In recent days, much has been made of an IPSOS poll held in March 2019 at the request of the European Delegation in Tirana, several numbers from which have been trotted out by EU Head of Delegation Luigi Soreca.
The first number is 93%. As I discussed in a previous article, Soreca claimed that this is the percentage of Albanians who “believe that membership of the EU is their most important objective,” or, alternatively, the percentage of Albanians that “want to enter the European Union.” These are two different things that should not be equated.
If we find the report from which this number is taken, the question was: “Do you personally support or do not support membership of the EU?” The number of 93% appears to match a poll held by the Eurobarometer last year, in which 93% of the Albanians agreed that “generally speaking, Albania’s membership of the EU would be a good thing.”
What Soreca fails to mention is the most frequently mentioned main reason why Albanians support EU membership: 48% of Albanians support EU membership because of “employment.” Only 8% thinks that the EU will have a “positive impact – a promising future for Albania.” Only 9% support EU membership because it would lead to lower corruption. These are depressing numbers to say the least and point not only to an utter failure of the European Union to communicate its values to Albanian society, but also confirm that the main reason for joining the EU is simply having a job: joining the EU would facilitate the massive emigration that is already now wreaking havoc in Albania as a result of the failing policies of the Rama government.
But of course, none of this would be admitted by either the EU or the Albanian government.
The second number enthusiastically trotted out by Soreca is 79% (already pushed to 80% by HRVP Federica Mogherini). This would be the percentage of Albanians who “believe the reform is the right thing to do” or “who support the justice reform.” Again, these are two different things.
Again, the wording from the IPSOS poll is more neutral: 93% “somewhat or strongly supports the ongoing reform of the justice system.” And again, Soreca leaves out crucial information: 45% of those interviewed think the reform is not working well or are uninformed about it. For an EU Delegation that has bet everything on this reform, which has been implemented in violation of both the Constitution and many of the laws EURALIUS itself has advised on, and which has been delayed beyond every single prognosis from the “experts,” this is an utterly devastating figure.
Moreover, it should be pointed out that the IPSOS poll has asked all 1140 respondents about their opinion on the justice reform, no matter whether they actually followed the process or not. Many of the respondents can therefore only to be considered minimally informed.
If we contrast the IPSOS numbers with poll conducted in February 2019, a month earlier, by the Albanian Helsinki Committee (KShH), we get a better insight into what these numbers actually mean. The KShH poll made its question regarding the progress of the justice reform conditional:
- If you have followed the process, do you have faith that this process is just, based on the results so far? 36.7% yes; 63.3% no.
Moreover, different from the general IPSOS question about “how well […] the reform is working,” the KShH poll was more specific, echoing the aims set by the EU itself for the justice reform:
- Do you think that the vetting will truly clean the justice system and make the system better and more credible for citizens? 37.5% yes; 62.5% no.
In other words, once you starts digging deeper in the actual sentiments regarding the justice reform among those who are actually informed about it, the picture is even more negative than the meager 55% positive verdict of the IPSOS poll shows.
It is not difficult to support the justice reform as an abstract idea. But unless you really ask the right questions, the answers can really be whatever you want them to be. And once you have the answers you want, you can go on television and claim that 80% of Albanians “supports the justice reform” and that therefore it is good and beyond reproach.
It is saddening that the EU Delegation in Tirana, and the EU Head of Delegation, have devolved into this type of cheerleading machine for a reform that has been seriously mismanaged and has led to collapse of the legal system that will adversely affect Albanian society for the next decade, if not longer. It is unfortunate that well educated, well dressed diplomats irresponsibly throw around numbers as if they are the government PR agency, rather than reflect on this botched experiment and learn for the future.
Because when I hear HRVP Mogherini state publicly that Albania “has managed to have a reform in the justice system that would be an example for several member states of the EU too,” shivers of horror run down my spine.