Internationals love to wield statistics as propaganda tools showing the popularity of their existence and the projects they initiate: In 2015, then US Ambassador Donald Lu proclaimed loudly that “more than 90%” of the Albanian population would “demand” the Justice Reform. And only last year, the EU Delegation in Tirana, maintained, in the face of ongoing failure, that 93% of Albanians support the European Union and 79% supports the Justice Reform.
However, a recent wide-ranging opinion poll published by the Albanian Institute for Democracy and Mediation, “Trust in Governance 2019” shows a very different reality. The IDM poll shows for a third year in a row a decrease in trust of Albanians in the Justice Reform.
Whereas in 2016, 71% believed that the Justice Reform had a positive impact on the development of Albania, this number dropped to 53% in 2019.
In 2016, 46% believed that the Justice Reform was properly implemented, while in 2019 this number was only 32%. This percentage is even lower than an earlier finding of the Albanian Helsinki Committee from February 2019, which found that only 37.5% thought that the vetting will truly clean the justice system and make the system better and more credible for citizens.
The failing trust in the Justice Reform is correlated with an overall loss of trust in institutions, including the European Union itself. Whereas in 2017, 85% trusted the European Union, in 2019 this number has dropped 12 points to 73%.
This means that more than one in four Albanians currently distrusts the European Union. This disaffection has no doubt to do with the failure of the European Union to open accession negotiations in 2019, but its close association with the Justice Reform and consistent public support for the government of Prime Minister Edi Rama also suggest that quite a few Albanians no longer consider the EU an independent and neutral arbiter, but rather just another player in a highly politicized and politically divided landscape, collaborating with corrupt government.
It will be difficult for the European Union to stop or even reverse this downward trend in the perception of their flagship project, the Justice Reform. One imagines that capturing some of former US Ambassador Donald Lu’s famous “big fish” could make some difference. However, that would by necessity entail that the EU would need to start looking for another government to implement its cherished reform…