Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama has criticized the European Union’s lack of mechanisms and leadership to advance with enlargement in the Balkans. During an economic forum in Germany on Sunday, Rama took the chance to suggest possible ways to reform the decision-making framework, and improve the overall situation within the European Union.
He started by pointing out that powerful European leaders are “driven by social media and newspapers” in their policies and decisions, which, according to him, are “not the source where to find strength to project yourself to the future.”
Rama went on to blame “smaller” nations for vetoing the EU enlargement. Rama metaphorically compared the current situation within the EU with a household where nephews veto grandfather’s decisions. Without changes to the decision-making framework before the six Western Balkan countries are admitted, the European Union will continue not to function properly, he assessed.
He urged European leaders to rise to the task, show leadership, sit in talks, get rid of the veto, and find the best way forward. “If the big powers in Europe sit down to find ways to adjust the mechanism… and it’s not just the veto but it’s also about leadership,” Rama argued.
His focus then diverted on Europeans’ alleged prejudice about the so-called “Albanian crime”, which has often resulted as one of the main reasons for Albania’s lack of EU progress in the last six years, since it was granted candidate status in 2014.
Rama recalled the Europeans’ fears when other Easter European countries became part of the union. Newspapers wrote that murder rates will increase because of Bulgarians, European storks will be eaten by Romanians, etc., he recalled, adding that every country approaching membership will be faced with prejudice.
However, Rama denied the existence of “Albanian crime”, arguing that organized crime is international in nature. He maintained that Albanian criminals have created their own European Union within the international organized crime. Their European Union that is much more efficient, flexible, with no veto, no annual budget plan, no targets, no negotiations, Rama explained.
Expressing astonishment to the EU’s lack of exchange of information between countries, Rama implied that the union has a lot to learn from international organized crime. He said that the EU is unable to exchange intelligence between agencies, and this hampers the fight against terrorism. However, he argued, criminals do not face such a problem in their own union, where information is exchanged rapidly.
The Albanian leader then related the topic to The Netherlands, one of the most vocal countries in pointing at “Albanian crime” when vetoing Albania’s advancement in the EU path.
“Albanians in The Netherland have become the worst thing you can think about,” Rama said, adding that “It’s good for politics but it’s not true.”
He criticized the Dutch media for running headlines that single out the Albanian nationality of particular criminals, despite them being arrested in a group of several nationalities. He gave the example of the alleged newspaper headline “Another Albanian gang dissolved”, explaining that two 65-years-old Albanian men were arrested alongside 7 other Dutch, Belgian, Polish and Moroccan criminals. Yet, the Albanian old men, who were allegedly guarding the building where drugs were being cultivated, were singled out by the newspaper.
Rama didn’t spare French President Emmanuel Macron from criticism, blaming his alleged insincere politics toward Albania’s EU integration process.
He reiterated how Macron had told him that opening EU talks with Albania would be difficult for the French government due to the rise of the French right, Marie le Pen, European Parliament elections, etc. Rama said he had asked Macron to say this in public, so that Rama’s government wouldn’t be blamed for failing in its EU policies, but Macron practically refused.
Finally, Rama concluded his speech with another metaphor to illustrate Albania’s and his government’s situation regarding the start in practice of EU accession talks.
Albanians are blindly in love with Europe – a love that they never question, he said. They are promised marriage but are simultaneously kept away. “How can we marry if we don’t talk?” Rama wondered rhetorically.
He explained that Albania’s accession to the EU is a different story, but starting accession talks is very important for the country to strengthen its democracy.
The prime minister invited everyone to visit Albania, “the safest country in Europe for foreigners.”