The Albanian prime minister: a politician‘Made in Europe’?

By Aurenc Bebja, Translated by Katya Browne
4 Mai 2016

A political leader ‘Made in Europe’ would be somebody who promotes a participative democracy, is open to public and political debate, not afraid of a challenge, respectful of his adversaries, all while relying on his rights, without neglecting his duties. This leader would take control during his public appearances, measuring the impact of his actions as well as his words. Is the current Albanian prime minister, Edi Rama, such a man?

Edi Rama and Martin Schulz, president of the European parliament, 9th December 2014. Credit European Union 2014 – European parliament (licence CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).
Edi Rama and Martin Schulz, president of the European parliament, 9th December 2014. Credit European Union 2014 – European parliament (licence CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).
Edi Rama  came to power in September 2013, after a sweeping victory in the legislative elections, thanks to the game-playing of political coalitions as well as the need for a governmental overhaul, after 8 years with right-wing parties in power. An excellent public speaker and an artist  in his free time, some see him as a modern, visionary, Western politician. For others, he is still only a model of the ‘old Albanian school of political thought’, reminiscent of the proverb ‘do as I say, not as I do’. 

Rules are made to be broken

Re-elected in 2009 as head of the Socialist party, he still occupies the role today. His political party supposedly holds elections every four years to elect its leader, but none have been held since his most recent re-election. Edi Rama holds his place at the head of the party, despite incessant demands for new elections from his only potential rival, Ben Blushi. On the other hand, his close colleagues, perhaps out of total denial, often find excuses for him, such as: ‘Since Rama won the legislative elections, he is considered as having been automatically elected as party leader’. Ben Blushi, however, has not missed the opportunity to remind him that even the dictator Enver Hoxha  (who was in power for 40 years) organised elections every 4 years within the party.

Politicians may govern without needing to be a party leader. The French example illustrates this. François Hollande  and Manuel Valls, both members of the Socialist party, govern the country without needing to be at the head of the party. Would it be so difficult to see the Albanian prime minister see another person leading ‘his’ party? Can we really speak of him as a visionary, if he presents an obstacle to the pillars of democracy, or, in other words, the right to self-expression, to elect and to be elected? What sort of message does this send to the members of his party as well as to his citizens? Will there one day be elections to elect the leader of the Socialist party in France after seven years without them? Will all potential rivals be ousted?

Lessons on euro-scepticism are too repetitive with a tendency towards moralising

Since June 2014, the European Union has assigned Albania the status of candidacy for joining it, giving it a list of objectives to reach. These include notably the fight against corruption and a legal reform. 

During various meetings, on television or radio  sets or during political confabs, the Albanian prime minister’s discourses concerning the expansion of the EU and the euro-scepticism of its most extreme parties have become moralistic but for minor details. 

It is undeniably true that some of the leaders of these parties do not want the EU to expand. But if one thing remains sure, it is that Albania will not become a member of the EU while its political class continues to criticise European politics, and this is even less likely if Albania does not reach the objectives which have been fixed. 

A contradictory message: Nationalism vs the European Union

Nationalism  is ‘the goose that laid the golden eggs’ for political leaders, but it remains dangerous for the future of their populations. The phrase below, uttered by the Albanian prime minister in April 2015, led to extensive press coverage in the Balkans and within the EU, leading to questioning over his vision of Europe: ‘if the EU continues to close the door on Kosovo, the two Albanian countries will be forced to formally unify’. 

This declaration sowed doubts surrounding his political orientation, considered until then pro-European. This ‘pseudo-patriotism’ about ‘Great Albania’ only served the Prime Minister’s political goals ; specifically, it increased his popularity. On the other hand, he sustained severe criticism  from the European Commission. The institution declared that this point of view was provocative, unacceptable and contradicted the European vision and that of the ‘Made in Europe’ politician. 

It would appear that Albania has not yet found its ‘Made in Europe’ political leader with a political orientation that is clear, popular and pro-European. How much longer will it wait, knowing that the country has already committed to becoming a member of the European Union?