The last few days have seen a remarkable display of doublespeak and mental contortionism by the European Commission, whose only result has been to facilitate the propaganda of the Rama government that “there are no conditions.”
Let’s first get the facts straight. On March 25, the European Council, consisting of all the heads of state of EU countries, adopted a set of conclusions on “Enlargement and Stabilisation and Association Process – the Republic of North Macedonia and the Republic of Albania.”
In a paragraph that starts with “Prior to the first intergovernmental conference, Albania should adopt…” the European Council lists 15 conditions that will need be addressed before the first intergovernmental conference, the concrete start of the negotiations between the EU and Albania, is held.
On June 19, the European Parliament adopted a resolution which “emphasizes the 15 conditions set by the Council of the European Union that Albania must have met before convening the first Intergovernmental Conference with the Member States.”
The existence of the 15 conditions was immediately denied by Prime Minister Edi Rama, who tweeted:
Well, in case there are 15 conditions to formally start accession talks, then why was this resolution of the [Albania’s] Democratic Party allies in the European Parliament, which was passed without consensus, necessary? Well, that’s because there are no 15 conditions to sit in the table with the EU […]”
Apart from the fact that this statement betrays a lack of understanding of how the EU Parliament works, where resolutions can be passed with a simple majority and no consensus is needed for such “trivial” issues as the opening of Albania’s accession negotiations, Rama’s tweet begs the question: are there 15 conditions or not?
And this is the point where the European Commission starts to twist and turn reality until it fits with its likely aim: ceding to the urgent request of the Rama government and holding the first intergovernmental conference before the upcoming parliamentary elections in 2021 – no matter whether the 15 conditions are met or not.
All the aspects that have been identified in the March conclusions – they are fifteen in particular – are all very important for the progress of Albania towards the European Union. But I will say that we have to differentiate, there is a sequence […] They are not 15 conditions to open, to have the first intergovernmental conference. They are conditions that will be necessary before the intergovernmental conference, and they are conditions that will be necessary in the future progress of Albania towards the European Union. All of them will be reflected in the negotiations framework and, of course, will have to be discussed by the EU member states in the Council.
Let’s make this braintwister easier to comprehend: Imagine I ask you, “Is a hot oven the condition for making bread?” And Calavera answers “A hot oven is not a condition to bake bread. It is a condition that will be necessary before baking bread.” Do you see the difference? Neither do I.
Spokesperson Ana Pisanero of the DG NEAR sowed even more confusion by stating that “these are not 15 conditions” but that “the March Council conclusions have clearly indicated what Albania needs to do before the first intergovernmental conference.”
So looking at the statements of both Calavera and Pisanero, once can only wonder whether they ever checked the dictionary under the definition for condition. This is what I find: “something essential to the appearance or occurrence of something else.” Both Calavera and Pisanero, if we follow this definition, agree with the European Parliament that the European Council imposed a set of conditions, but they go out of their way not to call them “conditions.”
This whole little game reminds one of the darker days of Romana Vlahutin’s tenure as EU Ambassador in Albania, who denied for several months the existence of 5 conditions for the opening of accession negotiations, calling them merely “priorities.” This is Vlahutin in December 2016:
The Commission has published a positive recommendation, but there is a recommendation, a condition, which is the vetting law and other issues that have to do with the five key priorities. […] In order to open negotiations it is very important that the vetting law is passed.
Only under the immense pressure of the inconvenience called “reality,” Vlahutin eventually admitted, several months later, that these priorities were actually conditions: “The recommendation for the opening of the negotiations depends on credible and tangible progress in the implementation of the judicial reform, especially the vetting of the judges as well as the five key priorities.”
But the damage was already done. Rama claimed in 2016 at a press conference with Vlahutin that:
Albania has today received a positive recommendation for the opening of the [EU accession] negotiations without conditions and only with the understanding, quite naturally, that until the moment we start working at the negotiation table, the implementation of the judicial reforms continues uninterruptedly.
And he repeats the same in 2020 after the declarations of Calavera:
For all those who sing the song of 15 conditions before the official launch of negotiations for EU accession, or repeat after it after listening to it: there are no 15 conditions, and whoever repeats that song simply has the political purpose of a blind war against the government, in public and in the media. Ms. Calavera speaks on behalf of the European Commission.
The issue is: the flack created – on purpose, one is pressed to think – by the European Commission helps neither the European Council nor the European Parliament. It doesn’t help the EU or the taxpayers that fund its endless cohorts of bureaucrats. It doesn’t help Albania, which at the end of the day still needs to meet all conditions, priorities, and criteria to become an EU member. It only helps Edi Rama; he is the only one actually profiting from the word mess created by those who claim to speak European Commission. And as the EU is nearly as undemocratic as Albania, there is no one that can send them home.