For three years now, we have become used to hearing two first-class ambassadors, Donald Lu and Romana Vlahutin, in their voluntary roles as propaganda artists for the Socialist government, share their serious opinions, announce decisions on behalf of the Albanian people, interpret Albanian legislation, dispatch kernels of wisdom, as well as threats, point us to which “fish” should be caught, falsify official documentation, prosecute judges and prosecutors, and associate themselves with oil merchants.
All around them, the European diplomatic bodies diligently did their duties, unanimously praising the government for its supposed progress on the road toward Europe, always stressing the incontestable need for the Justice Reform. From the back rows of this diplomatic chorus, shy and stuttering, the Italian ambassador released the sporadic generic press statement in support of the government or reacting to the Justice Reform. Nothing too noteworthy, a mere yelp or two to remind the world of his existence.
On one sole occasion, oddly enough, he stepped out of line and discreetly visited the infamous protest tent, from which opposition leader Lulzim Basha futilely preached the need to reform the Albanian Republic, by getting thugs and criminals out of the parliament, and by forming a credible electoral system.
Diplomacy can also be quiet. The ambassador’s presence in the tent, sudden and silent, aroused questions and commentary, but, most importantly, told at least half of the country that Italy, its largest and closest neighbor, was willing to listen and pay attention without becoming involved in local petty squabbles.
Before this, the ambassador had only spoken out once, regarding a hot button issue, that of the IMSI Catcher telephone eavesdropping device that entered Albania illicitly, in the hands of suspect Italian police officers. His press statement claimed that the sinister apparatus had been in the hands of Italians at all times (and, therefore, couldn’t have been used for spying, only for training purposes). This blatant lie was useful for burying the truth, closing the political case, and, most importantly, once again, for saving Tahiri, and with him, the entire Rama government.
If the ambassador would have simply remained silent, he would have had the entire Albanian government in the palm of his hand. However, he spoke out, and took upon himself the entire responsibility for the device. Consequently, he himself ended up under the Albanian threat, alongside the Italian government he represented at the time. Whether this was his decision or someone else’s will remain a mystery.
Now, Albania sinks under a failed Justice Reform, sought adamantly by a certain international bureaucracies. Italy had no hand in the reform, apart from some silent and outnumbered expert working with other, German and Croatian, experts who were unable to prevent the predictable institutional crisis brought about by the dismantling of existing justice organs while failing to create new ones, resulting in an absolute rule of Rama’s Socialist majority that now, with a non-functional Constitutional Court, acts entirely uninhibited by any rule of law. Therefore, now that the justice system has been effectively disrupted, while in Rome a new government and a new majority have yet to start work, ambassador Cutillio has spoken out for the second time since he came to Albania.
Perhaps the cause for all this is shyness, or perhaps he is aware that he is openly lying, and that makes him feel embarrassed. Perhaps he is aware that he is making statements that are incompatible with the stance of the incoming Italian government. No matter the cause, his declarations, in the context of his years-long silence, come off as suspect, blatantly aimed to misinform and entirely unjustifiable.
He didn’t even hit the mark.
He says he doesn’t find that the Justice Reform has brought about the capture of the judiciary by the Socialist majority, yet at the same time he laments the non-functioning Constitutional Court – which demonstrably proves his first statement false – but he considers it an inevitable cost of an “unprecedented” reform.
He openly comes to the defense of former Minister of Interior Affairs Saimir Tahiri, diligently explaining that the Catania proceedings have nothing to do with the Minister, but he is quick to cover his back by claiming that he only knows what everyone else in Albania does. That’s only half of the truth, since attentive Albanian journalists are well aware of the fact that, besides the Habilaj proceedings, an investigation into Tahiri is also taking place in Catania, something the former Minister himself confirmed a few weeks ago on national television.
He then goes on to explain how the fact that an extradition request for the convicted drug trafficker brother of the Minister of Interior Affairs Fatmir Xhafaj was never issued is perfectly normal. The ambassador argued that in cases of “light:” sentences the Italian state doesn’t demand extradition. Cutillio seems to have forgotten how many cases of Albanian citizens convicted in Italy, both in the past and the present, prove that assertion wrong. Most importantly, the ambassador admitted that the Minister’s brother had never had a warrant out for his arrest in Italy. The convicted trafficker would have been able to sit relaxed in a quaint cafe at Piazza Navona, certain that he would not be extradited.
Finally, the ambassador declares that the new Italian government will not bring about any changes to foreign policy, something that is confirmed, according to him, by the new Minister of Foreign Affairs. However, even this assertion has been disproved a few days ago by the first public statements from Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Minister of Interior Affairs Matteo Salvini.
Private comments among Albanians, friends of Italy, party affiliation notwithstanding, express shock. They believed, as a result of a diplomatic stance formed during nearly a quarter of a century, that Italian diplomacy could stay out of Albanian dirty affairs, as it had always done, imposing at the end a few acceptable and useful choices.
However, everyone has seen through Cutillio’s words and has found a clear bias in favor of the Rama government and both of his Interior Ministers, who are clearly implicated in drug trafficking.
This has basically undone all the work Italian diplomacy has accomplished in the country during the last 25 years.
Looking at the current political situation in Rome, with a new and different government that is still in the process of being formed, it is easy to arrive at the conclusion that we are talking about a personal choice on the part of the ambassador, a personal collaboration, a direct show of favor, the weakness of a person unfit to hold the office he currently does.
However, many curious things have taken place in the Albanian scene during the last few years, that point to an even more troubling plot.
How can one ignore the unconditional support granted to these drug trafficking ministers by nearly every Italian institution? How can one ignore the silent support of the Italian police, which adamantly hid the problem of drug trafficking? How can one ignore the tale of a drug trafficker, the brother of the Albanian Interior Minister who was convicted but managed to escape, and was never wanted by the Italian police?
One cannot dismiss the fact that the Italian police, to the detriment of the Albanian Prosecution, supplied illegal spying devices to Tahiri’s police force, most of whom are currently wanted by the Albanian Prosecution. One cannot ignore the long silence regarding former Minister Tahiri, whose cousins were, undeniably, infamous drug traffickers that had been surveilled and investigated for years by the Italian authorities. One cannot ignore the Italian silence concerning the arrest of Dritan Zagani, guilty of targeting the Minister’s cousins, accused of having supplied information regarding them to a colleague in the Italian Guardia di Finanza, and publicly, and unjustly, accused by Prime Minister Rama himsel, as a drug trafficking collaborator. One cannot ignore the mysterious Italian-Albanian concessions awarded in the waste management sector, and the many anomalies and absences of infamous Albanian criminals on Interpol wanted lists.
Finally, how can one fail to see that the Rama-imposed unconstitutional Justice Reform is dragging Albania into a future that is the diametrical opposite of that much-advertised European one?
The future of Edi Rama and Alberto Cutillio’s Albania, resembling more an Ottoman court than an Enlightened principality, is the reality of today. A country with neither Constitutional Court, nor institutional counter-weight to the government.
How can one fail to see that the high influx of criminal money is now killing any sort of normal entrepreneurship, and that the Ottoman court, whose authority belongs only to the will of its spoiled sultan, will soon become a place where you can buy your way out of anything?
If this continues, certain Italian diplomats – who, as many other shameful functionaries of the Italian government, excel in both feigning blindness, and parroting propaganda for an issue that does not belong to them – may soon be accused of a crime that is well-known in Italy: “collaboration with a foreign criminal organization,” seeing as it may be difficult to find direct evidence of “paid enlistment in a foreign power.”