1. That Erion Veliaj lied about winning an award from the United Nations
The Mayor of Tirana, who is not particularly known for his honesty, reached new heights of absurdity this week after he claimed that he won an award from the United Nations. Posting on social media that he got the award in recognition of Tirana’s “economic performance”, his words were faithfully reproduced by all of the Socialist-Party-friendly media outlets, none of which thought to fact-check his statement.
Luckily, one young journalist by the name of Inva Hasanaliaj had the bright idea of asking the UN if what Veliaj said was true, and guess what? It wasn’t.
A UN spokesperson said that “during the event, the UNIDO did not distribute any award”, they also added that Veliaj was just “one of the speakers participating in a Mayor’s Roundtable”.
I am looking forward to his upcoming announcements regarding his nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize for tree planting, inventing eco-cars that are powered on raki, and Tirana being the next host of the Olympic Games.
2. That a third Socialist Party mayor allegedly hid his criminal past
Based on recent events, it seems like a prerequisite for being a Socialist Party mayor is having some kind of concealed criminal record and at least one other identity.
Following upstanding members of the community, Valdrin Pjetri (allegedly hid a conviction for drug dealing) and Agim Kajmaku (allegedly wanted in Greece under the alias Jorgo Toto) being denounced for their aliases and criminal pasts, it was the turn of Mayor of Vau i Dejës Mark Babani.
The Opposition has expressed suspicions that he was arrested and deported from Italy, arrested and convicted in North Macedonia, and used at least three identities to evade suspicion. Babani refuted the claims saying that he didn’t have any evil alter ego’s and that none of his family had done “even 24 hours of prison in our lives”, despite no one suggesting that they had in the first place.
3. That the Socialist Party thinks the ODIHR report legitimises the 30 June vote
Relying on the fact that the ODIHR report was only published in English, that a large majority of the population don’t speak English, and also forgetting about the existence of Google translate, The Socialist Party has claimed the exact opposite of what the report said.
Totally ignoring the majority of the report which noted multiple irregularities and illegalities, a biased media, the misappropriation of administrative rights, partiality in the Central Election Commission, a failure to implement OSCE recommendations, and a total lack of meaningful choice, and doubts over its legitimacy, acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Gent Cakaj claimed it was all the Opposition’s fault.
Making up excerpts from the report, drawing false conclusions, and fabricating statements, he delivered the misinformation in a riveting 55-minute press conference live from the ministry. Cakaj claimed he was “breaking the report down” for the public when in actual fact it seems he was practising his creative writing.
4. That Lulzim Basha thinks the ODIHR report delegitimises the 30 June vote
Leader of the Opposition Lulzim Basha has claimed that the ODIHR report confirms that the 30 June vote violated the Constitution and that it is all the Socialist Party’s fault. Whilst the report stops short of saying these exact words, it does seem to imply that a valid election can only be held following a Presidential decree, something that the 30 June elections did not have.
Basha stated that voters had no democratic choice and that the Central Election Commission is controlled by the Socialist Party instead of being an independent constitutional institution. Whilst the report did say this in as many words, what Basha did not mention was criticism lobbied at his party as well. Adding that Albania is in need of “deep electoral and political reforms”- something that was suggested in the report, it is worth noting that this also applies to the Opposition.
5. That ODIHR thinks the 30 June vote was a big mess
The long-awaited OSCE ODIHR report was published this week, confirming what all of us knew anyway- that the 30 June vote was a mess of epic proportions.
Whilst stopping short of calling them illegitimate, the report implied that the vote that took place was not legal, democratic, or meaningful in any way, shape or form. No one emerged unscathed from the report as the observers took a swipe at the media, the CEC, the Socialist Party, the Opposition party, and people working in the voting centres.
The general consensus of the report was that Albania is a million miles away from a balanced, fair, and democratic political situation, let alone election and that both sides need to pull their fingers out and start working towards a better situation.
6. That the Socialist Party really want to impeach the President
This week the Socialist Party took another step towards complete dominance of every single institution in the country by taking a further swipe at President Meta- the last remaining check and balance against authoritarian rule.
Having started impeachment proceedings back in June following his cancellation of the 30 June vote and rescheduling it for 13 October, today a Parliamentary committee questioned him on why he took the decision. Meta answered, quite rightly that it would be “undemocratic” without the participation of an opposition and that he feared civil confrontation.
This is the first example of an attempt to impeach a President since the fall of Communism and if they succeed in their plan, Supreme Leader Edi Rama’s party will have complete dominance over the entire country from municipalities, to Parliament, to the President’s Office (as his Socialist Party parliament would select the next President), and the entire judicial system. A worrying and sobering thought.
7. That Luigi Soreca thinks the Albanian government needs to respect media freedom
EU Ambassador to Albania and texting buddy of Edi Rama, Luigi Soreca shocked journalists this week when he sort of, almost criticised the government. Not one to usually admit that Rama is not the most democratic of rulers, he said in a speech that the proposed “anti-defamation” draft media law was not in line with European standards on freedom of expression or media freedom.
You don’t say.
He also requested that the government allow journalists to “self-regulate” as well as consult with the media community before making any more drastic plans.
Sadly, it took him several months to muster the courage to make such a statement, following persistent calls from some of the world’s most respected media freedom and human rights organisations, the OSCE, ODIHR, and local journalists associations. Better late than never I guess!
8. That 25 workers have died in workplace accidents in the last 6 months
Due to Albania’s ongoing money laundering, oops, I mean construction boom, a total of four construction workers have died on-site during July and August. This brings the total number of deaths to 25 in workplaces over the last six months.
The Labour Inspectorate protested that they only have enough staff and capabilities to supervise 6% of the countries companies, they then blamed companies for not giving a damn about health and safety. Statistics show that 23% of workplace accidents occur on construction sites, making them the deadliest workplaces in the country.
Of course, the government and the construction companies don’t really care about these poor souls that lose their lives in unsafe conditions, nor do they care about imposing proper health and safety precautions, because that would impact their profits. The only consideration they have is issuing/getting hundreds of permits, taking a slice of the action, and reaping the benefits for themselves at the expense of everyone else.
9. That the Greeks could be set to veto Albania-EU accession talks
Greece and Albania are not known for their close, friendly, and mutually beneficial friendship and tensions could be set to rise once again due to their possible veto of Albania’s EU accession talks.
Greek PM, Kyriakos Mitsotakis said they will not support the opening of negotiations until Albania starts treating the ethnic Greek minority better. In March, he said he wanted to send a “clear message to the Albanian government” that their lack of respect for the ethnic Greek minority and issues around “European rule of law” would result in potential conditioning of Albania’s next step.
10. That the Albanian political system is to blame for the failure of the justice reform
In terms of epic failures, the justice reform has to be up there with the minidisc player, electronic cigarettes and Lindsay Lohan’s singing career, and the fact that we are not even halfway through is a growing cause for concern. To add to this impending sense of doom, the Institute for Political studies headed by Afrim Krasniqi released a report blaming the government for is failings.
The report took aim at the Opposition as well for their criticisms, as well as more general legal, political and personal issues that have resulted in a total lack of effectiveness, credibility, and viability – you know, all the integral parts of judicial reform.
Pointing out that the reform has either resulted in or contributed to the collapse of the high court and the constitutional court, the politicisation of all judicial entities and systems, the appointment of a “temporary” general prosecutor who basically does Rama’s bidding, and corruption such as “pressure and blackmailing” the report serves as a sad reminder of just how screwed we really are.