By Kristina Zharkalliu
Fireworks have lightened up the sky in Tirana, and it’s not because of New Years celebration or the 100th anniversary of Albania’s independence. This is the way Albanian authorities celebrated receiving the status of conditional European Union candidacy. In other words, the European Union said ‘yes…but’ to Albania. The crucial test will be the next parliamentary elections of 2013, which have to meet EU standards for free and fair elections. This will be a tough task for a country with a history of about 50 years of voting for one party (the Communist one) and approximately two decades of trying to unsuccessfully establish a pluralistic political system. It will be additionally tough due to the fact that the typical Albanian politician does not know how to lose and give the reins of government to someone else.
This time, the EU didn’t leave Albania out in the cold, as it has by responding negatively to candidacy status for the past two years. The European Commission understandably seems to not trust Albanian politicians and gave the country conditional status, to be finalized only after the elections of the upcoming year. The Commission knows better than anyone else if Albania is ready or not for full candidacy status. With the Eurozone having damaged the EU’s image, the latter tries to show that at least its other policies, in our case the Enlargement Policy is doing well and the countries of Western Balkan are getting closer and closer to the European family. The progress report released few days ago praised Albania for some of its achievements but claimed that a lot of work should still be done.
Despite some reforms that have been achieved so far, such as the voting of pending laws by reinforced majorities, reforms on electoral law and the rule of law, Albania is still lagging behind in many key areas. Albanians may have had an independent state for 100 years, but it still lacks independent institutions. The Democratic Party, the ruling party in government, hands over control from the president and the courts to the State Security Agency, by positioning officials that it trusts and serves its interests. Recently, the consensus between government and opposition parties resulted in the removal of legal immunity for top state officials. But what kind of progress is that at the moment, when judges and courts still remain under the control of the government? Yet, the situation does not seem to be much better in the opposition landscape, led by the Socialist Party. The political long-standing confrontations with the ruling party as well the recent gaffe by one of its deputies who declared on TV that “we are going to steal but not in the same flagrance as our predecessors did,” leaves few glimmers of hope for change. Albania has started a dialogue with the EU without being able to hold dialogue between its own political parties.
Getting EU candidacy status is a milestone moment for every Balkan country, particularly for Albania which has already been refused two successive times. The EU shouldn’t only be seen as a matter of fulfilling some preconditions in order to get the magic membership which will automatically solve Albania’s problems. The concept of the EU is something more substantive. The twelve key recommendations that the EU has asked to be implemented are not only for the European integration of the country. The fight against organized crime and corruption, the establishment of rule of law, democratic elections, the independence of the judicial system and administrative reforms are also necessary for Albania’s own democratic integration. It’s about time for politicians to mature politically and pass all the above reforms not only to attract their European partners but also (and most importantly) to establish a democratic state that functions for their citizens.
This November, we will celebrate 100 years of Albania’s independence. So far, Albania’s presence in Europe has mainly been geographic. Decades of isolation, political conflicts, stalemates and the dominance of personal interests have been the hallmarks of Albanian political landscape. Getting EU status, conditional or unconditional, is a significant step for all Albanians and our country. Although, what’s more meaningful is to change the society in which we live – for ourselves first, and secondly for becoming a member of the EU.
The original article was posted at: www.kosovotwopointzero.com. The link of this article is:http://kosovotwopointzero.com/blog/politics/albanias-conditional-eu-love-22-10-2012“