Columbia’s David Phillips: Rama–Erdogan Friendship Undermines Albania’s Sovereignty

Professor David Phillips has argued that the Albanian authorities have raised the Tirana Lake Park memorial commemorating the victims of the coup d’état on 15 July 2019 in Turkey in violation of procedures and in secrecy, and that they are still keeping silent about it.

He added that the memorial was a result of the close personal relationship between Prime Minister Edi Rama and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which according to Phillips undermines Albania’s sovereignty.

David Phillips is the Director of the Peace-building and Rights Program at the Institute of the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University, US.

The Municipality of Tirana replied to the Voice of America’s request for information on its decision to raise the memorial by claiming the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had the relevant information. Contrary to legal requirements, no information is published on the municipality’s website. The ministry told the VOA it was not involved with the memorial.

In an interview with the Voice of America on Tuesday, David Phillips made the following points regarding the memorial and the debate surrounding it:

– The decision-making process by Albanian authorities was not transparent, it failed to get the public’s opinion and was done in secrecy. It’s unknown who suggested the idea, on what grounds, for which motives, who paid for it, what kind of decision-making process did it go through. Officials responsible for the process should be held accountable.

– The memorial commemorates an event in Turkey, circumstances of which remain unclear.

– The real victim of the 2016 coup is the Turkish people. The coup attempt was used by President Erdogan as a premise to suppress the Turkish society, imprison tens of thousands oppositionists, including hundreds of journalists, thus turning Turkey into a “giant gulag”. The memorial serves the propaganda purposes of President Erdogan in Turkey and in Albania.

– The memorial is a “flagrant statement of the tyranny” of President Erdogan on its own people and the region. It brings the sovereignty of Albania into question.

– The lack of official information suggests that it was done under a personal agreement between PM Rama and President Erdogan. The personal gains of the leaders of both countries are not in the interest of the Albanian people.

– The lack of transparency adds to suspicions regarding potential legal violations of certain Turkish investments in Albania. The Albanian parliament should form a committee to investigate into Turkish investments in the country.

– It sends a negative signal to the European Union ahead of its decision in October on whether to open accession negotiation with Albania or not.

– The US should not let the Balkan countries fall further under the influence of President Erdogan’s government. Countries in the Balkans should strengthen their democracies and free markets. In this regard, the US should be more pro-active in the region.