A few days ago, EU Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn issued an important declaration regarding Albania at the informal meeting of the Balkan prime ministers, which didn’t attract the public’s attention, as it was eclipsed by the propaganda and presence of the Prime Minister Edi Rama, who assumed the role of the leader of the entire Balkans.
Once again I do not want to give a fixed date because it also depends on political intelligence, which means taking the right step at the right moment to present a report by the Commission of member states to be accepted by member states at the right moment. So, it’s important that it is of quality and not a fast one. So the priority is quality rather than speed. The ultimate goal is to take the support of all member states to take the step next.
Therefore, I would ask for your understanding in not giving a fixed date…
Hiding behind the meaningless, even ridiculous term “quality” Hahn is trying to say clearly: Albania will not receive any time soon an invitation for the opening of negotiations, because this is not supported by some member states. The decision for opening negotiations is taken unanimously by the European Council, the gathering of all member states’ heads of government, where each member state has the right of veto.
Hahn’s declaration shows something else that is more serious as well, namely the fact that the European Commission is not ready to issue a positive recommendation to the Council regarding the opening of negotiations for Albania.
The situation is ironic given that two years ago, in December 2015, the Commission recommended to the Council the opening of negotiations. This means that in the past two years the situation in Albania has deteriorated. In his speech, Hahn showed what has deteriorated: cultivation and trafficking of cannabis and illegal emigration, two major problems of Rama’s government.
Hahn is indirectly stating that the process of Albanian integration into the EU has halted completely, and he sees no perspective for opening negotiations in the short-term period.
Given that Serbia and Montenegro are already making progress in the membership negotiations, with the general expectation that they will become members of EU in the next three to four years, chances for Albania are low.
For this reason, in the past two years the entire political activity of EU regarding Albania has been oriented and focused toward Albania’s “integration” within the region, rather than in Europe. For the moment, Brussels has the Balkans in mind for Albania, and not the EU.
The halt of the integration process was confirmed even by EU Ambassador Romana Vlahutin some days ago, right after her return from the annual meeting of EU Ambassadors with High Representative Federica Mogherini.
In a prepared speech for the opening of the European Summer School in Tirana she expressed the following:
I think it is known to everyone what needs to happen when it comes to [the] five key priorities, but in particular regarding all aspects of the rule of law, especially in [the] fight against organized crime, including eradication of the cannabis cultivation and trade.
None of the prior declarations of Vlahutin had ever mentioned cannabis in any from or shape as a condition for opening of negotiations. Mentioning cannabis as a key priority, while tagging it with the adverb “especially,” shows a fundamental change in her standpoint.
Knowing her tight friendship with Edi Rama, it can be assumed that Vlahutin was forced by her bosses to prioritize the issue of cannabis, showing that cannabis is currently a critical issue for the highest political echelons of EU and its member states.
Not even 24 hours after Vlahutin’s declaration, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Bushati confirmed the gloomy perspective of the integration of Albania in the EU, in an obviously discreet, but clear way.
In the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Western Balkans hosted by him in Tirana, Bushati highlighted that one of the dangers faced by the countries of the Western Balkans is that EU expansion could stop being a priority for the member states.
In reality, of all the Western Balkan countries, Slovenia and Croatia are already members, while Serbia and Montenegro are in the midst of membership negotiations and are expected to become members in the coming 3–4 years. The danger felt by Bushati regards only Albania, Kosovo, and Bosnia and Hercegovina, while Macedonia remains hostage to Greece’s opposition against its name.
In fact, while Bushati has made it clear, indirectly, that some EU countries will not allow the opening of negotiations with Albania because of the country’s crime, related primarily to drugs. Many European and international reports confirm that Albania is a principal site of marijuana trafficking and a main nodal point for heroin transport from the Asian countries and cocaine heading to Western Europe from Latin America.
But the situation in Albania is more serious than just the stalling of the integration process. It was made public a few days ago that countries like the Netherlands are demanding the rewinding of some integration processes with Albania, including the free movement of people within the Schengen area, and reintroducing the visa system for Albanians.
Faced with this serious situation, the prime minister Rama, who is the main responsible as regards cannabis and immigration, remains unaware, uninformed, and complacent. In the same meeting that Hahn confirmed the stop of European integration of the country, Edi Rama responded to the Netherlands’ question regarding the Albanian crime as follows:
…we are not talking about accepting to be identified for propagandistic purposes as criminal problem, or whatever how would I know. Criminals don’t have a fatherland. They are people who commit crimes and let them go and pay according to the countries [where they commit them]. It’s our task to deal with the criminals in Abania and we don’t divide them, whether they’re Italian, Albanian, Greek, or Brazilian. Let them take care of the criminals in their own countries and not bother us with those divisions, because those divisions make no sense in the Europe in which we live.
What the European governments know really well, but which the Prime Minister denies, is that the Albanian crime in Europe has gained the upper hand because of cannabis cultivation and trafficking. Revenues from this trade have created an immense resource for Albanian and international crime.
The Prime Minister denies the reality, which is a lack of efficiency of his government to fight drug traffic while reasonable doubts exist that police and government official are connected to this trafficking.
Facing these facts, the philosophical rhetoric of the Albanian Prime Minister appears vacuous and is a sign of a lack of willpower to fight drugs and crime, thus reaffirming the European countries pessimism regarding Albania.
Prime Minister Rama showed irresponsibility in his declarations on Albanian immigration, which is another major concern of some European countries:
…looking for a better life and a job outside the country is the most normal thing in the world. It happens in every country, and continues to happen. And for the problem is that we are not part of the free market, of work forces. No one is keeping track in any country when the Polish are moving, or the Czechs, of the Hungarians, with millions and millions to work in the countries of the European Union or the Western countries. Of when they are moving with hundreds of thousands from a place like Southern Italy toward Germany, or from a country like Portugal to Great Britain. No one is keeping track because it’s work force that’s moving.
The declaration shows ignorance regarding the EU. The Polish and Portuguese movement to other European countries is a free and fair movement, a fundamental right of EU citizens, while Albanians are illegal immigrants. It shows also the lack of sensibility of Prime Minister toward legitimate concerns of European citizens and politicians.
The worst news for Albania is that the Prime Minister demonstrates a lack of understanding of the rule of law and an inability to lead the country toward European integration.
Most probably, with Edi Rama the process of European integration has died and is in danger of not being revived even after he’s left, simply because Europeans are done with constant headaches caused by Albania.