Year of the Rooster And Year of the Dog
By Alqi Koçiko Editor-in-chief
Albanian Daily News
Published December 29, 2017
Figuratively speaking, the year we are leaving behind will be consumed by many Albanian families during the New Year's festive table. Because according to the Chinese horoscope, 2017 was the year of the Rooster. Although end-year media editorials often tend to define the passing year as unusual, 2017 has really been such.
Firstly, it was unusual not because it was an election year, but because of the events that marked the election campaign and the product of parliamentary elections. Opposition's DP and several small allies entered a spiral of protests that culminated with a cozy "self-confinement" without any sacrifice element in a tent erected opposite the PM's office. Opposition's most serious threat was boycotting parliamentary elections if Prime Minister Edi Rama did not resign and make way for a technical government. This, under the argument that an Albania filled with cannabis under the government's nose would produce enough drugs money to influence the election result. During those days, the public opinion sensed some consolidation of DP leader's profile; he exploited the tent to hold periodic speeches in front of cameras amid a sympathetic audience. But the protest ended, 'the roosters' Rama and Basha reached an agreement for a semi-technical government and from that moment on, Lulzim Basha's popularity curve went only in one direction, downwards.
Basha did not simply lose the election; even worse, he gave Rama the chance to govern (finally) all by himself for a second term. Ironically, Prime Minister lost his Interior Minister, the accused "chieftain of the cannabis operation" in the land. Is this scenario really that complicated?
Actually, it's not. There has always been hashish cultivation and trafficking in Albania, here and there, with Lazarat as a referral point. The problem is that after Lazarat was hit, it "multiplied". As a matter of fact the DP governments have not dismissed any Interior Minister over Lazarat, au contraire; as it turned out, this phenomenon was protected by ex-PM himself (it was a political decision(?!), he admitted afterwards). On the other hand Edi Rama distanced himself from Saimir Tahiri as soon as Italian justice started the investigations that we already know of. But does this mean that Rama did not know what was happening in the country during the first term?
Let's not kid ourselves. The reason for that election result is that Basha did not manage to inspire as an opposition leader, on the contrary. Rama openly asked for a clean ruling mandate, with no allies "who keep hampering the government or demanding power slices", to show the Albanians what he could really do. This has happened and now the scene is all his.
But to continue the parallel with the Chinese horoscope, the Prime Minister must know that 2018 is the year of the Dog. Albanian folklore has its own definitions on both the rooster we are leaving behind, and the dog. Faithful and intelligent the latter, he is a suffering, tormented creature as well. Will 2018, then, be a dog year?
If we believe the signals coming from the EU, it won't. It also seems to be a very hopeful year; because "if we do the homework" as a country and as a region, the EU membership talks could be opened. The ladies and gentlemen Mogherini, Hahn, Juncker himself and others, have said so.
It has become almost a vice of ours, to comment and look forward to the internationals. They constantly keep telling us "learn to resolve your own problems ... Europe is where you make it, that is in your home ... build your future here ... Do not wait for our intervention ...".
And yet they interfere. At least we are important enough to deserve it. Of course, we are plentifully irresponsible to deserve it. Albanian political parties are always ready to block each other (and the country) to the extreme; with boycotts, protests, reciprocal violence occasionally; someone should come in and negotiate. So did yesterday's Prime Minister, so did the today's one. The one who yearns to become a PM tomorrow, could not be an exception.
The year we're leaving behind produced a truly unusual president. Indeed, Ilir Meta's presidency has been a years' old idea. It became a reality when he probably didn't want it that much. But that does not change anything really. What can be commented hereafter is the obvious fact of building a missing presidential profile: Active, with an indisputable political charisma, but distanced from politics. His gestures and his institutional language through speeches, messages and official acts are unmistakable. And so far, respectable. It is enough to mention briefly the Albanian citizenship granted to the head of Albanian Orthodox Church. It was really an anomaly that should end. Critics and sympathizers of the work of Archbishop Anastasios will not change their opinion because of this act. But if we as Albanians have been complaining about other European states about documents and passport issues after many years of stay abroad; how should one act with a religious leader who has a quarter-century contribution and life in this country?
The year of the Rooster saw a drastic drop to the wave of Albanians' departure for a better life in EU countries. But unfortunately, not the lack of willingness to do so. Those who can, still search for ways to get out. The waves of leaving doctors and nurses who are causing a vacuum in the domestic health system prove this. So even those who have a really decent job are running away. Does this detail foresee a grim future, or is it something normal, as the Prime Minister outlined not long ago?
If there is something the head of government did well to keep unchanged, it is the continuity in the foreign affairs sector. A serious, dignified representative and prepared to clearly demonstrate the position of the Albanian state on certain issues, as well as to negotiate as an equal party, Mr. Bushati is one of the strong points of this government, despite the fact that the PM's call to our diplomats to bring foreign investors to Albania was somewhat misplaced. The real concern with foreign investors is what do we offer them here, not how many of them will touch down in Rinas. So we are entering the Year of the Dog. If this means a lot of work and efforts to meet EU requirements after setting the date for the opening of accession negotiations, then Amen!

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