Fatos Lubonja "Volkskrant" Newspaper, March 24, 2020
In the spring of 2019, Albanian opposition parties left parliament. Co-operation between organized crime and the ruling Socialist Party during the elections was clear. They stated that they no longer wanted the democratic facade of a narco-state. 'The Independent' calls Albania 'Columbia of Europe'. The protests and civil disobedience should have alarmed public opinion in the country and Western politicians. But Brussels condemned the opposition and clearly backed the government. The main argument: You have made progress towards our standards, so you should not leave parliament. And now the Netherlands is also agreeing that the EU should start accession negotiations with Albania.
Why this support for Albania's autocratic and corrupt government, which increasingly cooperates with organized crime? Because the European Union and the US prefer 'stability' before democracy. There is also the risk of increasing Russian or Turkish influence in the region. It is important for the US that the Albanian government accepts a group of Iranian mujahideen as refugees. Yet the main cause of aid lies elsewhere.
The transition from communist countries to the Western model was based on two semantic paradigms: Fukujama's 'end of history' and Huntington's 'divisions'. The pro-Western elites in the eastern countries (in contrast to the eastern mentality of their peoples and hence the "Huntingtonian" divisions ") had to lead their people to the 'Promised Land' that the West had already reached (Fukujama). This so-called 'transition' would bring about the expansion of the West according to a model that would conquer the world.
Leaders of the people
Western political elites would oversee Eastern European countries in this transition. The Eastern elites - under their legitimacy - would serve as guides for their peoples. They would compete on who would best meet the demands of the West. Some countries are now part of the EU. The Western Balkans, the last part of the caravan, is said to be encouraging.
In reality, with Trump, Brexit and sovereign movements in EU countries, the West shows that it has not achieved the promised land. With autocratic developments in Hungary and Poland, and with Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Kosovo and Northern Macedonia in the waiting room; the prospect is even grimmer.
The Albanian economy has always been weak, informal and criminal - but in recent years it has been increasingly funded by organized crime.
The massive explosion of construction in Tirana is nothing but money laundering from the proceeds of Albanian organized crime in Europe. Albanian politics has increasingly promoted these interests. It has become increasingly autocratic, with limited democracy. Traffickers and murderers have managed to get into Parliament, and mayors have been elected in many cities, which would not have been possible in the 1990s.
Many Albanians have left the country in recent years. According to the Gallup research agency (2017), 56 percent of people want to emigrate. In 2100, Albania now has 2.87 million inhabitants, with only 512,000 remaining.
Albania is not in a transition towards EU membership. An authoritarian narco-regime is increasingly stabilizing in the country. But why do European bureaucrats insist that Albania has made progress? The cause must be sought in the neo-liberalism that was applied in the West, as well as in countries like Albania, and which failed. The difference between western and eastern countries lies in the extent of this disease and in their immune systems.
In the West, neo-liberalism and globalism have spawned 'post-democracy' (Colin Crouch), in which politicians are simple stewards of the economic interests of some, with the majority remaining without political representation. Countries like Albania are the most dramatic example of this post-democracy. There the dictatorship went directly to a post-democracy, without proving democracy. Those 'few' in Albania are largely exponents of organized crime that have seized the state, making its institutions nothing more than tools for expanding their economic power.
US and EU support for the Albanian narco-state stems from their refusal to acknowledge the failure of neoliberalism and globalization both in their own countries and with regard to the European Union project. They want to preserve the transition myth that countries like Albania are 'different' because of their communist past; that they will overcome these differences with the help of the EU. Euro-bureaucrats, like the corrupt elites of the Western Balkans, want to continue the outdated transition narrative in order to maintain their power. They warn the public of left and right populist movements (or of countries that are geopolitically hostile to Russia).
But it is the EU itself and the US that have set up post-democracy - human or inhumane - in Europe.
"Volkskrant", March 24, 2020)