ALBANIA ON THE CROSSROADS AND CURRENT POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS
(RIEAS Junior Analyst and WSN-Athens Coordinator)
(Journalist and WSN-Athens Affiliate)
Stavros Markos is a journalist, analyst on organized crime in the Balkans & NGO Director. Markos Stavros, born in 1965 in Vlore, Albania, is an award-winning investigative journalist in Tirana. He has worked with BBC Radio, Albanian Television TVS, France Television TF1, TF2, TV5, Italian Television RAI, Athens Media Sesk and more, specializing in Balkan organized crime. He is directing NGO activities around minority issues and has served in the directory of TV Stations and newspapers.
Note: World Security Network (WSN)
Albania is one of the few countries across the world that doesn’t have an identity card system for its citizens, resulting to widespread cases of misdeed in the elections processes over the past 16 years and after the end of the Communist regime in this Balkan state. Simply the identities of the electorate are often manipulated in order for political parties to gain more votes and alter the result.
The recent municipal elections were considered to be a political failure to a great extent and as OSCE monitor group representative’s note; Albania lost a chance of aligning itself with the European political norms. Moreover Oli Rhen the European Union representative for enlargement has stated that Albania needs a reliable electorate catalogue and an identity system for the whole of the population. Actually the EU is willing to finance the aforementioned proposals with the sum of 5 million Euros.
The Albanian state has a precedent of malpractice in its electoral procedures, even since the beginning of its nationhood back in 1913. Although there are some 60 political parties operating nowadays -11 of those parliamentary represented-, there hasn’t been a serious development in assuring the democratic procedures in relation to election procedure. The identity used for every voter is a plain A4 type paper with an attached personal photo and details that could be easily forged thus altering results and prohibiting a reliable assessment of any election.
The above has created in various occasions strife between Albania and international organizations. Moreover the country’s ethnic minorities have repeatedly asked for the protection of their rights based on the conventions already signed by Tirana in relation to the resolution by the Council of Europe; that are not implemented in their spirit but rather on paper.
For example the Greek minority in Albania has requested in numerous occasions to include in the personal details statement nationality and religion, but this claim has been abruptly denied by successive Albanian administrations. On April 2001 the then Albanian government of Socialist orientation received a finance of some 7 million Euros so as to count the country’s population but declined to include religion and nationality in the appropriate questioner and in this way manipulated the findings of the census. Currently the Government of Berisha still denies accepting these claims by national minorities despite his promises to the European Union and OSCE.
Sources from the Greek authorities claim that up to 12% of the Albanian population have Greek heritage, about the same percentage that Greek-American organizations have supported since 1991. On the other hand the Albanian government declares that the percentage of Greeks does not exceed 2% of the total population. It is interesting to point out that in 1929 under the reign of the Albanian King Zogu and in circumstances far more difficult for the Greek minority; the percentage was stated by the Albanian government far greater, reaching 9% of the country’s citizens.
The Greek Members of the European Parliament claim the absence of democratic norms in Albania due to its denial to recognize basic rights to its Greek minority members and in parallel international organizations such as the Council of Europe condemn those practices. Lastly the Pan-Eipirotic Union in the USA calls for the protection of Greek minority members rights by the European Parliament in order to assist in the inclusion of those in parity with the rest of the Albanian citizens.
The Albanian government was surprised last year by the decision of Athens to grant dual citizenship to all Greeks coming from Albania and to the Albanian citizens habituating in Greece for a period of more than 10 years. According to the Greek newspaper “Kathimerini”, some 46% of Albanian citizens living in Greece consider themselves embed positively in the contemporary Greek society and consider Greece as their own country having decided loosen their ties with Albania. Also 25% of those would be content in keeping just the Greek citizenship and not the Albanian one.
On overall the total number of Albanian citizens residing in Greece and Greek minority members reach some 1 million people and certainly an inclusion of them in the Greek nation –Typically and lawfully- could alter significantly the demographic balance of the country by increasing its population and at the same exercise pressure to Albania in a societal and even a political level.
Albania is now facing the crossroad of complying with the international standards of minority protection or finds itself in the unwanted position of isolation from the European political climate. That includes a reduction in the considerable subsidies that Albania collects annually fro the EU and can place into peril its future accession negotiations. Albania is still hindered by a nationalist notion and hesitates to implement the introduction of an ID system for its citizens, as well as, recognizing that the inclusion of the country into the EU is its single most important national aim. In any other case the disputes between the Tirana administration and the national minorities will just cause a serious delay in that goal for the coming years.
Decision of Fatos Nano to compose a New Political Party in Albania
The ex Socialist Premier Fatos Nano, declared recently an proposal to VOA Albanian Section, in order to compose a new Politic Party in Albania, after the last Socialist Party Congress held in Tirana and with a negative political result. Nano accuses Edi Rama, the SP President, as a dictator and a fundamentalist that by his actions will ultimately disintegrate the influential Party of SP that since its foundation in 1991 plays an integral role in the Albanian political scene.
According to the Albanian Press sources, Fatos Nano could win politically in the future and become again a Prime Minister of Albania with a more European orientation, if he will include in his Party, a large representation of Northern Eipiriotes electorate, which historically live in Southern Albania, known as Northern Epirus Region. The electorate is almost exclusively composed by Albanian emigrants and Northern Eipiriotes, most of them holding Greek identity cards and citizenship documents
According to information from sources in Athens, the leader of Socialist Party in Greece, has requested by Edi Rama before local elections of 20 February, to have a large percentage of candidates from Northern Eipiriotes, mustering thousand of votes from immigrants in Greece, but Edi Rama was against this proposal.
On a domestic party level, Fatos Nano could take from Parliamentary Socialist Group (45 in total) the majority members, so as to gain political supremacy. Also he could easily control party politics in most parts of Southern Albania (Northern Epirus) whilst Edi Rama is mostly supported by the business world, the clans and the media.
It seems that Fatos Nano political future lies more in aligning with the Greek minority members and with the Albanian populous having strong ties with Greece, because in most respects this is going to be his vital electorate basis for the future developments in his party.
Regarding Hellenic diplomacy during and after 1997 period (Civil War in Albania) Fatos Nano has been supported through aid and finance from Athens and assisted in the expansion of Greek investments in Albania. On the other hand he was not overtly confident so as create more space for the Greek Minority rights... Fatos Nano in order to rise into the politic stratum once again needs support from the Greek-oriented electorate and the media and foreign diplomacy support particularly from Athens.
It seems quite probable that over the coming months the political significance of Greek minority members in Albania will going to upgrade to the influential role they could play in relation to domestic Albanian politics, especially those of the Socialist Party and in particular of Fatos Nano political ascendancy.