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The Balkans and the credibility crisis of the West / Albania / areas / Home

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The Balkans and the credibility crisis of the West / Albania / areas / Home

Fatos Lubonja – screenshot

According to the well-known Albanian intellectual Fatos Lubonja “the West will continue to resort to double narratives and double standards” in the Balkans, verbally encouraging the development of democracy but “supporting autocratic leaders, in whom they see the simplest way to solve their problems “

(Originally published by The Balkan Courier February 14, 2024)

The Italian Democratic Party (PD) reacted strongly to the agreement stipulated at the beginning of November last year between Giorgia Meloni and Edi Rama on the relocation to Albania of refugees intercepted in Mediterranean waters. [Il PD] he rose up not only against Meloni, but also against the Albanian Socialist Party, even going so far as to state that he would ask for “the expulsion [del partito di Rama] from the European socialist family” because the Albanian prime minister and his party companions “no longer represent the values ​​of the European left”.

Did the Italian left protest because it finally realized the true objectives pursued by the Albanian Socialist Party, or did it do so exclusively with a view to its own political agenda in view of the European and regional elections next June? More than ten years have passed since the current Albanian prime minister and his party came to power, so it seems impossible that their “sister party” in Italy is still unaware of Edi Rama’s positions.

How is it possible that the Italian left, and the journalists close to it, do not know that in the ten years of the Rama government – which largely coincide with the period in which the PD governed Italy – have over 700 thousand Albanians, out of a total population of 2.8 million inhabitants, according to Eurostat data, left their country? This question can also be asked of the Italian right.

How is it possible that no one in Italy has listened to the warnings, launched by the well-known prosecutor Nicola Gratteri, about the links between the mafia and Albanian politicians? Ties that clearly emerge from the telephone interceptions carried out by Gratteri’s team, which involve some exponents of the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta: ‘Today’s Albania is like Calabria in the 1960s: you have to go there and invest’ €.

How can we explain the fact that some authoritative Italian media, which today criticize Edi Rama for “the ignoble agreement” stipulated with Meloni, until yesterday praised the modernization interventions of the Albanian capital, without realizing realize that the Albanian prime minister, in collaboration with some renowned Italian architectural design studios, has destroyed the historic center of Tirana to build skyscrapers where the Calabrian mafia launders dirty money in broad daylight? Edi Rama himself had for years insisted that the former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi – with whom Rama had cultivated a relationship as friendly as the one he had with Meloni’s right – pushed Italian investors to come to Albania where there was no union that could “put a spoke in their wheels”.

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In fact, it seems impossible that Italian politicians and journalists have not yet understood that in Albania, as well as in Serbia and other Western Balkan countries, it makes no sense to talk about left-wing and right-wing parties, but only about state-parties, which the longer they govern, the more votes they obtain thanks to the control of all the centers of power, including organized crime.

Greece opens its eyes

When last year, two days before the local elections, the Albanian police arrested the candidate of the Greek minority Alfred Beleri, Athens banged his fist on the table, threatening to block Tirana’s accession process to the EU. Even in this case one cannot help but wonder about the attitude of Greek politicians and journalists: how is it possible that only after the brutal act against the Greek minority did Athens realize that in Albania there is Is it an authoritarian regime, which collaborates with organized crime to steal from citizens, and human rights are trampled upon in a blatant and arrogant way?

In an article dated December 15th, the Hellenic newspaper Kathimerini tried to answer this question indirectly. In the article, obviously, there is no mention of the cordial relations maintained by the Greek prime ministers with Rama before the event mentioned above, it only talks about Germany’s stance against Athens’ veto on the opening of Albania’s accession negotiations with the EU. According to the newspaper, Washington, London and Berlin, precisely because of their inability to understand the reality of countries like Albania, do not realize that the new Albanian judicial system – in which they have invested several millions, presenting it as “the most successful example of reform in the Western Balkans†– is turning into “a political weapon†in the hands of Edi Rama. Kathimerini However, he does not say that before the outbreak of the Beleri scandal, Greece had also shown the same naivety.

Is it enough to say that the West has good intentions, but “misunderstands” the reality of the Balkan countries? In denouncing Edi Rama’s tendency to abuse the reforms, or his propaganda, corrupt practices and lobbying actions in Western countries, the Albanian opposition is always careful to define these countries as “ill-informed” or “naive”, never as accomplices of evil.

There are many examples of failed Western “investments” or “ended up in the wrong hands”. The case of Afghanistan is only one of the most recent. It is naive, however, to think that it is a question of mere ignorance or inexperience. The failure of justice reform in Albania had already become evident a few years ago, when EU representatives had suggested to Kosovo and North Macedonia not to apply “the Albanian model” because it had caused more problems than it had solved.

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Manipulate and corrupt

Edi Rama’s party has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to influence and corrupt Western countries. The recent scandal involving Charles McGonigal is a perfect example of this. The former head of the counterintelligence service of the FBI office in New York is on trial for receiving secret cash payments from people close to the Albanian government. McGonigal also allegedly contributed to the decision to declare Albanian opposition leader Sali Berisha persona non grata in the United States.

However, even naivety has its limits and I believe that we would be much closer to the truth if we stopped considering the relations between the West and the Balkans from an orientalist perspective which leads us to perceive Westerners as good, rational and just people who they try to “educate the oriental, greedy and primitive thieves”.

The last thirty years have clearly demonstrated – even in the countries of the former Eastern bloc that, more than others, they believed in the sincerity of the West’s commitment to building democracy and the rule of law in ™Eastern Europe – that behind the cover of this commitment were hidden strong economic and geostrategic interests, which led to the adoption of ambiguous language and “double standards”, which have now become an integral part of Western policies.

A recent example of these policies is the “innovative solution”, supported by Giorgia Meloni, to “relocate” migrants and asylum seekers trying to reach the EU in the camps to be set up in Albania. In Italy, Prime Minister Meloni presented this model as “a way to bring Albania closer to the European family”, but also as “a deterrent strategy” to discourage migrants by sending them to Albania. The model was promptly supported by the German Social Democratic Party, sister party of the Italian PD: Chancellor Olaf Scholz was quick to state that the Germans will pay particular attention to the Meloni-Rama memorandum.

They are the same Germans he talks about Kathimerini, those who, with the war in Ukraine, had enthusiastically joined those who called for rapid, direct and unconditional integration of Albania into the EU, while previously they insisted on the need for the country to respect the rules and the state by right. The irony, according to the Greek newspaper, lies in the fact that, before the Beleri scandal, it was Greece itself that tried, through its foreign ministers, to explain to the Germans, the French and the Dutch why “it was It is essential to continue the accession process of Albania and North Macedonia to the EU”.

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Enough with the orientalist condescension

The West’s reaction to the manipulation of the elections in Serbia carried out by the autocratic president Aleksandar VuÄ ić, so far supported by Brussels, helps to reveal these games of “double narratives and double standards”. It is clear that, faced with the requests of the Serbian opposition – which in recent years has boycotted parliament several times, accusing European countries of supporting authoritarianism in Serbia – the West has not raised its voice because of the stolen elections, but with the intent of forcing Aleksandar VuÄ ić to distance himself from Russia.

Edi Rama was not shocked by the reactions of the Italian left to the agreement [sui migranti]. He openly approached the Italian right and far right. When the agreement was applauded by Berlin, he immediately went to Germany to participate in a meeting of the Bavarian right-wing parliamentary group of the Christian Social Union (CSU), during which the Bavarian prime minister called for a large-scale diffusion of the “Italian-Albanian model” for refugees.

Contrary to what Edi Rama claims, the agreement in question is unfair – regardless of whether it is observed from the perspective of the values ​​of the European right or left – since it violates human rights. Furthermore, both the left and the right of Western countries should be ashamed of their propensity to use Albania to solve their problems regarding the migration phenomenon.

It seems clear that the West will continue to resort to double narratives and double standards, encouraging the progress of the Balkan countries on the path to democracy and, at the same time, supporting their autocratic leaders, in whom it sees the easiest way to resolve their own problems. If until now Western countries have always invoked respect for human rights as a fundamental objective, never since the Second World War have they experienced a crisis of credibility and legitimacy like the current one.

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