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Protests and integration

This article has been written for Albanian Free Press newspaper and www.albanianfreepress.al

By Plator Nesturi

This week’s parliamentary session was divided into different parts. There was no single tribune where the sides could debate with each other as they usually do. As it was expected, the protest about the highway toll charge and the arrest of several citizens from Kukes for burning the toll payment wickets in the highway, was the focus of the political discourse. But not in Parliament. While PM Rama was holding a long speech in Parliament concerning the issue of the toll charge, where he admitted that there hadn’t been adequate transparency while communicating with the citizens of Kukes, the opposition’s replies came from somewhere else. Basha and Kryemadhi were leading the protests organized with the aim of blocking roads in Vora and Elbasan.

But these were not the only protests. While public opinion was focused on the toll charge of the Nation’s Road highway, which the opposition made it its motive to launch an action of civil disobedience, other protests were organized in several cities of the country. The decision of the Association of Small Businesses led to many shops in Fier, Tirana and Korca to close for several hours to express their discontent about the VAT tax which affects them.

So, there were several protests. In some of them, the main protagonist was the political class, while in others, it was the citizens who were protesting against tax increases. In his speech in parliament, PM Rama said that the government has reflected on the charge that citizens of Kukes should pay in this highway. More than a comeback to the previous state, this looks like a tactical withdrawal while protests were being held on the road. Even inside parliament, that the opposition had abandoned, there were socialist MPs such as Mimi Kodheli who criticized the government for the lack of transparency for the tariff that was imposed and supported the right of the people to protest when the poverty that exists in the area makes this charge unaffordable. Did Edi Rama withdraw from the declarations that he made in the recent days? It seems not and he showed this in the video conference with councilors and citizens of Kukes. The Prime Minister admitted that the charge was going to be reviewed following a study on the frequency of the movements that the residents of the area make and this could lead to a lower charge about them. But, others who will use the Nation’s Road will still have to pay the same charge. In the midst of all this, Rama accused the opposition of causing this miserable financial situation for the country through its policies when it was in power. Instead of focusing the debate on the topic that caused the protest of the resident of Kukes, the majority decided to once again confront the opposition. Nevertheless, attacking political opponents and the several millions that the government says that it needs to maintain the road, do not provide transparency for the public. Common people do not receive answers through the attack being made to Basha. They will only receive answers once the government will address to different categories of society about specific problems that they have.

In this climate of antagonism, where the political temperature has risen, the Rapporteur for Albania in the European Parliament, Fleckenstein, has arrived in Tirana. After meeting political leaders and the Interior minister, Xhafa, the EU’s rapporteur said that he was against violent protests and his criticism was addressed toward the opposition, which had blocked the roads. Then, Fleckenstein also talked about the process of integration, saying that Albania should not be imposed extra conditions for the launch of EU accession talks. While the country is expecting the progress report, the Rapporteur expresses his optimism that Albania may receive good news in September.

Although these declarations may suit to some politicians and not suit to others, besides the daily problems such as poverty, asylum seekers, taxes and civil disobedience, there is also another issue which I think interests us all and this is the issue concerning the integration of the country in the EU. Despite the numerous flaws that governments have had, integration in the European Union naturally imposes several obligations on the political class. The added attention that the EU will show toward a country that wants to join the European family, will bring a more favorable climate in reducing government arrogance, it will bring more European laws and reforms and stronger, more independent and more credible institutions. So, we’re at a special moment when we should assess every political move which may contain confrontation. Civil disobedience that the opposition has recently launched, does contain confrontation, because it is a sort of rebellion against the laws and the decisions of the government. But this type of rebellion comes at a special moment, when the country is waiting to see if the talks for the process of integration will open or if we fail the class once again. Civil disobedience becomes a hurdle despite the opposition’s declarations that it favors the launch of negotiations with Brussels. But nobody wants a country where there is no political stability.

Thus, this is a key moment where the sides should either decide to continue their confrontation, or enter a new political pact. A pact which is not similar to those agreements made before elections, which are mere bargaining agreements, but pacts for the future of the country in Europe. But this does not only require the opposition to withdraw from its incentives for civil disobedience, but it also requires the majority to launch concrete steps to calm the situation down and behave in a less arrogant way. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s Rama or Basha who win out of these clashes, because the rest only lose. This way, we will once again miss the train bound for Europe.

Note: The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy

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Bosnia and Herzegovina has a new Presidency

The members of the BiH Presidency in the next term, as of Tuesday November 20, are officially Milorad Dodik, who will represent the Serb people, Željko Komšić, representative of the Croats, and Šefik Džaferović from the Bosniak people.

The constituent session of the newly elected BiH Presidency, was opened by Bakir Izetbegović, the chairman of the previous convocation. Another old member, Mladen Ivanić, attended the ceremony but third member, Dragan Čović, did not come to Sarajevo. Izetbegović thanked his colleagues Ivanić and Čović for the fruitful cooperation they had in the past four years.

He emphasized that during the four years in the Presidency, they made a lot of important decisions.

"Among other things, thanks to above all our engagement, after years of stagnation, the Euro-Atlantic path of BiH was unblocked. Today, we are close to gain the status of a candidate for EU membership and activation of the NATO Membership Action Plan…Together, with the consensus, we adopted more than 2,000 decisions. It is true that we did not make some of the decisions that we were supposed to make, and in some cases, we had different views on some important issues. Unfortunately, these are the few cases that are talked about more than anything that we jointly did successfully for the benefit of the citizens of this country", Izetbegović said.

After Izetbegović's address, the President of the BiH Central Election Commission, Branko Petrić, handed over the certificates on the takeover of the mandate to the newly elected members, which then read and signed a solemn declaration.

First Chairman of the BiH Presidency will be Milorad Dodik. Members of the Presidency of BiH, as Chairman of the Presidency, change every eight months according to the principle of rotation.

In his address to ceremony participants, Dodik said that his base is Republika Srpska but that he has no intentions to harm other two constituent nations in BiH.

“I want to cooperate with my colleagues and to prove that this cooperation can be effective. A long time ago, we created distance, from the time in which we had conflicts, this is a serious opportunity to make a step forward and make a democratic society. My policy will be based on respecting the Constitution, according to the Dayton Peace Agreement", Dodik said.

He repeated that his intention is to shut down the Office of the High Representative in BiH and that he will, with other Presidency members, on the first official session ask the European Union to give the candidate status to BiH.

Komšić said that there is no responsibility to the state if there is tolerance of crime, corruption and insecurity of the citizens.

“We have to look into the future. BiH's future is membership in NATO and the EU. These are the guarantors of the security of our citizens. BiH should not be an object, but a subject of international relations, and therefore cooperation with Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Slovenia should be strengthened. Priority is also the strengthening of our economic position and the fight against foreign influence in the electoral process", Komšić said.

Džaferović urged his colleagues in the BiH Presidency to take care of the words spoken in public, since all problems begin with them.

"This creates a spiral of a bad atmosphere in which it is difficult to work. If we treat each other with respect, even if we have different views, if we are to lead a civilized dialogue, if we strive for an agreement on key issues, and we will strive for the truth and justice, then we will be able to work genuinely on the reintegration of the country. That implies equal rights for every citizen and the realization of the interests of Bosnia and Herzegovina. We can stop the people from leaving the state if we make BiH the country just like EU countries. BiH stands before gaining a status of EU membership, this must be a priority", Džaferović said.

In the October general elections, the highest number of votes for the BiH Presidency member from the Bosniak people was won by Šefik Džaferović – 212,581 votes or 36.61 per cent, by the Croatian people Željko Komšić – 225,500 votes or 52.64 per cent, while Milorad Dodik won the most votes for a member of the state Presidency from the Serbian people – 368,210 votes or 53.88 percent./ΙΒΝΑ

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Hungary grants asylum to former PM Gruevski

"Today the Republic of Hungary, an EU and NATO member country, approved my previously submitted request for political asylum for political persecution in the Republic of Macedonia. In the request for political asylum I stated that I am apply for it due to political persecution by the new government led by the SDSM party. I have learned that the government wants to take my freedom away using undemocratic steps and methods and abusing the prosecutorial and judicial system in Macedonia," wrote Nikola Gruevski on Facebook after Hungary granted asylum to the former prime minister who fled to Budapest after being sentenced to jail for abuse of power.

‘The Immigration Authority concluded that if Gruevski returned home, his political past and stance, as well as accusations made against him by the new government, could make him subject to official persecution,’ the daily Magyar Idok said.

Neither the Hungarian nor the fYR of Macedonia government has thus far confirmed the news that Gruevski was granted political asylum.

Last Tuesday, the 48-year-old Gruevski who was prime minister of the Balkan country between 2006 and 2016, announced via Facebook that he had fled to the Hungarian capital. Earlier today the Macedonian Justice Ministry said it had sent a request for Gruevski’s extradition to Hungary…/IBNA

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A new railway project connecting Albania to Greece

Albania and Greece will now be connected through a railway line. This is the new line that will start in Follorina, go through Kastoria and end in Pogradec. The works for this project started yesterday in Kastoria.

This is a project funded by Interreg-IPA CBS Greece-Albania, which will study the needs of transport in the region, the needs for extra infrastructure and alternative solutions.

The general secretary of the Greek Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, Thanos Bourdas has mentioned the importance of this project for his country, for Albania, Western Balkans and all of Southeast Europe.

This new line will be part of the Thessaloniki-Durres-Tirana-Montenegro-Serbia railway line which aims at strengthening railway connections in Western Balkans and Central Europe as part of the Trans-European Network TEN-T. /ibna/

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Albanian Foreign Minister visits Kazakhstan

Albanian Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Ditmir Bushati held today an official visit to Astana, Kazakhstan. This is the first visit of an Albanian chief of diplomacy in the past 25 years in this Asian country.

In his meeting with the Kazakh counterpart, Kairat Abdrakhmanov, minister Bushati stressed the importance of intensifying economic and trade relations by improving connections in different business sectors.

Bushati considered the bilateral cooperation for the projects in the domain of oil and gas, infrastructure, tourism and agriculture as promising, underlining the need of intensifying contacts between the business communities of both countries in order to benefit as much as possible from the potential of cooperation.

Bushati also spoke about the Albanian Diaspora present in the Kazakh capital Astana, for which he said that they act as a connection bridge and a factor for the development of businesses and trade relations between the two countries.

On his part, minister Abdrakhamanov expressed the interest of his country to further boost cooperation with Albania, especially in economy. During this visit, minister Bushati was also accompanied by a group of Albanian businessmen.

At the end of the meeting, two agreements were signed: Protocol of Cooperation between the two Foreign Ministries and Protocol of Cooperation between Chambers of Commerce. /ibna/

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CEC in Albania: Local government elections do not only depend on the electoral reform

“The 2019 elections will be an important challenge for everyone, for institutions, political parties and Albanian society. They will not only be a welcome opportunity for people to express their political will, but they will also act as a maturity test for our democratic system”. This was declared today by the head of the Central Election Commission in Albania, Klement Zguri concerning the June 30, 2019 local government elections.

But, according to him, “this challenge may be overcome if we all become aware of the fact that elections are not only an issue that concern institutions and they do not only depend on the fate of the electoral reform”. “This challenge will be overcome successfully when political parties understand and accept their legal obligations regarding the fact that the administration of the elections is not an option. This is why today, we call on political parties to fulfil their important role in the administration of the electoral process”, Zguri said. /ibna/

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