From: Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei
Fleckenstein’s Strategy: Kicking the Can Down the Road

In a statement yesterday, the European Parliament’s rapporteur on Albania, Knut Fleckenstein, claimed that “also the Electoral Reform can be done in the conditions that we are today.” Although this statement is factually correct, as it seems that the Socialist Party, together with the “renegade” opposition, commands a qualified majority of 3/5 of the MPs, implementing the Electoral Reform under current parliamentary conditions would be kicking the can down the road, as the saying goes.

MEP Fleckenstein’s statement cannot be interpreted as a genuine solution in the current, fractured Albanian political landscape. It follows the same executive-oriented strategy touted by the European Commission, which holds that the implementation of EU-demanded reforms at any cost is better than a functioning democracy and the rule of law. Fleckenstein, like the European Commission, continues to believe that the rule of law lies downstream from legal reform. Unfortunately for them (and us), this relation is much more complex.

Good legislation and rule of law feed into each other and create a culture of lawfulness that, as the citizens of the UK have now found out, is terribly fragile. The question is therefore, what would motivate Fleckenstein and the current European Commission to hold such simplistic views? The answer is, unfortunately, an indication of the desperate state in which also the European Union finds itself: the European elections.

Fleckenstein is member of the left-wing S&D fraction of the European Parliament, to which the Socialist Party of Edi Rama is allied. They currently hold 186 seats in the 750-member Parliament, but are expected to win only 137 in the next, 705-member Parliament (with less MEPs owing to Brexit). That is a drop from 26% to 19% of seats. The current ruling coalition of EPP–S&D-ALDE, now at 63%, stands to win 54% in the next Parliament, which is quite possibly within the margin of error.

In other words, the ruling coalition is holding on for its life, threatened especially on the right by extremist parties. Perhaps Fleckenstein will not even return as Rapporteur for Albania. He is, to use the English expression, a “lame duck.” And so he, the European Commission, the government, and the opposition go through the same, rehearsed movements and speeches without ever imagining a different solution to the current political situation. As I explained, we cannot expect this from someone like Fleckenstein, but it is up to the opposition to propose a strategy that is not kicking the can down the road, but picking it up and dumping it in the recycling bin!