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Europe should help Albania before it becomes the next Syria

The cry of suffering of a university Professor that sees his country  warped by corruption, by poverty, by crime. “If European democracies fail to intervene to guarantee the freedom of political choice – said Agron Gjekmarkaj – along with the validity of rule of law, we will witness the emergence of an ‘Albanian case’ on Italy’s and Europe’s doorstep”

(Foto: AFP/SIR)

There is only one form of absolute power in Albania, and it’s the power held by Prime Minister Edi Rama. Major State institutions are in his hands. Under the pretext of judicial reform, Courts are such in name only. There is no longer a difference between a policeman, an attorney and a judge. It pains me to be critical of my Country especially when speaking about it to foreign press, but truth makes us free….maybe.

Six years of Socialist government reduced Albania to a green cannabis Republic, a Country at the centre of various drug trafficking cartels, often connected with renowned public figures.

Power and organized crime are synonymous.

Our population counts 4.2 million inhabitants, 1.5 million of whom started emigrating in the 1990s. 300thousand have left the Country since 2015, a total number of 1.8 million expats. For such a small Country this amounts to a veritable demographic suicide. Latest surveys depict a worrying scenario, with 60% of the overall population still living in the Country determined to leave.
Today people are suffering as a result of poverty, unemployment, crime, widespread corruption, and, most of all, the lack of rule of law. Not long ago, media reports released a telephone wiretap file of crime-affiliated politicians close to Prime Minister Edi Rama: in the telephone conversations they were openly speaking of votes sold or bought during the latest elections, severely affecting the legitimacy of the present government. Furthermore, the fact that winning bidders of road concession contracts turned out to be friends of the Prime Minister, sparked off anger and rage in the general public.

Recently, protests by citizens and opposition parties led to annul public works contracts worth 30 million euros that had been won by a ghost company with a deposited capital of only 80 cents.
For two months, students and professors of public universities took to the streets to protest against various problems that weigh heavily on their daily lives. Edi Rama, taking advantage of this moment, and without meeting the demands of academics, changed 80% of the cabinet of ministers, further worsening the quality of the Government in office.

We expect a strong sign from Europe.

On February  16 the opposition organized anti-government protests and over 60 thousand people took to the streets – a huge number in Albania, whose population has almost halved, having fled from a beautiful Country after their hopes had been killed by the arrogance of power and corruption. The protest was followed by the decision of the parliamentary group of the Democratic Party, the main political group representing the Albanian centre-right opposition led by Lulzim Basha, to no longer participate in the National Assembly. Now all eyes are on next Thursday’s demonstrations. In a nutshell, the situation is extremely complex.
If European democracies fail to intervene to guarantee freedom of political choice, to guarantee the validity of rule of law, to guarantee that Albanian society will defeat government corruption, a new “Albanian case” will emerge on the doorsteps of Italy and Europe, and we will be the next people seeking refuge. We need Europe’s concrete help to live in Albania as European citizens and not live in Europe as emigrants, feeding into the electoral mouths of the new populists. We are Europeans. We’re not the black cats of Europe. Please help us obtain freedom from the last Ottoman Pasha that hold government power, steal and deride.

(*) Professor at the Public University of Tirana, political analyst

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