From: Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei
A Response to Bernard Kouchner

This week, former French Minister of Foreign Affairs and former UN Representative in Kosovo Bernard Kouchner wrote an op-ed in the Financial Times under the title “Albania Shows That EU Enlargement Is Far From Over.”

While the first part of the article reads as a terribly mediocre and superficial analysis of the recent political developments in the country, the latter part is nothing but a full-blown panegyric on “one of the most sophisticated political leaders of Europe.”

You read that correctly. Kouchner means the man who cannot speak one sentence without belittling an opponent or making an improper pun. The man for whom democracy is as foreign as a clearly articulated thought. Yes, Kouchner praised – in the most pathetic and improper way imaginable – a crypto-autocrat, our Prime Minister Edi Rama.

One can hardly fathom the reasons that have driven this former minister, diplomat, and humanitarian powerhouse to crouch down to the level of doodles and blobs and shower praise on someone he thinks is in the same political camp. But I’ll give it a try.

The article begins with the claim that the EU will very soon have to rethink its enlargement strategy, because in July, at the annual Western Balkans summit, the reconfirmed Prime Minister of Albania will come and demand the opening of the accession negotiations for his country.

Perhaps Kouchner has not been informed about the latest statements of the European Commission, which emphasize that “credible and tangible progress on all five key priorities, the implementation of the Justice Reform, and in particular the vetting, are essential for the opening of accession negotiations with Albania.” None of that will have happened in July.

Nevertheless, Kouchner is optimistic and states that his “guess is that the EU’s response will be positive, with regard at least to negotiations.” He offers no facts to buttress this “guess,” and seems ignorant of the many reports and statements made by various EU institutions to the contrary. What Kouchner does, in fact, is mindlessly copying Rama’s campaign rhetoric that with the vetting committees in hand he will demand opening of the negotiations this year, or else…

Kouchner then moves on to an “analysis” of recent Albanian political history, as if this would in any way support his argument.

It was never clear why what was said in increasingly bombastic language inside the tent could not have been said in parliament. But it was perfectly clear that, by leaving their parliamentary seats vacant, the Democrats were blocking a critical reform of the judicial system, the last remaining big institutional reform required before negotiations could begin for Albania’s EU accession.

It may not have been clear to Kouchner or other “internationals” flying in and out of second- and third-world capitals on a daily basis. It may also very well be that the protest was ill-conceived and poorly executed. But it remains very clear to everyone in this country that the enormous amount of drug money and the complete criminalization of the political system posed a serious threat to the fairness of the elections.

That the McAllister+ agreement, after which Basha abandoned the protest, hardly solves the core of any of these problems, will no doubt return with a vengeance once Rama is presumably back in his seat. But none of these problems were imaginary or “unclear.”

The next sequence of events that Kouchner describes is even more fantastic and delusional:

Brussels sprang into action. Foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and lead enlargement negotiator Christian Danielsson led delegations to speak with the party leaders. MEPs were dispatched to mediate. Ultimately a settlement was reached.

In fact, Mogherini and Danielsson did hardly anything. Mogherini gave a sad press conference in which she claimed that “the opposition blocks the vetting” and called for “dialogue,” while Danielsson was never seen or mentioned. MEPs were not “dispatched” but flown in last-minute to fail at accomplishing even a conversation between Rama and Meta. The final agreement was pushed through after intense pressure by US Deputy Assistant Secretary Hoyt Brian Yee. Meanwhile, the EU was busy destabilizing the opposition protest by trying to lure small opposition parties with “extra seats” in a Parliament without PD. Hardly a glamorous role.

But this little exercise in falsifying history to glorify both the EU and the Great Leader are nothing compared to the final paragraphs where Kouchner goes full-blown fanboy on Rama and his sycophancy reaches a tasteless apex:

Mr Rama is emerging as one of the most sophisticated political leaders in Europe. An internationally acclaimed artist, he is also a former professional basketball player. Multilingual, he lived for a time in Paris where he gained his first recognition as an artist. In contrast to many politicians, Mr Rama does not peddle slogans.

Ideologically, he is of the centre-left — a “third way” social democrat, like Britain’s Tony Blair or possibly France’s new president Emmanuel Macron. A stout pro-European and Atlanticist, he has been outspoken in his warnings about Russian interventions in his own region and elsewhere.

I leave the first paragraph for what it is. I simply don’t know where to start. Should I start by debunking the notion of “internationally acclaimed” or with “first recognition as artist”? Or should I contradict at length the absurdity that “Mr Rama does not peddle slogans.” I mean, who fed him this nonsense? Was he on Skype with Endri Fuga?

But it is the second paragraph that is perhaps the most problematic. The last time I checked, “third way” social democracy was hemorrhaging budget cuts somewhere in the late 1990s, with war criminal Tony Blair bartering his political capital to any autocrat he could offer a “free deal,” including Edi Rama.

The other name-dropped fancy white guy is a former banker, a political wildcard who only arrived at a majority in parliament through France’s ridiculous voting system, where 30% of the popular votes magically results in an oversized majority in the assembly. Now that’s an electoral reform Rama could get behind!

But even if Rama were “like” Blair or Macron, the greatest misreading of them all is that Kouchner attributes ideological content to him: “centre-left.” Rama has no ideology. Not left, not right, none. He will change, pivot, and flip-flop on any conceivable issue as long as one thing is secure: his power.

This desperate cling to power is precisely what has destroyed European “third way” social democracy that Kouchner still feels attached to. Emptied out of any ideological content, its only and final rationale was “we have to remain in power, no matter what.”

The bankruptcy of this idea is visible all over Europe as traditional labor parties, including Kouchner’s own, dwindle to the margins of the political landscape. The only Labor Party that was able to make a recent comeback, in the UK under Jeremy Corbyn, had a solid, ideologically driven manifesto, a manifesto that Rama would never be able conceptualize or embrace.

So why Kouchner’s praise for Rama? Because in Rama he sees a kindred lost soul, the empty husk of post-communist social democracy, floating unguided on the stormy waters of international finance, without ideological sense or direction. Its boat stays on top of the waves through a sheer will to power and a corruption that knows no ends.

Dear Bernard, I recently heard that Tony Blair has quit consulting, so there is a place available on Rama’s right side. Fancy a job?