TIRANA – It seemed that the hardest part of the agenda of the study visit of 15 journalists from different EU member states from 6-8 July to Albania would be what questions they should put to the Albanian authorities, especially to the Prime Minister, Edi Rama.
This became an interesting point of discussion during a working dinner of some Albanian journalists part of whom I was which was really a good opportunity to exchange experiences and views with colleagues from the EU on July 6.
“We believe that the meeting with local journalists and foreign correspondents from Albania will be an excellent opportunity for the participants to put the information received from the official sources into broader perspective. This will also be a good opportunity for Albanian journalists to exchange experiences and contacts with colleagues from the EU,” said Brussels’ organizers of the visit in the invitation sent to me.
And it came to be true. An almost three- hour ‘journalist- to- journalist’ exchange of views was full of discussions and especially the questions of the group of the visiting journalists as they were on the eve of starting their busy schedule on July 7 with the official agenda in Tirana.
Coming to their concern about the questions one of the journalists commented that it was difficult to have authorities in almost every country, including Albanian one, get out from the cliché of the answers. “The so called difficult questions have never got any answer and such an experience I have had even with the Albanian PM, Rama when he ignored my questions on two occasions,” said one of the journalists.
The judiciary reform was naturally the most common issue discussed with many of the journalists who were aware of what was going on in regard to its ‘Odyssey’ in Albania.
“Do ordinary Albanians know anything of the details of the judiciary reform, of the relevant amendments to be made to their Constitution?” was one of the main questions put by them. “Certainly, I can say that the Albanian public opinion is bombarded with that hot topic, the more so because that is one of the most corrupted fields of the Albanian society and in a way or another many citizens have had bitter experiences in face of it,” I answered. “But I, really, cannot say that the majority of the people know what is being done with that. The only thing they hope is that everything is done for the better and they, particularly, see a light of hope in the effectiveness of that endeavor as the United States and EU Ambassadors to Tirana are zealously engaged in it.”
The answer was followed by comments if that was seen as interference in the internal affairs of Albania by some people. “There is a long history of such ‘an interference’ whenever the majority and opposition have not been able to find the common language at different times. And it has proved to be effective in most of the times,” I told them referring to the 25- year hard road of Albania towards establishing a genuine democratic society after the fall of the communist regime.
“How come that Albanians are so much pro-American?” asked a journalist who pointed out that such a feeling was not common in his country. And this question was followed by his comment that Albanians’ pro-Americanism might be linked with the support of the US to the proclamation of the independence of Kosovo.
But besides the official agenda of the visit in downtown Tirana, which had fascinated them since the very beginning, many journalists were eager to learn about Albanian people, their living conditions, their mentality, the reasons why they insisted to immigrate, mainly to EU member countries. And to get the answers of such questions one of them told me that he was going to stay two extra days in Albania to have a broader picture of this Balkan country, an aspirant to become an EU member, especially when the United Kingdom is leaving the block.
“Are Albanians really worried by that decision of the majority of the people of the UK to leave the EU?” was the ensuing question. More than ordinary citizens Albanian politicians are worried insisting that such an event could in no way affect Albania’s drive to join the EU.
The frequent meetings of Albanian and Serbian premiers Edi Rama and Alexandar Vucic, the latest one in the Paris Summit on the Western Balkans, was another development in which some journalists saw a positive sign in this region known for its troubled past reminiscences of which are still present.
“I see only positive elements in every effort made to improve the relations between Albania and Serbia, and such meetings can only be of benefit, and the results would be seen soon,” I said, adding that the mediated dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade was a constructive enterprise leading the entire region to a peaceful atmosphere.
And my personal feeling was that the journalists from different EU member states were eager to learn as much as possible on the progress that Albania was making in fundamental areas, such as fight against corruption and organized crime, economic development as candidate for EU membership, the people of this Balkan country not only from the political elite, but also from the civil society, ordinary citizens.