To date, the violations of the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) debated in Tirana and Brussels were related to business issues. The SAA, the basic treaty that regulates the relations between our Republic and the EU, also guarantees the equality of economic opportunities and non-discrimination for any Albania or EU based entrepreneur.
This guarantee was violated by the government through special laws on the National Theater, Vlora Airport, Air Albania and the Port of Durrës, all of them being cases of favoritism, official abuse and corruption.
However, few would imagine we would add to these problems, a deviation from what is considered a strong point of Albania in comparison to the other candidate states: alignment with the foreign and security policies of the EU.
This is an obligation undertaken by the countries of the Western Balkans and Turkey in their Agreements with the EU (Albania signed its own in 2006). This faithful alignment distinguishes Albania from other EU candidates from Belgrade to Ankara. Of course besides Kosovo.
I must add here that this alignment has always been natural or at least not problematic. For example, sanctions against Russia have been difficult for some European countries: sometimes because of economic relations, sometimes because of cultural proximity. But generally they have acted in unison in favor of European collective security. Tirana’s alignment in these cases has been neither hard nor painful.
On Tuesday, May 11, the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs stated that: “Rocket attacks (from Gaza) against Israel are unjustifiable.” It was about hundreds of rockets fired by Hamas, long declared a terrorist organization by the EU and the US, into proper Israel up to Tel Aviv. These developments came after violent unrest around the Holy Places of Jerusalem where responsibility is complex and no party is innocent including the authorities.
Until that moment, the calls from the international community for calm and restraint were the right ones. Then Hamas started its indiscriminate attacks on the Israeli civilian population killing both Jews and Arabs. For an explanatory comparison: imagine, as hard as it can be, if there were heavy clashes in Vrakë/Shkodër between the ethnic Montenegrin community and the police force; with the Montenegro army shelling Tirana in retaliation (God Forbid).
All of Europe condemned the Hamas attacks; all of Europe asserted the sovereign right of Israel to defend itself. So did the USA. So did the EU candidate countries. Turkey acted differently by calling Israel a “terrorist country” and lobbying for a holy alliance against it. Whether this is helpful is a separate discussion. The Turks must know their issues. So let us return to ours.
Let’s us assume that the fact that Israel recognized Kosovo and that the Palestinian Authority is eagerly in favor of the Serbian rule over her former province doesn’t factor in when our government speaks on the Middle East.
The case still begs the question about why our government deviates from the EU position on this matter.
But let’s again presume that the SAA obligation isn’t there: is there any reason for our government to call a foreign aggression on a sovereign country simply and only “unjustifiable”?
Because if there is, we might have a bigger problem than special legislation doling out questionable business favors.
(Published first on the Albanian language daily Panorama, 13 May 2021)
Genc Pollo is a former Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Education, Minister of Telecom & IT, former Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Education and Media and also of European Integration.