While the Grass Grows, the Steed Starves...
By Perparim Kalo
Albanian Daily News
Published July 3, 2018
This idiom came to my mind these days that were full of news, articles, comments, videos, etc. focusing on whether the decision-making structures of the EU decided the opening of negotiations with Albania or postponed the decision or nothing at all. The news were circulating and flowing so quickly and frequently that was rather hard to follow. When the news finally became public, then intensive comments started (optimistic by the government and its supporting analysts and skeptic by the opposition and the analysts who are known as critics the government). Although the news came in the atmosphere of FIFA World Cup, when attention of many is focused on stories about historic eliminations of the football giants and surprising victories of Lilliputians; Turkey's elections resulting in the reelection of Erdogan; migration crisis; Italian government election; the commencement of an economic "war" between EU and USA; meeting of Kim and Trump, etc. a lot of attention was paid to that. Not only because it is an historical fact, but also because it is time that Albanians need to understand the reasons behind major decisions that determine our path towards the place we belong - EUROPE. Anyone, at the working place or station have to accept that the reserved decision for the opening of negotiations is not only a product of the hands and minds of the government, but also ours. Moreover, it does not affect only the government, but all of us.
However, this time we understood some things better. We realized that now the EU keeps the eyes and ears open, more carefully than before, to ascertain the progress of the countries aspiring to EU membership. The reasoning behind the EU decision for Albania made it clear that no steady progress has been made and the judicial reform has not been so intensive as to result in the increase of the independence, accountability, professionalism and effectiveness of the judicial system. In other words, the decision of EU, although imposed mainly by three influential member states, could have been a WELCOME if Albania had made "significant progress" in the fulfillment of the obligations grouped within so-called 5 priorities. EU decision is direct, clear, blunt and we cannot blame them. On the contrary, we should thank them for telling us that friendships or personal acquaintances do not suffice to join EU. You need to demonstrate achievements, merits. German Minister Michael Roth expressed clearly this by stating that Albania has achieved a lot and has implemented many reforms, but there is a lot to be able to cross the bridge that leads to accession negotiations.
For me as citizen of this country, but also as a professional lawyer, the reasoning part of the decision (which has the weight of a judgment) is rather discouraging.
Firstly, because the term used 'steady progress' is subjective and vague, and as such leaves wide room for interpretation, from letter A to Z. This means that giving Albania the status of accession to negotiations will depend on verification how dozens of obligations have been materialized in practice. I am afraid that even we do well with 5 priorities (electoral reform, judicial reform, administrative reform, fight against corruption and organized crime, protection and respect for human rights, especially of the minority and property rights) other obligations like "steady and constructive dialogue" between the government and the opposition will undergo the check list process. And we know such a dialogue is unlikely to happen within a year or a year and a half is, when we are witnesses of evident lack of desire. Fortunately, EU does want us to starve as in the saying While the grass grows, the steed starves goes. They want us to be within the EU family in the future and keep us up, by giving certain hope from time to time. This time they chose a moderated language. Perhaps for neutralizing our potential alliances and partnerships that could run against or jeopardize EU interests. Some ministers blamed the decision for the discouraging effects it produced for respective governments. However, we have no other alternative but take this chance anyway.
Secondly, the EU decision should be seen in a wider context - that of the project known as the Berlin Process, too. What will happen with that BIG project of Western Balkan accession en-bloc when two countries, Albania and Macedonia, were so close to obtain the invitation for opening the negotiations and they were said YOU ARE NOT READY? Shall this project fade away or continue? Let us not forget that the project was a big hope for the development of the whole region being considered as a new Marshall Plan. So we should not forget or abandon that project and obligations that have been already undertaken in several areas like connectivity, youth exchange, cooperation, etc. and push stronger that it continues. Complaining and lamenting does not bring us anywhere. Only hard work can make things happen.
One thing that has to change in our life style is avoiding the waste of time. The time flies and we do not even realize how much time we spend on doing nothing, but watching the tough debates in our Parliament, as well as the every night debates on various TV channels, are a good illustration of the fact that we love talks so much and work very little!
Another thing that will cost us a hell of a lot in the future, if we keep forgetting it, is the speed and rhythm! The message posted yesterday by the United States Embassy was right to the point. It suggested that the implementation of the reforms requires pace.....
Next June, considering the progress made, and after another report of the EU Commission that shall supervise the accession negotiations, the EU governments may decide to open the accession negotiations by the end of the next year. This means an opportunity, means that the game is open; but there is a bunch of files on our desk. To clean the desk there is need for commitment and call for abandonment of rhetoric, excuses, self-esteem so that we do not starve waiting for the grass to grow...