Rama’s great ideals
During these three years of government, Prime Minister Edi Rama has given great importance to relations with Serbia. Belgrade is the capital he has visited most and Aleksandar Vučić is the head of state he met most often of all – eight times in total since the beginning of his mandate: three official visits, of which two in Belgrade and one in Tirana, and five times in the context of regional collaboration, including the German initiative for the Western Balkans. (After Vučić, Rama has met most often Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Angela Merkel.)
Rama has defended this great rapprochement with Serbia on the basis of his high ideals about world peace and collaboration among nations, inspired by the post-war Franco-German model. He described this as follows:
We Albanians cannot build the future without overcoming and erasing the historical borders between us and Europe, between Albania and Kosovo, and between the Albanians and Serbs. Let’s not tie our own legs with the ropes of the past.
The Albanians and Serbians of this new century can accomplish among each other for themselves and for the Balkans that which the French and Germans did in the previous century for themselves and for Europe.
With this progressive vision, Rama has sought and held meetings with Vučić, which have turned into a personal friendship. As prime ministers they have signed a series of general collaboration agreements between the two countries and organized meetings and forums for companies from both sides. Rama has gone even farther in his approach to Serbia by having his own book Kurban (Sacrifice) – his pamphlet against his political enemies in Albania – translated into Serbian.
The profits of Vučić
But in spite of the approach between Rama and Vučić, Albanian profits from the relations with Serbia are zero. The trade relations between the two countries have remained the same as before: hardly any investments, with the economic profits of regional collaboration inexistent. Serbia didn’t even become one of the ten main trading partners of the country, as mutual investments have remained negligible.
The political profits have been zero as well. It even appears that in terms of international relation Albania has been regressing. While the integration in the EU has come to a full standstill, the relations with Greece are the lowest level since the communist period. The ties with Italy have weakened, while the Albanian influence on Montenegro and Macedonia has completely disappeared.
From the other side, the situation in the Presheva Valley in Serbia has remained the same, while the interests of Kosovo have been influenced only in a negative way.
The only one who profited from the rapprochement between Rama and Vučić is Aleksandar Vučić himself, who has profited from the relationship by bringing the Serbian interests forward. It appears that Vučić smartly understood Rama’s megalomania to seem the great regional and European leader; he even couldn’t resist joking about it to the Austrian media, saying that “I am just the local governmental leader of Serbia, while Edi can speak more because he is a world leader.” So he seduced Rama with empty meetings and platforms and used this superficial relationship to improve the image of Serbia.
By presenting himself as Westerns and principled, Vučić has made progress with Serbia’s integration into the EU. From January 2014, Serbia is candidate member and has since then profited from the opening of the six negotiation chapters.
Kosovo pulls on the shortest end
Meanwhile, armed with this European image, Vučić has kept the interests of Kosovo completely blocked, damaging its international recognition and its integration into the global political and economical scene.
What is ironical is that Vučić undermining of Kosovo has had direct consequences for Albania in regards to several issues in which Rama has not been interested or about which his “friend” Vučić hasn’t considered him.
The most alarming case is Serbia’s blocking of the international electrical interconnection line between Albania and Kosovo. This line, 245 km long and costing €75 million, took seven years to be built. It allow Albania to import energy from Kosovo to fulfill part of its consumption needs and to compensate Kosovo in return by furnishing it with energy for its internal market. But the line hasn’t been put to use because Serbia blocks the recognition of the transmission system by the European transmission network.
But the biggest loser of the Rama–Vučić “friendship” has been Kosovo itself, because the Serbian efforts against Kosovo have remained unchanged. Moreover, their friendship has put pressure on the Kosovar leaders for concessions in their negotiations with the Serbs, because Vučić masterfully used the card of his friendship with Rama to show that he didn’t have anything against Albanians but that it was the Kosovar leaders who were narrow-minded and unwilling the live together with a Serbia that is working, without prejudices, for peace and regional collaboration.\
The case of Haradinaj
Last week, the French authorities arrested former Kosovar PM Ramush Haradinaj, based on a 2004 international arrest warrant issued by Serbia.
Immediately after the arrest, Prime Minister Vučić sought the extradition of Haradinaj to Serbia, declaring that
No one has the right to impair the work and independence of the Serbian court. If Europe wants to release him, then let it release him. Let them show one more time that politics is stronger and more important than justice. We will ask for an accelerated extradition procedure of Haradinaj to Serbia.
This position of Vučić and the Serbian government has remained since the beginning of the friendship between Rama and Vučić. During a meeting with the chief prosecutor of the International Court in The Hague in November 2016, Vučić declared that Serbia expects to criminally prosecute the people who have been responsible for war crimes committed against the Serbs in Kosovo.
Meanwhile, in a press conference in December 2016 Serbian foreign minister Dačić excused himself for leaving an official meeting in Warsaw at the moment that the Kosovar foreign minister Enver Hoxhaj held a speech, saying that:
I may have been wrong, but that’s how I felt at that moment. […] I didn’t have any intention to listen to the lectures of those who have committed crimes to Serbia.
It seems that Edi Rama, in his delirium to look like Charles de Gaulle, doesn’t see that he has Aleksandar Vučić in front of him, and not Konrad Adenauer. Or he sees it, but it doesn’t matter to him – because he’s happy in his own surrealist delirium and doesn’t care about Albanians.