27.06.22 | Opinions

[Opinion] Albania PM’s strange support for Serbia


[Opinion] Albania PM’s strange support for Serbia

In the EU-Western Balkans summit, Edi Rama both in his published speech and in the following press conference with Aleksandar Vucic, went to great lengths to justify the Serbian position (refusal to join EU sanctions) towards Russia. Referring to distorted interpretations of historical and economic facts, Rama criticized the West for its pressure on Serbia.

 By Genc Pollo

 Tirana, 27 June 2022, dtt-net.com / peacefare.net  - The meeting of the EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday, 23 June, took place against the backdrop of Putin’s bloody aggressive war. They correctly showed solidarity with Ukraine, the current victim, and Moldova, the next potential one, by granting both the status of candidate for membership in the Union. But a wartime European Council should have dealt with closing ranks in front of the enemy.

 The only wayward state within the EU orbit that has rejected the sanctions against Putin’s Russia and has reconfirmed its friendship with the aggressor has been Serbia. Belgrade has been negotiating EU membership for eight years and has closed several chapters. It is already treaty-bound to align itself with the EU’s foreign and security policy. But Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic has has failed to adopt any EU measures against Vladimir Putin’s past transgressions. 

Strangely there wasn’t much fuss about this in the Council meeting or in the preceding summit of EU leaders and their Western Balkans counterparts. In addition, Vucic got help from someone who wouldn’t generally be expected to be an ally: Albanian Prime Minister Rama.

 Vucic first tried to deflect attention. He proposed to the Prime Ministers of Albania and North Macedonia to boycott the upcoming summit as there was little chance for them to get a date for the start of EU membership talks. This EU decision has been due for the last two years but is still blocked by a Bulgarian veto unrelated to the EU membership process. How such a boycott would have been helpful in resolving the problem remains a mystery. And why Serbia should propose such a course of action to her neighbors needs explaining.

 Prime Minister Rama however was quick to announce that he would agree with the boycott. Such an unprecedented gesture became the talk of the day in the mainstream media. It continued to echo even after the boycott was called off the day after. Along with the Bulgarian veto it sharpened the sense of drama in Brussels and left little room to discuss the pressing issue of a possible fifth column in their midst.

 In the EU-Western Balkans summit, Edi Rama both in his published speech and in the following press conference with Aleksandar Vucic, went to great lengths to justify the Serbian position (refusal to join EU sanctions) towards Russia. Referring to distorted interpretations of historical and economic facts, Rama criticized the West for its pressure on Serbia.

 Such a stance is a novelty in post-Communist Albania, where leaders, supported by public opinion, have always aligned themselves with the EU and the West in security matters. It comes in the wake of the controversial Open Balkans initiative championed by Belgrade and Tirana but disowned by the other states of the Western Balkans. The initiative is considered an “unhealthy competition to the EU integration” by European Commission officials but has received recently the rhetorical support of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

 Both Rama and Vucic have been consolidating their personal power over the last decade. dismantling constitutional checks, muzzling the media, and politicizing the state bureaucracy. Scandals of grand corruption and collusion with the underworld have abounded. The latest twist adds, at least for Albania, an additional concern. The re-energized political opposition in Tirana has been denouncing the suspect rapprochement with Belgrade, as they see it being done at the expense of Kosovo. There will be more on their plate for the weeks and months to come.

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(The author is former Albanian government minister and member of parliament from the opposition Democratic Party-PD. The opinion was originally published at peacefare.net )

27.06.22 | Opinions