi Rama, predicted that accession negotiations with EU will not start earlier than 2018, in spite of the PS’s election promises to the contrary.

Overall, the legitimacy of Rama’s new government is low. Even though it won an absolute majority in Parliament, the PS won hardly more votes than in 2013, and only 48% of the popular vote in an election marked by historically massive abstention. So rather than walking the road of democratic institutions, Prime Minister Rama decided to combine the EU’s priority of “administrative reform” with an attempt to reestablish his legitimacy directly on “the common people.” This was the birth of his post-electoral strategy of “direct co-governance with the people.”

As Fatos Lubonja presciently wrote yesterday, “direct co-governance with the people” is an attack upon the bureaucracy, state institutions, and the rule of law in Albania in the service of the “infallibility of the supreme leader.” He provides us with a genealogy of this strategy, comparing it convincingly with the Cultural Revolution in Mao’s China and the Cultural and Ideological Revolution in Hoxha’s Albania:

It was the period in which [Enver Hoxha] held his famous speech “When the working class speaks, the bureaucracy remains silent,” which was an attack on Mehmet Shehu. He also removed the ranks of the soldiers, and state institutions, up to scientific departments, were put under great pressure of the fletë-rrufe [public pamphets, an adaptation of the Chinese dazibao] produced by the common people (seemingly coming from the bottom, but urged on by the top).

Well, that escalated quickly!

As if on cue, Prime Minister Rama published yesterday evening the first fletë-rrufe of his “direct co-governance platform”: a black list of about one hundred civil servants which have shown “negative practices” toward the common people. Indeed, when the common people speak, the bureaucracy remains silent. But although seemingly the product of common people, Rama’s campaign against the bureaucracy is really urged from the top.

As Lubonja argues:

Certainly, anyone who really thinks that Edi Rama truly has any need for listening to the complaints and criticism of the people in order to improve his work is wrong. If he had any need for listening to criticism, for taking it seriously, he would run to Erion Veliaj at the moment he would see citizens protesting for a park that he grabbed from their children a week after he grabbed the elections. No. This direct governance with the people by bypassing the institutions is something completely different from good governance; it is precisely the worst form of bad governance.

Rather than being taken aback by the immediate criticism of the opposition and the publicly slandered people on the black list, Rama – in full Trump style – doubled down against the “snowflakes” (lulet mos më prekë):

The online co-governance platform with common people FOR THE ALBANIA THAT WE LOVE, will be the hell for anyone who is paid by the state and abuses common people, not only by putting their hands in their pockets but also by behaving unethically toward them. And it will not be a hell of digital gossip by digital citizens that don’t show their identity, but it will be the hell of a large coalition against the “baking-tray-ers” [tepsixhi], boors, and parasites that are paid by our taxes and without an inch of shame are abusive every time they encounter a common person with his problems.

How long will it take for the EU to understand that four years of dangling the carrot of accession in front of Rama’s nose (“just do the vetting!”), and now withdrawing it in exchange for a “Regional Economic Area” with Albania’s neighbors, has led to an “administrative reform,” the likes of which they might have already forgotten?

Considering their learning curve, I wouldn’t hold my breath.



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